The Era of Fake Video Begins
Franklin Foer 富兰克林·福尔
In a dank corner of the internet， it is possible to find actresses from Game of Thrones or Harry Potter engaged in all manner of sex acts. Or at least to the world the carnal figures look like those actresses， and the faces in the videos are indeed their own. Everything south of the neck， however， belongs to different women. An artificial intelligence has almost seamlessly stitched the familiar visages into pornographic scenes， one face swapped for another. The genre is one of the cruelest， most invasive forms of identity theft invented in the internet era.
The internet has always contained the seeds of postmodern hell. Mass manipulation， from clickbait to Russian bots to the addictive trickery that governs Facebook's News Feed， is the currency of the medium. It has always been a place where identity is terrifyingly slippery， where anonymity breeds coarseness and confusion， where crooks can filch the very contours of selfhood. In this respect， the rise of deepfakes is the culmination of the internet's history to date—and probably only a low-grade version of what's to come.
But this may seem an age of innocence. We'll shortly live in a world where our eyes routinely deceive us. Put differently， we're not so far from the collapse of reality.
That all takes us to the nub of the problem. It's natural to trust one's own senses， to believe what one sees—a hardwired tendency that the coming age of manipulated video will exploit.
But the problem isn't just the proliferation of falsehoods. Fabricated videos will create new and understandable suspicions about everything we watch. Politicians and publicists will exploit those doubts. When captured in a moment of wrongdoing， a culprit will simply declare the visual evidence a malicious concoction.
In other words， manipulated video will ultimately destroy faith in our strongest remaining tether to the idea of common reality. As Ian Goodfellow， a scientist at Google， told MIT Technology Review， “It's been a little bit of a fluke， historically， that we're able to rely on videos as evidence that something really happened.”
Fake-but-realistic video clips are not the end point of the flight from reality that technologists would have us take. The apotheosis of this vision is virtual reality. VR's fundamental purpose is to create a comprehensive illusion of being in another place.
Life could be more interesting in virtual realities as the technology emerges from its infancy; the possibilities for creation might be extended and enhanced in wondrous ways. But if the hype around VR eventually pans out， then， like the personal computer or social media， it will grow into a massive industry， intent on addicting consumers for the sake of its own profit， and possibly dominated by just one or two exceptionally powerful companies.
Perhaps society will find ways to cope with these changes. Maybe we'll learn the skepticism required to navigate them. Thus far， however， human beings have displayed a near-infinite susceptibility to getting duped and conned—falling easily into worlds congenial to their own beliefs or self-image，regardless of how eccentric or flat-out wrong those beliefs may be. Governments have been slow to respond to the social challenges that new technologies create， and might rather avoid this one.
Few individuals will have the time or perhaps the capacity to sort elaborate fabulation from truth. Our best hope may be outsourcing the problem， restoring cultural authority to trusted validators with training and knowledge: newspapers， universities. Perhaps big technology companies will understand this crisis and assume this role， too. Since they control the most-important access points to news and information， they could most easily squash manipulated videos， for instance. But to play this role， they would have to accept certain responsibilities that they have so far largely resisted.