The collapse of shared reality?

joseph's picture

I'm more familiar with technology trends than those in the social and psychological realms.  But it seems we are at the cusp of a radical transformation in the way we perceive a sense of shared reality, largely due to emerging audio / video technologies.

"Post-truth" starts to capture the idea, but I'm going to coin a new term...
"Peak Reality" -- the idea that our sense of a global shared reality has peaked and is now in decline.

Throughout human history, we were primarily tribal -- the reality we shared with others was based on localized shared experience and trust relations.
Communication technologies - printing press, telegraph, newspapers, radio, tv, Internet -- allowed us to develop a wider sense of shared reality.   We came to trust the audio and video recordings broadcast on the "nightly news"  as a source of truth.  Whatever the biases in how they were presented, we had some faith that an audio or video clip of an event or speaker reflected a reality - something that actually happened -- even if the event happened at great distance, even if no-one we knew or trusted witnessed it in person.

But what if I could take a 60 second clip of you speaking, and then process some text through an AI that would render my words in your voice? 
What if I could take a video of you speaking, and run that through an AI that would map my facial expression and lip movements onto your face in the video?

This is not sci-fi -- these deep-learning AI technologies, sometimes referred to as "deep fake", already exist in the lab (primarily developed for the special effects industries for film and video games), and are appearing over the past year "in the wild".  I have no doubt they will soon be available to anyone who wants them, in a form that requires little technical expertise.  Depending on how we (humanity) react to the these AI audio/video processing algorithms, that globalized sense of shared reality may be coming to an abrupt end.



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