A Deepfake Nixon Delivers Eulogy for the Apollo 11 Astronauts
November 27, 2019 12:18 PM   Subscribe

 
We're so screwed.
posted by Wretch729 at 12:43 PM on November 27, 2019 [13 favorites]


Next they should make one of William Safire at Burger King ordering "two Whoppers Junior."
posted by Atom Eyes at 12:49 PM on November 27, 2019 [20 favorites]


Time to start the Butlerian Jihad.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 12:51 PM on November 27, 2019 [14 favorites]


Just imagine trying to decipher history a thousand years from now, when every piece of historical media from the 20th and 21st century will be swarmed by thousands of AI generated deepfakes. They will have no idea of what happened in the era. It will be regarded as the lost age.
posted by happyroach at 12:58 PM on November 27, 2019 [13 favorites]


That was really very good.

I hate it.
posted by biogeo at 12:59 PM on November 27, 2019 [8 favorites]


Just imagine trying to decipher history a thousand years from now..

You assume any civilization will be left a thousand years from now ? how optimistic...
posted by Pendragon at 1:10 PM on November 27, 2019 [4 favorites]


We're so screwed.

Lower resolution images, particularly film that appears to be a copy of old analog film, as well as poor quality modern video, lends itself more readily to convincing deepfakes, but as technology progresses, so will the quality of deepfakes.

From last year: How To Spot A Deepfake Like The Barack Obama–Jordan Peele Video (Buzzfeed News).
“On the positive side, we managed to train several neural networks that are indeed pretty good at figuring out forged images/videos. … Ideally, we're imagining automated methods in a browser or social media platform to tell what's fake and what's real,” said Matthias Niessner, who runs the Visual Computing Lab at Technical University Munich.
That's a nice dream, may we strive to make it real.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:11 PM on November 27, 2019 [5 favorites]


thisisfine.jpg
posted by PMdixon at 1:12 PM on November 27, 2019


Just imagine trying to decipher history a thousand years from now.

The idea that there will be historians thousands of years from now on this planet is, itself, profoundly optimistic.

That's a nice dream, may we strive to make it real.

Presumably, after 5 or so years of this, any sufficiently sophisticated AI will make the rational decision and exterminate us.
posted by ryanshepard at 1:12 PM on November 27, 2019 [10 favorites]


Come on, guys. Not while Buzz and Mike are still around.
posted by Capt. Renault at 1:26 PM on November 27, 2019 [7 favorites]


1. That's good work, and a clever counterfactual premise to film. Seconding filthy light thief's note that situating fakery in older, lower-fidelity media makes a difference as well since convincing filter and desampling will hide a multitude of sins that crisp HD imagery won't.

2. It is a very potent reminder of how stupid our current timeline is that the idea of deep fake videos misrepresenting Trump would, I guess, pretty likely be useful to operate to make him look less shitty at his job than he actually is. Imagine being able to have a more functional version of him speaking from the Resolute desk.
posted by cortex at 1:36 PM on November 27, 2019 [3 favorites]


> Time to start the Butlerian Jihad.

make mine an octavia butlerian jihad please and thank you.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 1:43 PM on November 27, 2019 [13 favorites]


I don't think this is as apocalyptic as everyone here's making it out to be. We already have the ability to create extremely convincing fake still photos, and while this does occasionally cause trouble, it really hasn't altered how people operate or tell fact from fiction all that much. What will probably happen is an ever-mutating arms race between deepfake videos and countermeasures to detect them, with things not changing all that much. It'll just be that instead of "look at what OBAMA did" fake pictures making the rounds before being debunked we'll have a video.
posted by Sangermaine at 1:47 PM on November 27, 2019 [4 favorites]


Falsehood flies, and the Truth comes limping after it. - Jonathan Swift
posted by kokaku at 1:55 PM on November 27, 2019 [5 favorites]


I don't understand the reasoning for creating something like this. Not this video specifically, just "deep fakes" in general. What can we as a society gain from this technology? I mean, there has to be something beyond, "because we can do it." Right?
posted by NoMich at 2:01 PM on November 27, 2019 [1 favorite]


The fact that anybody can make up whatever shit they'd like is what gives trustworthy institutions their power. This has been true for millennia.
posted by clawsoon at 2:05 PM on November 27, 2019 [2 favorites]


I know everyone is appropriately flipping out over the deepfake aspect here, but man...I've been low-key obsessed with this speech ever since I first read it several years ago, it pops into my mind from time to time, so I'm always into stories about it.

What fascinates me is that even though the scenario is made plain in the memo, people often miss it because the speech itself remains vague. What Nixon is telling the country is not that the astronauts have died attempting to land on the moon, they have landed successfully - but something has happened to the lander, so we cannot get them back. They are alive and maintaining communication with NASA, until the speech is over and the connection is broken so they can die in whatever manner they choose. (The phrase "widows-to-be" gives me THE SHIVERS.)

Anyway the idea that I'm going to get to watch Nixon deliver this speech is terrifyingly awesome.
posted by Banky_Edwards at 2:25 PM on November 27, 2019 [23 favorites]


What can we as a society gain from this technology? I mean, there has to be something beyond, "because we can do it." Right?

Well, it could be very useful for the entertainment industry. Film editors, for instance, often have to figure out ways to work replacement dialogue into a scene. Many times, you do that by cutting away from a character, or to a view over their shoulder, as they deliver a line that was added in post rather than recorded on set. Some editors have been getting skilled at using workarounds like speeding up or slowing down footage (sometimes just in one part of the frame) and even cutting and pasting bits of faces from scene to scene in order to make the performances better match the audio, but one day in the not-too-distant future, it will surely be possible to have AI digitally reshape an actor's facial performance in order to better synchronize it with dialogue recorded in post.
posted by Mothlight at 2:55 PM on November 27, 2019 [6 favorites]


What can we as a society gain from this technology? I mean, there has to be something beyond, "because we can do it." Right?

Well, yeah, it’s because we can.

But, I can easily see this being used in advertising. Some long-dead star endorsing a product, for instance (there are companies who license the use of long-dead stars, and I bet they’re salivating over this tech)

Additionally, a star could have their youthful visage scanned, and then, in old age, sell it to a film production as if it was them in the film. A youthful Arnold starring in Terminator 37, for instance.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:58 PM on November 27, 2019


What can we as a society gain from this technology? I mean, there has to be something beyond, "because we can do it." Right?

There's a line of argument that once a given advancement in technology becomes inevitable, once it is clearly on its way, we're better off if we get to it sooner and in a public and scientifically-grounded way so that we can get a head start on understanding, mapping out the implications and dangers, and ideally make some progress on antidotes and countermeasures. Maybe aggressively pushing on the capabilities of deep fakes now will mean five years from now we're more prepared to mitigate the damage of weaponization of it, instead of being caught off guard, etc.

Of course there's the counterargument that doing something bad just to get it over with isn't such a great motivation after all and that using scar tissue from self-inflicted injury as a defense against further injury is a dubious strategy.

All in all I share the general sentiment that this isn't going to change the world for better or for worse—all new media technology is unsettling, and at every point in history people have been willing to be deceptive and full of shit for a variety of reasons, and this feels mostly like an intersection of those two things that just feels really troubling because the grim cyberpunky vibes at a point where we're already wading through extra deep strata of horseshit.
posted by cortex at 3:18 PM on November 27, 2019 [9 favorites]


There wasn’t much written on that first page.
posted by bonobothegreat at 3:26 PM on November 27, 2019 [4 favorites]


I think the ray of hope is that as AIs get better at making these they will also get better at spotting them? Of course, that would require platforms like Facebook, Twitter, IG, etc. to actually USE those things, or, you know, care. Maybe there will just be a really good browser extension with the AI built in to detect.
posted by SinAesthetic at 3:35 PM on November 27, 2019 [1 favorite]


This is here and it is real, and we can either decide to fret about it, and do nothing, or strive to learn more and work to figure out solutions to defeat or at least mitigate the damage from inevitable attacks by the usual bad actors. I prefer the latter option.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 3:57 PM on November 27, 2019


That's a proper clunky paraphrase of Rupert Brooke to end on. Would viewers have been expected to recognise the reference or accept it as-is?
posted by I'm always feeling, Blue at 4:11 PM on November 27, 2019 [1 favorite]


*sigh*

You had to go and use this technology to do _this_. The Apollo program is one of the crowning achievements of mankind, and you'd go and make this? Get out.
posted by Xyanthilous P. Harrierstick at 4:40 PM on November 27, 2019 [2 favorites]


> I mean, there has to be something beyond, "because we can do it." Right?

Because it turns us on. Previously.
posted by fragmede at 4:41 PM on November 27, 2019


"Deepfake."

That man had such a way to move you, a complete and utter tenderness.

If they're not dead they should be
posted by Auden at 5:02 PM on November 27, 2019


I've seen footage where they edited Forrest Gump out of historic videos like he never existed.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 5:40 PM on November 27, 2019 [24 favorites]


I’m kinda enjoying watching humanity destroy itself via technology. Seriously what benefit do deep fakes provide us?
posted by Young Kullervo at 6:00 PM on November 27, 2019


You can put celebrites into porn.
posted by riruro at 6:03 PM on November 27, 2019 [1 favorite]


To an extent it's a natural conclusion of a whole bunch of other developments combined together. Just zapping deepfakes themselves wouldn't make much sense in the face of other kinds of style transfer existing, if that makes sense. It'd be like developing a combustion engine, wheels, and a differential but never thinking "car". (Not impossible, see Greece & steam power, but.)

I don't know that I know enough to fully map out the web of developments which led to deepfakes to be able to definitively go "here's where we would have had to turn another direction" without being some full "what if everything were different" alt-history;

but I have the gut sense that it would be something so far removed as to be strange to make the leap. Like redirecting Hedy Lamarr to cancel Wi-Fi.
posted by CrystalDave at 6:26 PM on November 27, 2019 [1 favorite]


there's lots of extremely good and useful things like image classification, speech recognition, semantic segmentation, visual pose estimation, style transfer on images, etc. and if you take the building blocks for those and rearrange them a little, you get a system for producing deepfakes.

Why people continue to try to improve these systems knowing the harms and limited benefits is unclear to me though.
posted by vogon_poet at 6:44 PM on November 27, 2019 [1 favorite]


They will have no idea of what happened in the era. It will be regarded as the lost age.

Deepfakes or not, over a long enough timespan it all ends up as Beatles 3000.
posted by sysinfo at 6:57 PM on November 27, 2019 [2 favorites]


Bad actors will use this open technology for bad aims. It would be irresponsible for good actors not to advance the tech, and tech to detect it, as well. Cat out of the bag and all that.

Tech is not good or bad, users are; talking about banning it is right up there with eye roll worthy export bans on crypto algorithms that are given as programming assignments to CS sophomores. A little more complex but still totally out in the open to be implemented by anyone.

Weren’t people saying similar things about computerized still photo manipulation twenty years ago? What’s the result? People don’t implicitly trust still images. Human skepticism will advance to this point with video as well.
posted by supercres at 7:23 PM on November 27, 2019 [2 favorites]


When I was young I thought that technology and the Internet would interconnect everyone and create an open marketplace of ideas where good ideas and truth would ultimately triumph over ignorance and lies. So I helped build that world from the early 90s when I started my professional career to 2016. Now I look around in horror at what me and my peers have done.
posted by interogative mood at 7:32 PM on November 27, 2019 [13 favorites]


Just imagine trying to decipher history a thousand years from now, when every piece of historical media from the 20th and 21st century will be swarmed by thousands of AI generated deepfakes. They will have no idea of what happened in the era. It will be regarded as the lost age.

The historians of even the last twenty-five years will likely already be drowned in near infinite pools of data without even deepfakes. Imagine wading through a literary figure and frequent twitterer's entire correspondence from when they started out on livejournal. Then you have their browsing histories. Their consumer histories of online shopping and credit card purchases. Their GPS tracking data. Their daily step counts. Their insta. Their chat logs....and so on. And so much of it heavily managed and possibly faked self-presentation. So much chaff...

There are going to be a lot of Robert Caro length biographies possible.
posted by srboisvert at 8:32 PM on November 27, 2019 [1 favorite]


People are pretty bad at interpreting authentic information. For example, The Shape of Water won best Oscar.
posted by PHINC at 9:02 PM on November 27, 2019


We already have the ability to create extremely convincing fake still photos

I know; I am frequently told that these fake stills were used to fake a moon landing.

I can only guess that once the hoax true believers, with their syncretic approach, analyze this video, the big question will be how after faking a moon landing, NASA got Armstrong and Aldrin’s bodies onto the moon.

The next question is if Aldrin and Collins are still kicking, how far has cloning technology been advancing...
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:10 PM on November 27, 2019 [1 favorite]


Unpopular opinion: Deepfakes should just be outright illegal, to manufacture and to distribute. And in anticipation of the first amendment argument: The first amendment has limits. Anything that curtails the first amendment must meet an exceptionally high bar of scrutiny, but it is possible. You can't yell fire in a crowded theater, nor can you make or possess child pornography. I really do believe that the potential harm of deepfakes wielded by propagandists rises to that level.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 12:13 AM on November 28, 2019 [4 favorites]


~40% of America believes a large bundle of lies without the need for deepfakes. If people are more interested in getting emotional chow than finding out what facts are true, it's hard to see what worse shit deepfakes will do. Maybe now we can generate a video of Hillary in Comet Ping Pong, but a large number of people believed PizzaGate just because they wanted it to be so.
posted by benzenedream at 12:32 AM on November 28, 2019 [5 favorites]


Time to start the Butlerian Jihad

I keep mentioning this in my work, Abehammerb Lincoln, but most academics don't recognize it.
posted by doctornemo at 3:30 AM on November 28, 2019 [1 favorite]


This problem didn't start with photo manipulation. It started with, "Let me tell you about a great man named Gilgamesh..."
posted by clawsoon at 3:49 AM on November 28, 2019 [3 favorites]


Seriously what benefit do deep fakes provide us?

Well, they could potentially make it far easier for our 100% trustworthy, always incorruptible, scrupulously law-abiding and never even a little bit self-serving security services to convince a jury of our peers to imprison any of us at any time for any reason they think would play as plausible in court, so there's that.
posted by flabdablet at 5:12 AM on November 28, 2019 [2 favorites]


I really don't think convincing fake video footage will change a single thing. 100 years ago you got your news from a paper. Your reality was entirely in the control of the person writing the words and the person paying them: "Mr Lloyd-George said the moon was made of green cheese, before foaming at the mouth". No deepfake needed and no way to demonstrate falsehood because you can tell from some of the pixels.

I am SO tired of people imagining we're entering an era where we can't know what's true. We have always, at least since the invention of any form of mass media, lived in that era. People with control of the relevant technology have always controlled our access to information. The real change now is that more people have access to that technology.

We are now entering a world where we can and must think about what is true. To be honest, I think that's what most people are actually scared of.
posted by howfar at 7:34 AM on November 28, 2019 [7 favorites]


Deepfakes of Nixon certainly are improving compared to a few years ago.
posted by senor biggles at 7:52 AM on November 28, 2019


Will they do the full set of alternate speeches now, too?
posted by kyrademon at 5:43 PM on November 28, 2019


As far as the legal implications are concerned: deepfakes are always hearsay, as a starting point - no deepfake is an “in court statement.”
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:06 PM on November 28, 2019 [1 favorite]


I’m a lip-reader and I could tell it was fake. Some of the lip synch was far from perfect.
posted by hrpomrx at 6:49 PM on November 28, 2019


You can try to ban deep fakes; but it is going to be very difficult to keep the technology out of the hands of governments, political operatives, and trolls. I don’t think we can contain the technology. The short era were we have been able to accept photo and video evidence on its face is over.
posted by interogative mood at 7:33 PM on November 28, 2019


If you have the ability, I recommend the recent BBC drama The Capture, which wrestles entertainingly with how deep fakes can be weaponised in a world that has not quite caught up to the ‘reality’ of them.
posted by Hartster at 1:44 AM on November 29, 2019 [1 favorite]


The Capture is currently pretty easy to capture. Fire up a cheap VPN with a UK endpoint (Mullvad works fine for me), then grab these from BBC iPlayer with youtube-dl:

The Capture S01E01 What Happens in Helmand
The Capture S01E02 Toy Soldier
The Capture S01E03 Truffle Hog
The Capture S01E04 Blind Spots
The Capture S01E05 A Pilgrim of Justice
The Capture S01E06 Correction
posted by flabdablet at 4:40 AM on November 29, 2019 [1 favorite]


Lip readers will save us all.
posted by mazola at 8:55 AM on November 29, 2019


China makes it a criminal offense to publish deepfakes without disclosure.
posted by lucidium at 8:25 AM on November 30, 2019 [1 favorite]


Deep fakes are currently being used to make pornography without consent by putting faces on other people’s bodies. I mean, primarily.

I hate this technology
posted by Dressed to Kill at 7:55 AM on December 1, 2019 [2 favorites]


I’m saying this to remind those who think we’re merely hand-wringing over something abstract ...
posted by Dressed to Kill at 7:56 AM on December 1, 2019 [1 favorite]


While this thread is open and still on some people's activity, I’d like to recommend watching the Apollo 11 movie (available on iTunes and disk). No interviews or re-enactments. Just a straight run-through of the mission with a few simple but enormously effective animated graphics.
posted by bonobothegreat at 6:29 PM on December 3, 2019


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