Technologist Aviv Ovadya. Photograph: Stephen Lam for BuzzFeed News.

The man who predicted the 2016 fake news crisis says worse is to come

In 2016 technologist Aviv Ovadya was one of the first to try to warn the world about the growing threat of fake news on social media. Now Ovadya says the worst in yet to come in the form of a full-blown “infocalypse.”

As BuzzFeed News reports, “Alarmism can be good–you should be alarmist about this stuff,” Ovadya said one January afternoon before calmly outlining a deeply unsettling projection about the next two decades of fake news, artificial intelligence–assisted misinformation campaigns, and propaganda. “We are so screwed it’s beyond what most of us can imagine,” he said. “We were utterly screwed a year and a half ago and we’re even more screwed now. And depending how far you look into the future it just gets worse.”

That future, according to Ovadya, will arrive with a slew of slick, easy-to-use, and eventually seamless technological tools for manipulating perception and falsifying reality, for which terms have already been coined–“reality apathy,” “automated laser phishing,” and “human puppets.”

Already it looks like that future is arising. Just one example is the software that allows almost anyone to create what are known as deepfakes–the pasting of a person’s head onto the body of a porn star, making it look like that person is engaged in those sexual acts.

Ovadya says the infocalypse will be worse than the fake news blight because, thanks to advances in machine learning and AI, anyone anywhere will be able to make convincing digital documents that make it “appear as if anything has happened, regardless of whether or not it did.”

Published by FastCompany

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