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OPLIN 4Cast #582: Ominous shadows: signs of the Infocalypse

Posted in 4cast

Lately, I’ve started using those one-touch responses my phone suggests for replies in text messages. Some of my friends do too, and when we notice each other doing it, we keep at it, seeing how long the conversation can go before devolving into the surreal and silly. Sometimes that takes a surprisingly long time. I’m not (yet) worried that the apps will take over, perfectly impersonating me for their own inscrutable purposes, but the potential for AI-assisted fraud is nevertheless alarming, and some observers think the near future looks very bleak indeed. This week, I ran across the term infocalypse — pronounced (according to its creator) “infokuh-lips” — and the emergence of “reality apathy.” These concepts have cast ominous shadows over several stories that have crossed my feeds recently.

  • He Predicted The 2016 Fake News Crisis. Now He’s Worried About An Information Apocalypse [BuzzFeed News | Charlie Warzel] “And much in the way that foreign-sponsored, targeted misinformation campaigns didn’t feel like a plausible near-term threat until we realized that it was already happening, Ovadya cautions that fast-developing tools powered by artificial intelligence, machine learning, and augmented reality tech could be hijacked and used by bad actors to imitate humans and wage an information war.”
  • Tired of texting? Google tests robot to chat with friends for you [The Guardian] “The system can apparently work out what people are saying to you and suggest one-tap answers, but Google says it will go further, taking your location, your calendar and other bits of information into account. One example was using your location to send and instant response to ‘when can you be home?’ using your preferred method of transport and the time it’ll take to wherever your home is.”
  • Feints of heart: Lies, fraud and the fight against romance scams [The Verge | Adi Robertson] “The subreddit for FakeApp, a program that allows anyone to swap faces in videos, is still online. So is r/SFWdeepfakes, which is devoted to non-pornographic use of the technology — like putting Nicolas Cage in every movie.”
  • Welcome to the Post-Text Future [New York Times | Farhad Manjoo] “An information system dominated by pictures and sounds prizes emotion over rationality. It’s a world where slogans and memes have more sticking power than arguments.”

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