“In a ‘Deepfake’ World, Who Can We Trust?”
By Curtis K. Shelburne
I never thought this could happen, but I know now that it could. Imagine for a moment.
Imagine the losers of our last two presidential elections calling a joint press conference and apologizing to the American people. First of all, you’ll have to imagine politicians sincerely apologizing for anything, but stay with me on this.
Imagine words expressed with deep feeling: “We lost. We just flat lost. We ran lousy campaigns and failed miserably to add to our voter bases. Behaving shamefully, we [they take turns here] blamed nefarious Russian hackers or election fraudsters with superpowers. We are sorry. We sincerely apologize for all of the time, money, and damage to the Constitution our post-election delusions have cost.”
Personally (and, for my part, we’re still fine if you disagree), I’ve long thought that a couple of moderately priced mirrors given to each of those two after, four years apart, they lost their elections, could have spared our nation a lot of unnecessary expense, trouble, and turmoil. They could just chant in turn: “Mirror, mirror, on the wall / Since in this universe / the culprit I could never ever be / Tell me truly, I pray thee, / O thou wise panel of reflection / The answer to this question: / Who cost me my election?”
The wall-mounted mirror flips around, and the non-mystery mystery is solved. Times two.
That won’t happen. But we know now that the video of the press conference I mentioned really could be released. Alas, real is what it would not be. But it would look real—incredibly real—because it would be a well-crafted “deepfake.”
Have you seen the recent news regarding “deepfakes”? Particularly famous right now are the deepfakes of Tom Cruise that have received millions of TikTok views. I just watched a 60 Minutes news segment pointing to the recent deepfake videos and their creator. The report focused on the ways that artificial intelligence and computer/software technology make it possible to create high-quality videos of people, famous or otherwise, saying and doing things that they have never said or done. It looks so real! The possibilities are actually as frightening as they are mind-boggling.
I’m astounded at the internet conspiracy rot that people willingly consume already. But what if we can’t even believe that the person in the video we’re watching is the person he or she claims to be (or a real person at all), much less that what is being said is in the same universe as “accurate”?! Oh, we’ve long known that technology is a two-edged sword, but, wow!
Recently, even before I started reading about deepfakes, I was rocked on my heels a bit by technology. I’d tried to copy something on our church’s copy machine and evidently pushed down a bit too hard on the glass. The scanner that moves down under the glass (when the “copy” button is pushed) was caught in a bind, I later suspected, because it quit moving, rendering the copier useless. I was afraid that I’d need to call the repair guy, but I figured I could take a few screws out, remove the glass, and maybe free up the scanner light. And that’s what I did. Happy ending, right?
Yes, but I was just re-installing the glass when I got a call from the repair guy, the gentleman I had not called. The machine had called him to report, I suppose, that it was being assaulted by a non-repair guy. It evidently forgot to say that I had indeed fixed it. Still, I was impressed—and somewhat shocked. If my copy machine is capable of tattling on me, can I trust my electric toothbrush or my waffle iron?
Who, and what, you trust in this life is a very big deal. Who can I really count on? What’s the truth? Of course, we’ve always had to make those decisions, but in a “deepfake” world, we need to be increasingly wary of “what I just saw” on the internet. The manipulation of social media, political operatives, our nation’s enemies, and the list goes on, is growing, not decreasing.
I do know this: God’s people have been commanded to love him with “all of our hearts, souls, minds, and strength.” We ignore the “minds” part at our own peril.
Who do we trust? The One who loves us, whose promises never fail, whose message of good news is absolutely true, and who wants for us only our highest good.
You’re invited to visit my website, and I hope you’ll take a look there at my new “Focus on Faith” Podcast. At the website, just click on “Podcast.” Blessings!
Copyright 2021 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.%%detect_both%%