Every day, internet services that we use are using dark patterns on the web and in their apps. If you're not familiar with dark patterns, they're things that deceive user experiences, deceiving user experiences that mislead people onto paths that they may not intend to take. Intuit got in hot water after offering a TurboTax Free File program that was completely inaccessible from turbotax.com. The Free File application takes customers through a series of screens and questions, capturing sensitive personal information, only to later inform many customers they're ineligible for the free program, and instead, they must pay a fee to upgrade. Only after the fact did Intuit disclose the truth about the Free File program in an FAQ document. Just the screen you see on the right. None of these people exist. For a long time, we've known that we can't trust everything we read or see on the internet. But this is a whole new level of misrepresentation. We can no longer trust our own eyes. So beautiful, so diverse, so lifelike, these images are synthetics, generated by AI algorithms known as GANs, Generative Adversarial Networks. We live in a world where photos and images are standard surrogates for proof. Unfortunately, these can no longer be trusted. And if you're interested in seeing an endless clickstream of synthetics, surf on over to thispersondoesnotexist.com, thiscatdoesnotexist.com, or thishorsedoesnotexist.com. But please wait until my presentation concludes.
These GAN algorithms aren't only capable of generating synthetic still images, they can create videos as well. And these videos are known as Deepfakes. This is actor and comedian Bill Hader on the Conan O'Brien show, impersonating Arnold Schwarzenegger with a little AI assistance. Now given that video is a little unreliable over Zoom, I just grabbed these still frames from Bill's vid on YouTube. That's unaltered Bill Hader, upper left in that small frame, and then the Deepfake of him morphing into Arnold on the right. This video is absolutely worth a view. And there's a whole bunch of other examples of actors morphing into others. The implications of this technology are profound. I mentioned earlier that we use photos and other images as surrogates for proof. This completely unravels our ability to trust what we're seeing online. In a Wired Magazine article on the topic of Deepfakes, a gentleman named Sam Gregory was interviewed. Mr. Gregory works at Witness, which is a nonprofit project that trains and supports people to use video safely, ethically and effectively to advocate for human rights. In that article, Mr. Gregory predicts, "We're going to get more and more of this content, and it's probably going to get a lot better quality." Now there's mention this technology is completely free, open source and available for download from GitHub. As of today, nearly 31,000 developers have marked this project as a favorite, and the code has been forked nearly 10,000 times. This is what the democratization of technology looks like.
Your friends and family are liars. How often do the social media posts of your friends and family members convey reality? Everyone is living their best lives in a constant state of joy and accomplishment, 24/7, 365. We know that's not true. Tracy Clayton, a writer and acclaimed podcast host asked her 150,000 Twitter followers to, if comfortable, "Post a picture of you that you shared on social media, where you were actually having a really tough time in life, even though you look perfectly fine in the picture." Within minutes, the replies flooded in. People told their stories of anxiety, depression, eating disorders, relationship issues, chronic illness, financial stress, all while putting on their smiling faces for the smartphone. We simply can't trust these communications as direct, personal, and spontaneous as they may seem.
And finally, this is where we find ourselves today in 2020. Unable to trust each other unless at a distance of six feet. And here, unable to trust the cleanliness of the spiritual symbols, icons, and artifacts that many in this world hold so sacred. So I reassert, trust, facts, and truth are under siege. Do you believe me now?