Did Robert Heinlein have the answer to deepfake photos and video?
One of this highest compliments I ever received was from a young woman I dated half a century ago in both high school and college, and who was a Heinlein fan. She told me that she always thought I’d make a good Fair Witness.
One comment: Try to avoid links that go to paywalled sources. The NYTimes, for example. The photo mentioned is viewable at non-paywalled websites.
A second comment: Computer security. A couple decades ago, we were told that time and date stamped info on a computer guaranteed that the computer was used to access the info at that time and date. It was like a digital fingerprint. In recent years, we’ve found out that government agencies (and other hackers, no doubt) can plant fake information on a person’s computer that appears to have been accessed with a genuine (prior) time and date stamp. Thus, rendering the notion of a digital fingerprint as potentially phony.
A final comment: Metadata and blockchain. Done properly, following the rigorous protocols for its use, blockchain is secure. The original metadata from a digital image could be secured using blockchain. Subsequent copies could be compared to the original source to assess any changes. (Justca thought - not sure how easily this could be implemented.)
When Tom Hanks showed his butt to LBJ in "Forrest Gump", I lost faith in photographic evidence.
I had earned a living doing the photography for an engineering company and learned how to make something out of unrealted things with a large format process camera. That scene in the movie was quite a jolt, though. I talked to other people about it but found myself fairly alone in my opinion.
And here we are.
Trust is essential to the smooth workings of society and sustaining trust is better than rebuilding it once lost. Unfortunately, technology often out paces someone thinking about “what’s the worst that can happen if this is used?” This causes the ad hoc efforts to detect the things that break our trust. This is a really hard problem, but the author once again shows that a well read and curious mind can be diverse and find possible solutions in unusual places. If we could find the people with the character described as the Fair Witness and then enhance their skills and place them in environments where their skills were most needed, we might have a shot. Forestalling the tendency of humans and institutions toward corruption, is and always will be the constraint to success with this idea.
It's worth noting that research at Open AI is delving into the possibility of digital watermarks which would mark the products of AI. Yet another hurdle fakes need to overcome.
You must rely on your own judgment based on experience. That’s a scary thought now that most the US population is self absorbed and only interested in the present. And most people don’t want to take the time to look at multiple sources. For example, after the Trump MSM coverage of the past 7 years, I can be pretty sure anything they say now about Trump is either false or greatly over exaggerated.
how can a witness be fair
when social media might impair
the sight and sound of criminal
behavior so antithetical
to societal norms devolving contraire?
How quaint Glen. Do you actually think anybody cares what’s true or fake? In the real world, I tend to think that people or the evidence they
Rosenthal's Iwo Jima photograph has been proved over and over to be an undoctored image of a genuine event, but it still gets included in articles which (like the one linked) imply by their language that it was somehow "faked.". The human genius for twisting words preceded, and will survive, our ability to counterfeit imagery.
In general, judge and jury seem to do a better job of evaluating evidence than the court of public opinion. So, the “fakes” will make our evaluations of current events (and probably past events) even more challenging/wrong. Maybe the Fair Witness will be the “Consistent Journalist” who seems to always dig into the details to ensure accuracy and readily admits errors. Like a good blogger. :)
Also, I have to wonder how long these “newly available techniques” have really been available. How much have they already been used? Over the last year, five years, ten years?
Trying to find the gold standard of evidence is going in the wrong direction. Even when they are not faked, photos and videos depend on direction and focus. How peaceful or violent was the event? If there was violence which group caused it?
Human information processing is such that human witnesses are unreliable even when they try to tell the truth. Humans do not always tell the truth and it is challenge to judge honesty. We see Heinlein's idea as deeply disturbing. Trying to take the human out of humans on the oft chance that they might see something that they can provide testimony seems at the very least close to evil.
The answer is to consider the evidence, the sources, and make assessments. Humans do it often but they make predictable mistakes like misremembering and being bad at statistics. Juries and advocates are useful tools but the truth is always elusive.
Determining proof in a legal situation is one issue. More important is the willingness of people who follow a given ideology to be unwilling to believe disproof no matter the evidence.