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Deepfaking neuroscience

 

Have you heard about deepfaking? Yep it’s a real word, albeit very new. Deepfaking is about how you can modify a video in such a sophisticated way that it’s impossible to tell it’s a fake.

 

That’s gonna put the cat amongst the pigeons right? Who will ever know what anyone ever said about anything once this stuff goes global, which is happening right now as we speak. But it’s coming quickly – even Wikipedia already has an entry for it.

 

So I got to thinking about deepfaking and how it will evolve. It’s already clear that deepfaking with videos already has a long, illustrious and really worrying life ahead of it. It alone could change the world in numerous ways none of us would even want to think about. But what else is in store?

 

What about deepfaking neuroscience? What could that mean?

 

What if you could implant false memories into people so that they remember something that had never happened to them? That sounds like a new and more virulent form of deepfaking right?

 

So, been there done that. It’s already happened. And no, it’s not a false memory. It’s just routine neuroscience by scientists from MIT. They did indeed plant a false memory, on this occasion into a mouse. But the writing is on the wall. It won’t be too long before it’s been done in a human, if it hasn’t been already.

 

Of course the world has already been creeping in this direction. Oldies will remember Soviet-style brainwashing, which tried to do the same thing without modern technology using more, uh, unsophisticated means.

 

And those many instances of Stockholm syndrome which have occurred over the past few decades show us some of the scary possibilities of changing a person’s mind in radical ways. So we don’t have to look very far from some everyday applications of deepfaking neuroscience.

 

Deepfaking neuroscience is hot and popular right now in modern video and TV, as we see with the Westworld TV series. Hosts are implanted with, inter many alia, memories of their kids, which of course never existed, but they aren’t aware of that and feel the same longing and love for them as they would have had they child been real. In Westworld these implanted memories act as the anchor for their identity, even though they are only sophisticated robots.

 

So deepfaking neuroscience is about more than just memories of isolated events, or even isolated emotions. In principle they can be used to change one’s identity and indeed one’s sense of self. In principle by building on this foundation, neuroscience should be able to change one’s identity, sense of belonging, one’s loyalty even; loyalty to whatever - family, person, culture, country, political system. Get the idea?

 

I’ve been talking about memories. But if we can deepfake memories, can’t we deepfake our senses too. Could the technology allow us to see things that aren’t actually there? To hear sounds that have never been made? To smell flowers that don’t exist? To touch things that don’t actually exist? Is this Proust reinvented? Remember the madeleine?

 

And if we can indeed achieve all these unmentionable feats, how do we know what is fake and what isn’t? If a job interviewee tells the interviewer about one of his exploits, which he truly believes actually occurred, how does the interviewer test to see if the exploit is real or imagined?

 

In this brave new world, how do we know if anything is real? How do I know my own memories actually reflect real events that actually happened to me? Or to my friends? Or anyone?

 

Neuroscience is progressing rapidly. What makes things really scary is that all this progress is occurring when we don’t even understand basic things about how brains actually work. What sort of rapid “progress” will we make when we do understand how the brain actually works? What new grand vistas of deepfaking will open up then? Consciousness? Self-awareness? Morality? Love?

 

And what dark forces will come along to exploit all this technology? In the good old days it was countries that used brainwashing to keep people under control. How will they use deepfaking neuroscience in the Brave New World?

 

Neuroscience promises untold good. It’s the untold harm I’m worried about.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Friday, 17 August 2018

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