Deep fake news
The Brookings Institution warns that "fact checking" will become a lot harder in the 21st century as artificial intelligence becomes better at producing "deep fake news" creating counterfeits so good they are difficult to distinguish from the Real McCoy. "Because the algorithms that generate the fakes continuously learn how to more effectively replicate the appearance of reality, deep fakes cannot easily be detected by other algorithms—indeed, in the case of generative adversarial networks, the algorithm works by getting really good at fooling itself."
The technology to fake videos, photographs and sound clips is now so good even Hollywood is increasingly using digital actors. Moreover artificial intelligence can weave these fakes into a superficially self-consistent universe of lies creating a false narrative whose fraudulence can only be exposed by painstaking comparison to reality. Naturally this has sent a Washington bruised by the populist uprising scrambling for defenses. "To address the democratization of disinformation, governments, civil society, and the technology sector therefore cannot rely on algorithms alone, but will instead need to invest in new models of social verification, too," Brookings writes.
The think tank recommends spending billions on research to combat hostile AI. It also suggests government partnerships with social media companies to prevent their use to spread fake news. But this may expose even bigger vulnerabilities.
As fakery improves the task of verifying the narrative becomes progressively harder until begins to rely on the detection of small errors. Just as the only way to be sure the cosmos is not a numerical simulation is to find discrete behavior in theoretically continuous processes, the only way to uncover sophisticated deep fake news is by thorough analysis. This is not easy. As Gizmodo put it one is reduced to searching for "glitches in the system, if you like, that give the game away." Even that is of little help if populist rebels view the mainstream media as the source of disinformation itself and interpret government partnerships with social media as further confirmation of that. As the Howard Beale in the movie Network put it:
We deal in illusions, man. None of it is true! But you people sit there day after day, night after night, all ages, colors, creeds. We're all you know. You're beginning to believe the illusions we're spinning here. You're beginning to think that the tube is reality and that your own lives are unreal. You do whatever the tube tells you. You dress like the tube, you eat like the tube, you raise your children like the tube. You even think like the tube. This is mass madness. You maniacs. In God's name, you people are the real thing. We are the illusion. So turn off your television sets. Turn them off now. Turn them off right now. Turn them off and leave them off. Turn them off right in the middle of this sentence I am speaking to you now. Turn them off!