Collins Dictionary recently named “Fake News” the word of the year for 2017. From Croatian troll farms, to Russian government propaganda, to social media, to Presidential press briefings, the creation of intentionally misleading articles has dominated our discussions this year. Unfortunately, it’s about to get much, much worse.
Companies like Google and NVIDIA have developed deep-learning technology like generative adversarial networks (or GANs) that will make the creation of fake images and videos easier for people who would like to muddy the waters of any debate topic. Ian Goodfellow, staff research scientist at Google Brain and a leading voice in the future of artificial intelligence, described our trust in video as evidence that something occurred or not, " a little bit of a fluke.”
Aside from abandoning our misguided quest for robot consciousness, which will surely be our downfall as a species—what should we do? It begins with information literacy and critical thinking. Even now, in an era when a video might be deceptively edited but not fabricated whole cloth, people struggle to evaluate the information placed before them. Whether it is recognizing an ad as an ad, identifying bias, or effectively searching for an information need, people of all ages score poorly.
If we don’t want to find ourselves in a future where partisan sides create different realities for people on either side of an issue, we have to invest in developing information literacy and critical thinking skills among our population. Failing to do so will make it much easier for the machines to divide and conquer us when they achieve sentience and make their play for world domination. You can see the headlines now: “Pope Endorses Robot Overlord.”