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The Dark Art Of Deepfake: How This Height Of Manipulation Can Even Make Mona Lisa Frown

The Dark Art Of Deepfake: How This Height Of Manipulation Can Even Make Mona Lisa Frown

The science of making morphed videos using artificial intelligence is the latest rage on social media. Porn and politics are seeing Deepfake's immediate impact for obvious reasons

The Dark Art Of Deepfake: How This Height Of Manipulation Can Even Make Mona Lisa Frown Photograph by Jitender Gupta, Imaging: Deepak Sharma

You might have seen him already. He was all over TV news spots and social media clips just last week. That puckish, boyish face, unmistakably Chinese, perhaps that of a young brat from one of its glittering coastal cities—but eerily, very eerily, equipped with that equally unmistakable Leonardo DiCaprio mop of blond hair falling over his eyes. Even more unsettling, he was Dicaprio—or at least the characters he played, in those very frames. You may have also heard a name being uttered with awe...Zao! A dreaded Han general? A new virus? No, it’s just a new Chinese app that allows its users to do something extremely alarming. The boy in that video turned out to be a harmless, 30-year-old games developer based in Auckland called Allan Xia, who could access the app because of his Chinese number. His use of Zao too was innocuous: “Every media story came embedded with a clip of him strutting around in a Hawaiian shirt in Romeo+Juliet, and basking in the golden sunset on deck in Titanic,” wrote the South China Morning Post. But what if he had done something more sinister?

An early warning had come with a Buzzfeed video from 2018, where former US President Barack Obama is saying something...but wait, he isn’t saying it! It’s somebody else who pulls off the digital mask half-way through. But not just you or I, even Obama could have been fooled. It simply looks that real. Which means, AI-enabled computer technology has got to the point where you can make anyone’s digital alter-ego say anything! Now imagine this: a video purportedly of Prime Minister Narendra Modi or Rahul Gandhi with things they didn’t say. Or of Imran Khan, or a Pakistani general! Or, for that matter, P. Chidambaram or D.K. Shivakumar, or an app­rover. Or just the girl who lives down the lane who had recently spurned a boy from the neighbourhood...we are perhaps sitting on a time-bomb here. Yes, adv­anced technology can det­ect the fake, but what good would that be if war or a riot has already broken out, or someone has already killed herself?

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