The arms race has started: deep fakes versus tech that exposes them. The only problem is that the technology that will supposedly tell us what is real and what is not… was created by DARPA.
DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) is the government agency responsible for the developing things like killer robots, artificial intelligence, swarms of tiny drones, and even experiments with mind reading technology. And those are just the projects we know about.
“Deep fakes” usually refer to videos that have been altered to make it look like someone said or did something they did not. For instance, celebrities heads have been realistically attached to porn star bodies, so that it looks like the celebrity is starring in a porn film. Videos have also been created of politicians saying ridiculous things.
But don’t worry! The U.S. government is here to save the day:
The U.S. Department of Defense is fighting back. After testing projects like driverless cars and early iterations of Siri, Apple’s virtual assistant, years ahead of their release to the public, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is now taking on fake news…
“We have a mission within DARPA to invest in breakthrough technologies that prevent strategic surprise,” said David Doermann, program manager of DARPA’s new media forensics project called MediFor, “and essentially guarantee national security.”
Doermann’s team of researchers is working to create an automated tool to detect manipulations and then provide detailed information about how a photo, video or audio file was altered.
“If our adversaries are able to generate material that can spread quickly, they can generate all of this in a disinformation campaign,” Doermann warned, emphasizing that people should always be skeptical that anything they are exposed to online could be challenged in one way or another for reality.
Problem: Deep Fakes. What can we believe? Which videos are real?
Proposed Solution: DARPA tells us what is real and what is fake.
Now the question: What if DARPA tells us real stuff is fake? Or fake stuff is real? Will we ever know?
All this does is put more power in the hands of government to shape the way we see the world. The deep state would love to monopolize the technology that can analyze these videos and images and inform the public. DARPA can create their own disinformation campaigns.
The University of Maryland’s team of researchers working with DARPA developed this indication tool to flag problem spots in the video. The tool detects light levels and the direction from which the light is coming, using arrows to point out the differences and prove that the original videos where shot at different times. The indicator turns red, marking a literal red flag when the content is suspicious.
Automated tools like these have been in development for about 20 months, and will continue to be finessed through 2020, said Doermann. DARPA then hopes to work directly with Silicon Valley tech companies to implement the analytics on their platforms, identifying questionable online content in a matter of seconds.
“Really, today, nothing [online] is authentic,” said Doermann, noting that further uses for the automation could include the FBI and military, as well as court evidence, and insurance and fraud companies.
What do you think? Can you trust the technology they create, or could they manipulate the technology itself to output information that supports their own propaganda goals?
The Silver Lining
Maybe it’s a good thing to shake people’s trust in everything they see online. Seriously, what if it is better to know that nothing you see online, in videos, or in pictures is necessarily true?
The sex tape, the hot mic, the leaked photo, the admission of guilt caught on film. Maybe these things were never representing an accurate picture of other people anyway. And maybe the fact that these things can all be faked so easily is freeing.
When you explore the internet, you are entering a fantasy world. If you want truth, look with your own two eyes. Go outside, walk around, interact with people who live near you, who actually have an effect on your life.
Tour the local farm and brewery. Meet the owners, ask them questions, face to face.
I know this isn’t a solution to worldwide problems. I know it only goes so far in a world of global trade and intercontinental business. But maybe that is the point.
The pendulum swings. We have the ability to follow worldwide trends and headlines. We can weigh in on wars and uprisings thousands of miles away. But maybe it is time to bring the focus back to what we can control–that is, our lives and our immediate surroundings.
Here’s how the current top-down approach works:
Do you think Assad should be removed from power? What will that mean for Turkey’s power in the region, and will Russian tensions with the U.S. only escalate? Where does this place Iran and Israel, and should the U.S. intervene if… blah, blah, blah.
Guess what, you could be the most informed person in the world on these issues, and your opinion won’t make the slightest difference in these matters.
I’m not saying you should be uninformed, but how can we really be about things so far from us? Did Assad gas his own people, did the U.S. backed al-Qaeda affiliated forces gas these civilians or was no one gassed at all?
I don’t know.
The best case scenario is that I put in the effort to become ultra-informed. Then I get lucky enough to have the choice to vote between two candidates in a swing district who will react radically different to international crises.
And even then, does my vote really count among hundreds of thousands? Is my informed vote going to be the deciding one among countless uninformed votes?
And as informed as I am, that doesn’t even necessarily mean I am right in what I think should be done. Nor do I have all the relevant information. Nor can I, or anyone else, foresee all the possible unintended consequences of whatever action I think, or the politician thinks, should be taken.
So I spend time learning about the Syria crisis on the off chance that I have a meaningful choice for which I can cast my inconsequential vote for a proxy to represent what I believe to be my interests in that one area.
Then I hope that proxy will get elected, keep his promises, and have the wherewithal to actually do something along the lines of my opinion on the matter.
And my Representative is just one of many. He or she must repeat the process of learning about the crisis, hoping for a meanignful choice of legislation, and then hoping their vote actually matters when it comes down to it.
And then implimentations has to go according to plan…
Here’s how a bottom-up system works:
I ran a race to raise money for a private charity that supports foster kids in my county. The director and some of the kids were at the race. I’ve been to the thrift store the charity owns. I’ve donated items and bought others.
That is more important than anything I could do to change the trajectory in Syria.
My point isn’t to be uninformed or apathetic about global or national politics. The point is that we really have little to no effect on the outcome of these things.
But we can put pressure on a mayor or police chief. We can support local causes and patronize the businesses that we like. I can focus on the people that I actually interact with on a daily basis.
I cannot hold the deep state accountable, and with any luck, most of us will never run into one of its agents. But I am going to have to deal with the local cops, the tax collector, and town by-laws.
Isn’t it more important to start by making sure these institutions are not corrupt? There’s actually a shot of our efforts mattering. And we don’t have to wonder if the videos are real, or if the events were staged. We can witness them first hand, or hear first-hand accounts from our neighbors.
Many people have been convinced that a top down system of control is necessary, proper, or inevitable. But this is the self fulfilling prophecy. We are distracted by the things which we cannot affect, and let go of the things which we can actually control.
So the best solution I see is to care less about whether that video was deep faked and to care less about the information controlled by the deep state.
If individuals build a foundation of truth, peace, and prosperity in their actual physical day to day lives, this will reverberate to the highest structures of society.