In 2018, then-US President Donald Trump was shown delivering a speech asking Belgium to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement. Trump never gave this speech. But it created enormous unrest among nations. A deepfake app created the fake video.
The 20th century has been called a century of technological revolution. Now obsolete, introducing the dictaphone in India in the early 80s was a technological revolution. Everybody, who was anybody in the hierarchy, wanted a dictaphone on their table. The world has moved on since then.
Chip technology has taken the world by storm and will almost certainly make one believe that the 20th century was a century of primitive ideas and inventions.
Be it in the sphere of weapons for the military or intelligent touchscreen displays in cell phones, cars, or messaging technology, WhatsApp is available virtually for free; the list is endless. Auto recording of conversations on ordinary cell phones is a norm.
Indeed such developments have enabled investigating agencies enormous leverage in resolving crimes/disputes. The capability of most smartphones is better than the best table model computer, now extinct. Laptops have nearly become obsolete.
Super Computers, which can do more than a few billion calculations per second having millions of terabytes of memory, are part of every technologically advanced nation.
Children’s comics in the 60s had a story of a scientist who created a computer with embedded intelligence, which took over control of the affairs on the earth. Frankenstein, the monster, was only fictional. However, rapid developments in Artificial Intelligence drive the world towards a hitherto unknown domain.
Although most of the known developments aim to make the weapons more ‘intelligent.’ Drones development occupies the top spot.
An ordinary photographer in the early 60s could implant someone else’s face on someone else’s body, creating enormous confusion/doubt in films and real life. An actor could be shown dancing, but in reality, it was someone else dancing with the actor’s face superimposed. While all this was mainly for films, few used it for crimes.
The concept is still alive, albeit in a different dimension. Hidden from the spotlight, almost deliberately, is the vast and unbelievable development in what has been called ‘Deepfake Technology.’ Steady progress has been made over the years and has nearly achieved perfection.
What Is Deepfake Technology?
Deepfake technology has steadily progressed for nearly a decade and can create talking digital puppets.
Very shortly (in fact, it is already happening in a few instances), digital puppets with exponential volumes of disinformation will be used as a ‘Weapon of Mass confusion’ (WMC), which will be perhaps a million times more potent than the most powerful nuclear weapon produced till date.
With WhatsApp-like of instant global communication, disinformation will reach every corner of the globe within seconds.
How Does Deepfake Technology Work?
Deepfake technology uses deep learning algorithms, which can teach themselves and solve problems when extensive data input is made available. One can use this to swap faces in the video and reproduce near the original voice, making viewers believe it to be original.
Fabricator of disinformation merely requires the use of deep neural networks involving autoencoders. Autoencoders are essentially a form of deep learning Artificial Intelligence program capable of replicating a person’s video after studying it.
A collection of video clips of the target person is required to create a fake message being delivered by the person. The fabricator makes the contents of the message.
Deepfake technology is used to create ‘digital puppets.’ These digital puppets on screen match the actual person in looks, manners, voice, and delivery.
The originator programs the puppets to convey/communicate false messages to the viewers. For instance, an anchor of an international news channel might broadcast this message — the President of the United States might be shown in the form of a digital puppet expressing his displeasure over events taking place in some part of the world and threatening to use nuclear weapons unless his dictate is accepted/implemented.
An ordinary viewer watching this message on their TV screen will have no means to ascertain the veracity of statements made by POTUS on TV. Most, instead of all, will accept it as accurate.
Using deepfake technology in the hands of criminals will alter the face of crime globally. A criminal accessing this technology might post a video clip showing ‘someone’s child in captivity and demand a ransom’ and send it to concerned parents.
Imagine the catastrophic consequences of such acts. Rumor-mongering will become a norm. Some might do it for fun, others for crime. Creating a digital puppet has already become simpler than sending an SMS.
Except for members of a few tribes still hidden in some corners of the globe, nearly 87% population has access to a mobile phone, either by a person or a close acquaintance. Interesting information for all – Today, globally, more pictures are clicked daily than the number of photos clicked in the entire 19th century.
That is the exponential power of technology. The hitherto unknown social media has completely altered how people communicate. Millions, maybe billions, post a picture daily on Facebook, Instagram, etc. Privacy is no longer a virtue.
Future Use Of Deepfake Technology (WMC)
Instances of creating fake identities have already become a norm. Its proliferation is limited due to the non-availability of technology to all and sundry. However, this potent weapon will soon be used by non-state actors to spread false messages, particularly those that will create unrest among the masses.
The spectrum of use of deepfake technology is enormous. An audio-visual message is the most potent weapon to make viewers believe its truthfulness. Digital puppets will be used extensively in the foreseeable future, mainly to spread ‘real disinformation.’
Deepfake technology has already crossed the boundary of infancy. Numerous apps are already available and can be used by a beginner. For instance, the DeepNude app is already used to create videos and images of nude women. Similarly, the Chinese have developed Face Swap, FaceApp, and DeepfACE Lab apps. Few of these can be used as photo editing apps.
India And Cyber Security
Cyber Security is the buzzword in India. Everyone is using the term without even remotely understanding the extent of damage that the proliferation of smartphones, virtually free WhatsApp communication, and messaging facility have done. One can learn to make a video and post it on various social media platforms within a day.
This transmission medium is already being abused by sending/circulating fake messages, perhaps every second. For a country like India, which perpetually remains volatile due to politico-religious activity, digital puppets might create unthinkable levels of social instability.
Digital puppets are poised to take Indian society by a tornado-type storm. Hundreds, maybe thousands of comments/views placed on Twitter and numerous videos loaded on YouTube by people daily should be a pointer.
WMC As A Weapon Of War And Social Unrest
The growth of the development of Artificial Intelligence has indeed created a Frankenstein. How the monster will be tamed is not yet known. ‘Fake people’ are set to ‘rule’ the world.
WMC, as an instrument of war, might turn out to be millions of times more powerful than the most powerful nukes developed to date.
Disinformation spread by digital puppets might not have a counter to contain and neutralize it before it does irreparable damage to the social fabric.
Misleading and counterfeit videos will become a norm sooner than later. Imagine the consequences and global confusion if Putin’s digital puppet appears on our TV screens on March 24, 2023, announcing (date and time is symbolic)-
“Russia will launch a nuclear strike on Kyiv on March 25, 2023, at 1000h. All foreigners are advised to leave Kyiv immediately.”