Metaphysic CEO Tom Graham gave a unique TED Talk today along with TED show host Chris Anderson. He drove home the point that now, and in the future, it’s going to be hard to tell who is real.
Graham did so by showing off Metaphysic’s signature “deepfake” technology, which enables it to create fake animated videos of people, using their own voices, likenesses and sayings. He demonstrated the technology by putting Anderson’s face on the body of a guest (with consent), showing the merged image in real time on the big screen at the TED2023: Possibility in Vancouver, Canada.
The point was to show that this deepfake technology is coming fast and it’s so compelling that it would happen fast like a big wave, even if Graham shut down his company today.
“It seems like we are going to have to used the world where we and our children won’t be able to trust the evidence of our eyes,” Anderson said during the fireside chat.
Graham replied, “I think so. We’re going to have to understand a new set of institutions to verify what is authentic media,” Graham said. “But then we can begin to lean into some of the creative things that happen from it. And there are benefits that come with it too. So it’ll be an accommodation.”
Graham’s company got famous by making a fake version of Top Gun: Maverick actor Tom Cruise. Since 2018, the team behind Metaphysic has been the driving force behind the mass popularization of hyperreal synthetic media via its @DeepTomCruise channel and other performances on TikTok and Instagram.
“At Metaphysic, we specialize in creating artificially generated content that looks and feels exactly like reality,” Graham said. “We take real-world data. We train these neural nets and it can more accurately than VFX or CGI create this content that looks and feels so real. It’s a great example of AI being prompted by the natural performances of a person and the face goes on top.”
He showed a new video of fake Tom Cruise and he also showed a video of fake Aloe Blacc singing Wake Me Up When It’s All Over by the musician Avicii. The video showed Blacc singing in a variety of languages that he never actually sang the song in. Metaphysic’s AI created the videos.
“Anybody in the future will be able to speak any language and it will look perfectly natural,” Graham said. “And this content is becoming more and more easy to create. And eventually, we’ll end up with a scale where we will all be main characters in our own content on the internet.”
In a drawn out voice, Anderson replied, “Okay.”
Doing the work in real time is at the cutting edge of what is possible today, moving from offline processing to live processing, Graham said. He put a real-time model of Anderson on top of Graham’s body.
“I’m so uncomfortable with it,” Anderson said. “We’re really pushing the limits of AI technology.”
Graham proceeded to put Anderson’s (pre-processed) face on the body of a woman in the audience, Sunny Bates, serial entrepreneur and founding member of TED, with her consent. The audience laughed.
Anderson noted the downside of things like fake photographs of Trump being arrested and pornography that uses the faces of other people on the bodies of adult entertainers.
“Personally, you know, we build this stuff, and I’m worried, right? Worried is the right instinct that everybody has,” he said. “Beyond that, think about what can we do to prepare ourselves. How can we try to impact the future as it spirals in this direction.”
Graham noted how nothing would stop this tech. He told me how it’s time to bring the ethics of this kind of scaling of hyperreal photorealistic content to life for regular people.
“It’s really hard to process,” Graham said. “We’re talking about a future where a large part of our interface with the internet, what we do online, how we interact with each other, through the medium of technology is going to be impacted by this kind of very photorealistic AI visual interface which features our own hyperrealistic AI avatars.”
Will we be able to trust phone calls? He noted that people who build products need to be more aware of what can be done with them when it comes to deepfakes. It’s speeding ahead of the creation of laws and regulation. Some people are going to have better access to this technology than others.
Graham recently applied for a copyright for his own AI likeness, as he wants to maintain control over it and how it’s used. Creating such property rights will be important.
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