Deepfakes and AI Generated Images

The pope walks into a bar wearing a puffy jacket – could be the start of a real belly grabber – unfortunately, we’re short on a punchline today. What did happen though was an AI generated image of the pope wearing a puffy jacket went viral and turned the world upside down. For a moment…

The image was created by someone using an artificial intelligence image generator called Midjourney. (Rumor is the guy who prompted the image was tripping on magic mushrooms) More importantly, it opened the world to the power of AI that is now in anyone’s hands that creates an account.

Deepfakes, or AI-generated images or videos, refer to creating or manipulating digital content, typically images or videos, using algorithms and deep learning techniques. In today’s newsletter, you’ll learn how they’re created, how to spot a fake, and the potential impact if not properly regulated.

How are Deepfakes and AI Images Created?

We’ll keep this above water, but essentially a deepfake uses two algorithms – a generator and a discriminator to create and refine fake content. The generator builds a training data set based on desired output, creating the initial fake image or video, while the discriminator analyzes how realistic or fake the initial version is. And so on and so on until fine-tuned and ready for the world.

Other technologies (neural network encoder, generative adversarial network, blah blah) can be used for variations such as source video deepfakes, audio deepfakes, and lip-syncing.

Basically, images, videos, and sounds/voices that are publicly available are cloned or mapped to the voice recording on a video making it appear as though the person in the video is speaking the words. It’s a little too easy tbh.

It’s hard to ignore the comedy in what should be harmless fun, but there are real impacts and things to watch for as these get forwarded like it’s hot to your inbox.

The Impact and Potential Misuse of Deepfakes

Misinformation and Fake News

While the video of the Trump v Biden debate is ridiculously funny, when not laden with copious amounts of sarcasm, this technology has the potential to amplify the spread of misinformation and fake news. This stuff spreads like wildfire on the socials…

Fraud, Blackmail, and Reputation Harm

Deepfakes are used to impersonate an individual to obtain personally identifiable information (PII). “Mom I’m in jail in Mexico and need you to wire $20,000.” It may sound outrageous but it’s a reality. Videos could be created of a target doing something illegal to extort a victim and ruin a person’s reputation for revenge or cyberbullying. A quick search on Google and you will find horror stories of this already

Privacy and Consent Concerns

With deepfake technology so easily accessible, anyone can generate convincing content, potentially compromising an individual’s privacy by superimposing their likeness onto explicit or less than desirable content. (“Revenge Porn” – do we need to tell you to not search for this on your work computer?)

So this kinda sucks. We’re all potential targets. But it also can be pretty funny. I mean the Pope in a puffer jacket? Cmon. Here are some tips to help keep your eye out for imposters:

Are details blurry and obscure? Look closely at the Pope’s glasses

Do words and sounds not match up with the visuals? Audio out of sync with the person’s mouth movements?

Does the source seem reliable? Try a reverse image search

Look for botched hands or features and writing. An image of French president Macron shows 6 fingers on his right hand.

While deepfake technology presents a real risk in today’s digital landscape, in can be fun and harmless. So use it that way, and stay sharp when interacting with dumb sh*t on the internet. And for god’s sake do a little diligence before you ring the clocktower on President Biden calling for a draft to fight in Ukraine.

Sweet Reads

In honor of today’s post, go wild my friends:

Harmless and hilarious deepfakes 

Let your inner deepfake flag fly on Midjourney and create some cool digital art

Give these other AI image generators a spin

Improve your Life-Hacks:

Those graphs tho…

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