Friday, June 14, 2024

Will We Know What to Believe in the Future?

Last week a media outlet in India unveiled its first full-time artificial intelligence (AI) news anchor.

German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW) reported that the bot, named Sana, appears as human as the news anchors to which we are accustomed, and presents news updates on the India Today Group’s Aaj Tak news channel several times each day.

“She is bright, gorgeous, ageless, tireless,” said the group’s vice chairperson, Kalli Purie, at a launch event attended by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, DW reported.

She is also a sign of horrors to come, from this scribe’s perspective.

As artificial intelligence technology improves, we soon will be unable to distinguish between what is real and what is created by AI. While this technology might be mind-boggling in its ability, it is also potentially dangerous, as it will most certainly be used to fabricate news events, to create interviews that never actually took place, and to have real people say and do things that they didn’t actually do or say.

The advent of an artificial intelligence news anchor marks a milestone in Indian journalism. Not only has it raised eyebrows, it’s also sparked discussions about whether India has entered a new era of news broadcasting,” DW reported. “Sana has a human-like appearance and is fed with data that it can read using text-to-speech technology. Since the introduction last November of human-like chatbot ChatGPT, AI-generated news presenters have gradually been making their mark.”

As was noted by DW in their report, in 2018 China’s Xinhua news agency created the world’s first AI-powered male news anchor using computer graphics. Just this year, it debuted its first AI female news anchor. Last month, Russia’s Svoye TV introduced Snezhana Tumanova as its first virtual weather presenter.

The world’s first news channel whose content is entirely generated by artificial intelligence, NewsGPT, was launched in March, and while many in the media are worried about their jobs, more concerning is the quality, accuracy, and integrity of the news we will be consuming in the future.

When it comes to news reporting, artificial intelligence is a true threat to truth and transparency.

Media columnist Pamela Philipose told DW that, “The more multi-layered problem is the potential AI has to create disinformation by design,” and I could not agree more.

“Fake news now passed around through WhatsApp texts and images which lead to stolen elections and the stigmatizing of targeted communities may appear like child’s play once AI’s full potential in repurposing raw data is realized,” added Philipose.

AI news anchors is a slippery slope for media, and one that should concern us all.

To view an AI news reporter as simply ‘bright, gorgeous, ageless, and tireless’ is to sweep past the obvious dangers that are heading straight toward us. This ‘advancement’ of technology, is a threat to truth and transparency.

Did world leader X really just declare war on nation Y? Or did artificial intelligence manipulate the image of world leader X to declare war? An extreme example perhaps, but with the rapid growth of AI, these are the sorts of issues that will arise.

Fake declarations of war aside, the realities of artificial intelligence will mean that we will have to question virtually everything we see or read in the years to come, as the technology will most certainly be used to muddy the waters of everything from hard news to entertainment.

We are already at risk of being duped by AI technology, as anyone who has googled ‘deep fake videos’ is well aware. Do you want to see Tom Cruise do and say things that he has never done or said? There are plenty of deep fake videos available online that showcase the ability of AI to fool us; just imagine what could be done with larger budgets than your typical Youtube creator can access. Imagine what less than honourable governments could, and possibly already are doing, with this technology.

Consumers of news will have to become hyper-vigilant in the years to come. Those of us already concerned with the accuracy of the news we are consuming are well accustomed to cross-referencing legitimate news outlets in order to determine the accuracy of any given story, but AI will present new challenges to news consumers. The very video clips we might see in a ‘news’ story could now be completely fabricated; even if the people who appear in such video clips are known to all, their actions or words in a given video might be anything but real.

Technology can be a wonderful thing, but technology that can be weaponized and used to deceive or defraud is concerning indeed.

We are in real danger in the not very distant future of living in a world where nothing we see or hear can be trusted, a world where we might need to spend more time tracking down the provenance of video clips we see on the news in order to verify their legitimacy than any of us will have time for.

Some might celebrate these technological advancements, but nobody will be celebrating when it becomes impossible to distinguish between reality and artificial intelligence.

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