Two game-changing technologies have recently emerged as significant. They are deep fake videos and facial recognition technologies. Both have the potential to greatly change the world in drastic fashion. Allow me to explain the technologies and their potential impacts.
Deep fake is a phrase coined in 2017 that is used to describe video and other digital artifacts that have been altered using artificial intelligence to fake a person or place. The first deep fakes superimposed the faces of famous actresses onto the bodies of pornographic videos. Since then, deep fakes have begun to proliferate in a variety of areas including political figures. This is an excellent introduction into deep fakes produced by CNN. It is astounding.
With deep fakes improving by the month, it is exceedingly difficult to distinguish truth from falsehood. The deep fakes begin to challenge basic assumptions we have made for years about video, audio, and still images and their veracity. Imagine someone making a deep fake about a speech from the President and spreading it on social media. Deep fakes bring a band new reality to the phrase “fake news.”
Second, consider the lightning advancement of facial recognition software. For less than $100, two men built a facial recognition system (using off the shelf devices and Amazon’s commercial facial recognition service). They cataloged and identified more than 2750 people in a nine-hour period. The normal use of facial reconition is becoming ubiquitous.
Yet people having a little fun on the cheap is not what should alarm us. Large governments are now using facial recognition to control masses of people. Many news outlets have reported that the Chinese government has established one of the most robust facial recognition systems in the world, and they are using it to control the Uighur people. Uighurs are being tracked all over their homeland, and people who are determined a security risk are being jailed in re-education camps. Some believe that upwards of a million Uighurs have been imprisoned.
To make matters worse, China has reportedly exported this technology to other repressive governments. “Today, 18 countries — including Zimbabwe, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Kenya, the United Arab Emirates and Germany — are using Chinese-made intelligent monitoring systems” (New York Times). Nefarious governments that want to control their people have brand new tools to do it with deadly efficiency.
Deep fakes and facial recognition have more in common than simply being digital technology. Both deal with the digital images of people and the power harnessed by using this information. They are tools for gaining information about people. They are tools to persuade public opinion. They are tools used to control, intimidate, and even punish.
George Orwell’s 1984 looks more real than ever!
I join with billions of other Christians around the world in believing that truth is found in the person of Jesus. It is not simply a set of beliefs that we follow. We follow a man. And his gospel message to us is that the heart of man is deceitfully wicked (Jer. 17:9). As Christians, we cannot agree with those who speak of people all being basically good and that the world runs on unicorns and pixie dust. No. Our hearts are darkened. And not just repressive governments. All of us. And we need a cleansing and renewal from the one who lived the perfect life, died, and rose again – all motivated by love and the desire for our renewal.
In our brave new world, truth will matter. And standing on truth against those who would seek to control or deceive will be of utmost importance.