Newsletter #5: Featuring Brad Pitt v Rick Huckstep, not Tom Cruise, chatbots from the dearly departed, some crypto and dentist tech
Featuring Brad Pitt v Rick Huckstep, not Tom Cruise, chatbots from the other side plus some crypto and digital dentistry stuff
What’s the fuss about Deepfakes?
The recent spate of Tom Cruise videos on TikTok has raised the profile of deepfakes and the ease with which they can fool. These particular ones were created by visual effects (VFX) specialist Chris Ume under the giveaway name of @deeptomcruise!
The clips took months to create using AI from DeepFaceLab and CGI (plus hours of manual manipulation).
Cruise is not the first to be deepfaked. Some of my favourite celebrity videos include;
- 1970’s Wonder Woman Lynda Carter super-imposed onto Gal Gadot’s 21st-century version.
- A round table discussion with Tom Cruise, Robert Downey Jr, Jeff Goldblum, and Ewan McGregor (now that’s a dinner party I’d love to have!).
- Salvador Dali is brought to life by ad agency CS&P.
- Bill Hader on SNL who subtly morphs into Al Pacino and Arnold Schwarenegger (this is my favourite one).
This is all light-hearted fun but there is a sinister side to deepfakes.
A couple of years ago, a UK CEO took a call from “his boss” at the German parent company. He was instructed to transfer €220k to a supplier in Hungary. Within hours the money had been shifted to accounts in Mexico and was gone. It was later revealed that the scammers had used artificial intelligence to deepfake the voice of “the boss” and pull off the con.
And deepfakes have been linked with both revenge porn and the faking of celebrities in movies they didn’t audition for. In 2019, California passed a bill that banned the use of deepfake technologies to make fake porn.
So, what is a deepfake?
A deepfake refers to a specific kind of synthetic media where an image, video or audio of a person is “swapped” with someone else. Deepfakes leverage AI, machine learning and neural networks to perform the manipulation. These methods are based on deep learning and the training of generative neural networks, aka GANs.
It is the application of these dueling neural networks competing in a zero-sum game contest that put GANs at the heart of deepfake tech. I’m not going to try and explain it because it would take up the whole 10 minutes. Instead, I’ll direct you to read this piece from Ganes Kesari who has done a great job explaining GANs here in this plain english explainer.
When it comes to protecting against deepfakes, new technology from firms like Amber Authenticate is providing innovative methods to identify the fake. Amber is a video authentication tool that generates crypto "hashes" of the original footage. The results are indelibly recorded on a public blockchain.
When that video footage is later run through the Amber algorithm, the hashes of the new images can be compared to the original to indicate a deepfake.
Now the bit you’ve been waiting for!
Footage has been released of the screen tests for the 2004 movie Troy. On the left, the rugged and handsome Rick Huckstep. And on the right is the inferior and puny actor known as Bradley Pitt. Surprisingly, Pitt was chosen to play the role of Achilles even though Huckstep had a letter from his mum saying how good she thought he would be. Made with Reface App.
Crypto Corner - NFTs, digital artwork and selling your tweets for money
NFTs are the mechanism that’s allowing digital artwork, music and tweets to be tokenised as a crypto-collectible item to own and trade. This is the new way to interact with art, culture, and collecting on the internet.
Auction sites like SuperRare list digital collectible art that is secured by cryptography and tracked on a blockchain. If you would like to see what a crypto transaction looks like, go here to see the sale of the artwork at the top of this piece.
Valuables is an auction website that lets you turn your tweets into an NFT and then sell them. The most high profile of these is from Jack Dorsey, the CEO and founder of Twitter. He is currently selling “just setting up my twttr”, the very first tweet on Twitter.
In Dorsey’s case, the money, which is currently bidding at c$2.5m, is going to help charities in Africa. And there’s some sense to this valuation because there’s only every going to be one first ever tweet.
But when you look at the Valuables auction site, you can see that people are buying pics of spaghetti or Kanye liking MacDonalds. That I don’t get.
However wish me luck because I’ve just loaded 9 years of opinionated nonsense from my Twitter archive. Anyone want to start the bidding at 0.001Ether?
To find out more about NFTs (non-fungible tokens on the ethereum blockchain), read the Wiser in 5! article in the archives.
To HODL or not to HODL
The act of holding on to a crypto coin for the long term is called HODLING, or TO HODL. It was made famous by a misspelling in this epic post and the rest, as they say, is history!
Augmented Eternity and the chatbots that resurrect the dead?
Microsoft has revealed this month that they’ve been given the green light for a patent that could '“enable” us to live forever. The technology uses a cocktail of virtual reality, artificial intelligence, chatbots, and holograms.
Taking input from the individual’s online footprint, the tech proposes to create a digital representation of the subject.
This is the stuff of science fiction that was portrayed in a 2013 episode of Black Mirror. In it, a bereaved woman uses AI to recreate an accurate version of her deceased boyfriend from his social media profiles.
In the real-life version, the Microsoft patent does the same. Using AI and machine learning, the person’s online footprint of posts, pictures, audio, and various other pieces of personal information is used to recreate a digital profile of their mannerisms, character and personality.
The extent to which it could be good enough to feed a chatbot and convince you that you’re chatting with a realistic version of E-Granny has yet to be seen. But the concept of augmented eternity is gaining moment.
In a TV documentary last year, a South Korean mother was reunited with a virtual reality version of her daughter, who had passed 4 years earlier at a young age. Using motion capture technology, a VR headset and haptic gloves, the mother was able to walk, talk and play with a digital version of her daughter.
Last October, Kanye West bought Kim Kardashian a hologram of her late father to celebrate her 40th birthday. The reality TV star described it as “the most thoughtful gift of a lifetime”. (Although apparently not thoughtful enough to keep the marriage going.)
Whilst the tech is still in its formative stage, the subject of augmented eternity raises many questions. Could a software agent become our digital heir? Could our digital identities become sentient? Who would own the digital profile and the data it is built from?
There are currently no laws governing digital reincarnation. Rights to data privacy after death are far from set in stone and there is currently no way for anyone to opt-out of being digitally resurrected. This legal ambiguity currently leaves room for private companies to make chatbots out of a digital footprint of the deceased.
Footnote: I must tell you that I found writing this piece challenging. Personally, I’m torn on the subject and debated putting it in. And I don't think that the next time I asked myself “what would my dad have done?”, I’ll want to get out my iPhone and say “Hey Siri, get dad for me”. Then have a chat “with dad” in a chat window.
But for many, would that be so different than visiting a psychic?
In the US, the paranormal is a $2.4bn industry where 1 in 5 adults have visited a psychic medium. (Apparently 6% of US adults “don’t know” if they’ve visited a psychic!).
For many people, they could get great comfort from this technology. Let me know what you think.👇
Technologies of the Human Corpse (inc podcast) by John Troyer
From the surgery to the smartphone; how telemedicine is changing the delivery of healthcare
The pandemic has accelerated a number of digital trends, none more so than in telehealth. This is the remote provision of healthcare through the use of technology.
The scope is huge, from more effective home delivery of prescription drugs (see Amazon’s purchase of PillPack) to the delivery of healthcare for geographically isolated patients, from addressing a nation’s mental health needs via WeChat to providing 24/7 video access to medical experts with Teladoc.
A key driver for telehealth is reducing cost. Healthcare in the USA accounts for 17.9% of GDP today. And it is forecast to rise to almost 20% by 2027, that’s a 5th of the US economy consumed by the rising costs of healthcare!
The other is accessibility, bringing the doctor, dentist or clinician into the patient’s home rather than making them travel to the health centre, a more efficient use of over-worked medical resources for the majority of incidents.
Telemedicine is a subject I will be covering in more detail shortly in a Wiser in 5! article for the premium subscribers.
In the meantime, take a look at this piece I wrote recently with Instant Dentist. For the article, I had a zoom call with CEO Aalok Shukla about his digital dentist using mobile phone tech, 3D printers, and virtual consultations in a Human+Tech app.
Snippets of insight and information
Twitter beats Clubhouse to Android
Spaces, the Twitter rival to Clubhouse in the audio chat room wars is opening up on Android. Clubhouse remains iOS only. Source: TechCrunch
Microsoft hack gets worse for 60,000 victims
After reporting that Chinese hackers had broken into its Exchange servers and stolen emails, Microsoft have now reported 60k organisations have been compromised. Source: Morning Brew
Amazon opens a cashier less store in London
Customers just “walk out” with their goods and the payment is automatically deducted from their account. Source: Finextra
Google to stop using cookies in 2022
Cookies follow you around the web and track your online use. Google exploit this to target ads, but that is changing. More to follow in the next issue. Source: CNBC
And finally…GameStop’s bull run continues
The GameStop saga (see Issue #3) continues to defy gravity and logic. The stock is currently trading around $260 as I put this issue to bed. Source: Reddit
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Till next time, Rick