March 5, 2023

Why The Internet Is Scaring Me

The internet has been scaring me lately.

Technology has always moved rapidly, but with Artificial Intelligence taking centerstage (with apps like ChatGPT), things are advancing faster than I can process them. They’re able to do things I didn’t think were yet possible, at a rate that is faster than I can fathom, with implications that I’m only just starting to process.

Scare #1

I was scrolling through TikTok a few weeks ago when I came across an ad.

It was a snippet of a Joe Rogan interview (big podcaster) with Andrew Huberman (Neuroscientist) discussing a supplement that they both recommended. The ad seemed to be highlighting the available product whilst the natural conversation between the two did all the marketing.

I wasn’t interested in the supplement, but I did watch a good amount of the video (because I’m a fan of them both). A few days later, I stumbled upon articles explaining that this ad was in fact a ‘deepfake’ (a realistic audiovisual hoax). That conversation never happened. It was the first time I wasn’t even remotely able to distinguish reality from what had been presented to me. I’d been fooled.

What happens when this becomes more common? How do you trust anything you see once this technology becomes readily available? Does anyone who’s put their face online risk the same ‘deepfake’ treatment? What does that do to someone’s reputation? To their relationships and mental health?

Scare #2

Google tweeted about their ‘magic eraser’ tool now being available to Google One members.

‘Magic Eraser’ allows you to remove photobombers from pictures, cleaning up the image to allow for more ‘picture-perfect’ moments.

‘Magic Eraser’ by Google.

This sort of feature has been around for a while, it’s nothing new. But I’d think of it as being used only by artists, creators and people messing around with the tool for some fun. Now, it’s readily available for everyday users to apply to their entire photo album. For many, backing up photos to a cloud service like Google One prevents the anxiety of losing one’s memories. So what happens when our photos are all touched up? What happens when we remove every photobomber until it’s just us left in the pictures?

What right do we have to erase history like that?

What are the implications of amending real moments into something we wanted them to look like?

Can we trust a photo anymore?

Scare #3

Roald Dahl’s books are being rewritten and re-illustrated to remove ‘problematic’ words and ideas.

The book publisher ‘Puffin’ has already made extensive changes to the books which have already been met with widespread criticism.

In the book ‘James and the Giant Peach’, Aunt Sponge is no longer described as being “terrifically fat ”but as a “nasty old brute”.

In ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’, a sketch of the character Mike Teavee with “18 toy pistols” has been edited to remove those pistols, along with its corresponding sentences.

What right do we have to revise the late writer’s words? Why not just introduce a new updated version and keep the original as it is?

If we change the words of books and alter illustrations, the work we’ve grown to love will no longer hold its authenticity.

There’s a worrying trend emerging that almost nothing online can be guaranteed to be authentic, original and true.

It starts with them, but it’s only time that it happens to us too.

Every week, I write about philosophy, self-fulfilment and creativity.
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