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Will’s Honest Opinion – “Deep Fake News” – 1-25-18

It’s a brave new world.. but it’s also an inevitable one. On humanities continued quest to bring sex to… itself.. society has embarked on a new chapter into the absurd self reflective, Black Mirror nightmare that’s been the mid twenty-teens so far. If you’ve spent anytime on Reddit in the past month, you may be privy to a mushrooming trend of homebrew celebrity based porn, called DeepFakes.

What are “DeepFakes”? Essentially, the Reddit user by the same name, has built a software that can take the face of anyone and have it superimposed over the face of another person. Only this time, it’s video and not just flat image based compositing. The user, DeepFakes, then open sourced the app for download to anyone willing to experiment, and what followed was a bevy of celebrity based porn being updated hourly. I obviously can’t post any examples here, but a quick google search will yield you a heap of results.

It’s not a secret that porn is the first stop for new technology when being brought to the masses. We saw it with: photography, film, print, photoshop, websites, web video, and now video alteration.

So is DeepFakes the biggest thing to hit porn since… porn? It could be. And while many may fantasize about how they could use such a program for nefarious purposes, I wonder what and or how it will be implemented in HollyWood. We saw it used to varying degrees in ‘Star Wars: Rogue One’ in 2016, but now this skill has been added to the tool box of¬†amateurs, filmmakers, and otherwise. I suspect we’ll see fan made ‘Star Wars’ movies with Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker, or ‘Ghostbusters 3’ with Harold Ramis. I’d love to see a redux fan-edit of ‘Batman Forever’ with Michael Keaton and Billy Dee Williams. In a way, the possibilities are limitless, and the uncanny valley effect is barely noticeable because the algorithm for the software uses existing footage of the actor as it’s assets, and not computer renderings or 3D wire-mesh composites.

Of course the effect is in a very limited capacity now. There’s plenty of clipping or soft edges around the heads of even the best edits. But in 5 years time, I truly believe we will see an entire era of nostalgia based films that are sequels to movies that just weren’t possible until now. I’m not saying I want to see a direct sequel to ‘Casablanca’, starring Humphrey Bogart, but the option will soon be here; and the results could be indistinguishable from the real thing.

But until that time, expect the internet to usher in the creative cycle for the forceable future. Between Trump memes gone haywire or whatever current celebrity is in hot water, videos will be made. I do suspect though that this will be a future art form. We’ll have professional level “DeepFakes” and terrible “DeepFakes”. The term “DeepFakes” might even be used like “photoshopped” is now for image adjusting.

And, with image alteration becoming such a mainstay in modern society, it begs the question of ones and zeros. I don’t want to get too deep into the theoretical conversation about “simulated realities”, but anyone keeping up with the hypothetical existence of “Quasicrystals”, is aware that the proposed new “Theory of Everything”, suggests that matter is just information; and if information (or data) can be altered, what’s keeping us from building movies backwards with algorithms instead of filming them directly? If you could circumvent the process of physical content creation, and instead focus the raw binary code into a desired output, you could conceivably build anything you’ve ever wanted to see.. ever! It’d be like going straight to the encoding process on a DVD.

Don’t like the ending to ‘The Last Jedi’? Change it! Wanna see that fabled Snyder cut of ‘Justice League’? Just type it in and hit enter! Hated the last episode of ‘Seinfeld’? Fixed! These are going to be real possibilities and it won’t be too long until it’s ubiquitous in all realms of entertainment, or otherwise.

It does raise a broader question though, and that’s one of ethics. It’s difficult to police ethics; especially online. What’s to keep someone from putting their bosses face in a compromising position, or using the software to create a political video aimed at undermining the opposite base?
With a barrage of new possibilities, expect an accompanying set of new laws or rules to follow. With photoshop, if anyone was to “image adjust” you’d need to be skilled enough to make the image look realistic, and even at the best of times, it can still look awkward. But with DeepFakes doing so much of the work for you, Trump and politicians alike may need to coin a new term, like: “Deep Fake News”.

-Will Valle

January 25, 2018
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