‘So did you watch any news,’ Camp asked before I even sat down at our usual corner table by the Salish Sea.
‘You can be proud of me. I refrained from reading the daily news from my phone on my bedside table as soon as I opened my eyes, which had become my routine as of late. Instead I just lay there for a couple of minutes, contemplating the day ahead.’
‘I have to confess,’ Camp said, ‘I have been following the Brexit improv theatre but only with cursory, sideway glances,’ Camp confessed.
‘There is a another aspect of today’s news reporting that bothers me,’ I said. ‘Let me tell you what I did read this week. It’s an article by Jordan Peterson who is a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, an author and a popular blogger. He also wrote a bestselling book.’
‘Yes, I know it. It’s called: 12 Rules for Life – an Antidote to Chaos.’
‘Here is the gist of his article. In July 2017 the BBC broadcast a speech by an Artificial Intelligence constructed Obama that was indistinguishable from the real thing. Then a U-tube site called Derpfakes – a play on Deepfakes – has Nicholas Cage superimposed and virtually replacing an unknown actor, and on an other u-tube channel called ‘Ctrl Shift Face’ Bill Hader was transformed into Tom Cruise on the David Letterman show. Over 4 million people saw this clip. Even better, Peter Cushing, an actor who first featured in the original Star Wars series in 1977, and who died in 1994, has been brought back to life with computer animation in ‘Rouge One’ in 2016. There is a lot more in this article, but all of this is just the beginning of what we will be subjected to in the very near future. These internet tools which can be manipulated by anybody who is somewhat tech savvy, can mimic anybody, from politicians to actors and we will never know the difference. Scary? You bet. What do we do when fake news are reported by fake people? Do two minuses make a plus? And is any of this legal?
‘Yes, I’ve heard about these deep fakes. Which reinforces the concept that we need to talk to each other and take anything we read or hear on a media site with a lot of scepticism.’
‘That’s great Camp, but how do we know what is real and what is not? How do we distinguish the real politicians from the fake one?’
‘A real politician? That’s a bit oxymoronic but I guess the only way is to have strict and enforceable laws protecting identities which will include voice, visuals and any manipulation of a persons image,’ Camp said.
‘Peterson and I couldn’t agree more. He contents that somebody’s voice and face is an integral part of their identity, their reality and their person. Stealing and manipulating it should be considered a criminal act and punished accordingly.’
‘I don’t even want to think of what the future of mass media is going to be like if everybody can be turned into a realistic cartoon of themselves. Who and what will be real any more and what can we believe any longer? It’s the brave new world my friend and Artificial Intelligence operators will be in control.’
‘What will link us together as a community if not a shared and reliable reality, critical media and authentic reporting?’ I asked, throwing up my hands and almost knocking our fresh beers off Vicky’s tray. ‘We need to be able to rely on everybody being themselves and these so called deep fake ‘artists’ need to be stopped by whatever legal means necessary.’
‘What’s got you two so excited this lovely Thursday? It can’t be the upcoming election. Promises, accusations, and more promises.’
‘No, it’s not the election and the ensuing theatre but it’s a big part of what bothers us, ‘Camp said.
‘We don’t know if all those people on TV and the internet are actual or fakes and we’re confused as to what is real anymore,’ I said.
‘Oh boy, all I know is you two are a tad unreal, this beer here is the genuine thing and that stuff on TV is all just smoke and mirrors, shows and theatre. Everybody knows that. Don’t bother and pay no attention to it,’ Vicky said and we both just looked at her with awe.
‘Except of course the commercials. They are real,’ she said with a wink and a smile. It’s good to have a reality check, once in a while.