Hi! Did someone share this with you?
Join in and get interesting things by regular email 😃
💥 BLAST! logo. Can't see it? Click to view this email in your web browser instead.
Greetings once again, lovely email friends. I hope all is well with you.

Whether we like it or not, our impression of any message is affected by its medium. Pour water from an elegant carafe and we'll savour it more. Put an old painting on the wall of a well-respected gallery and we'll will stand quietly before it as if at prayer. And because we're empathetic creatures (and photo manipulation is widely understood), show us a video of something happening and we'll afford it credibility. Then, something changed.
Mr Bean for DIOR. Can't see him? Click to view in browser
DEEPFAKES: You may remember the first one you saw. Likely a goofy YouTube video; some movie scene reedited to star Nicolas Cage, or perhaps The Shining with Jack Nicholson's face convincingly replaced by Jim Carrey's. Or perhaps it was one of the many in which a well-known figure has been replaced by Mr Bean.

There would've been a time when pulling off this effect would've taken a great many digital artists months of work. Today, anyone in possession of a computer with high graphics spec running a copy of Faceswap has all the tools they need.

Deepfakes exploit neural network algorithms, which mimic the operation of the human brain by hunting for underlying relationships in complex datasets. The network is highly tolerant of changing inputs, so generates best results without needing to redefine the criteria of the output.

Applying one of these networks is good for learning patterns; while setting two of them in train creates them. Bring this creativity to visual media, as many startups see money to be made allowing us to do, and the effect is to bring flat images to life by figuring out all the minute complexities we perceive, even for something as complex as a human face.

This technology makes it possible to dramatise things that never happened, such as Nixon's address had Apollo 11 met with disaster, or to pull dance moves that your blasted real body would never permit. There's potential for a staggering amount of crap, too. The manipulation of well-known figures for comic or nefarious intent is straightforward for the skeptical viewer to debunk, but what about when we're not being skeptical? Currently nearly all deepfake videos are being made for adult entertainment purposes, but the same techniques have been used for political misinformation.

Fortunately we can learn to see through video hoaxes, and it's not a bad approach to anything online not to believe what you see. That said, there's a marked difference between goofing around putting Nicholas Cage in The Sound Of Music and wilfully misleading people on matters of importance. 🕵️‍♀️
😰 Blue Monday isn't real, so why still talk about it? According to pseudoscience, the third Monday in January is supposedly the most depressing day of the year. This idea was conceived 15 years ago by a now-defunct travel TV channel and holiday business. Yet somehow the idea of Blue Monday persists.

🎮 The Cost Of Being A Woman Who Covers Video Games: the GamerGate controversy, beginning in 2014, shone a light on the intense sexual harassment and discrimination in gaming culture, development and journalism. And it's far from game over.

🏚 Green Concrete: An ancient but seemingly-ubiquitous building material comes at an immense environmental cost, and supplies of its ingredients are finite. So if we're going to keep using concrete, we need to rethink it.

📰 bbbreaking news: How could a robot determine what is newsworthy right now? In this case by looking for journalists asking social media users for permission to reuse their pictures.

📱 Twelve Million Phones, One Dataset, Zero Privacy: tracking smartphones has become a giant, shady and under-regulated industry. The NYT has obtained a dataset of 50 billion location pings from the phones of more than 12 million Americans; just a small slice of what’s collected and sold every day by a surveillance industry so omnipresent that it now seems impossible for anyone to avoid.

🎥 Inside Hackney’s secret CCTV bunker: The Face spent a night in the hub where the London borough’s dealers, flashers and murderers are caught on camera.

🍕 A 600-Mile Quest to Savour Japan’s Kissaten and Pizza Toast: one man’s epic quest to savour the fading beauty of Japan’s traditional cafes and their signature snack.
Ministry of truth : Unsurprisingly, China was quick to decide that the freedom to good around with Nick Cage came at too high a price. It decided deepfakes could "endanger national security, disrupt social stability, disrupt social order and infringe upon the legitimate rights and interests of others" and has banned publishing and distribution of “fake news” created with artificial intelligence.

While the Chinese regulatory approach might be draconian, Facebook's is inept. For a company of its scale and wealth, it's amazing how bad Facebook is at announcing changes to platform regulation. In trying to clarify its policy on deepfake content, designed to help limit the potential of the platform to be used for malicious purposes, it made a fumbling statement that it will do almost nothing to enforce the removal of deliberately-misleading content within its ecosystem.

By creating the illusion of progress while still refusing to stop the spread of misinformation, Facebook has further enraged the lawmakers it was likely trying to appease. It would do well to look at the new policy from Reddit banning malicious impersonation, which not only can be enforced but makes a clear what is and isn't problematic content.

Meanwhile, the falsifying of news is subject of much academic research at the moment. From the wording used to signify the accuracy of a story to whether laypeople can spot factual errors as well as experts. 🗞
Finally: There are so many factors playing into the climate crisis that it's hard for many people to grasp in full. Based on the best-available science, this simulator will help improve understanding of the climate crisis.

It's a transparent, freely-available policy simulation model that provides everyone, from the policymaker to the layperson with the ability to explore the likely consequences arising from energy, economic growth, land use and other uncertainties. 🔥

Hello, Mo here. Gosh, it's the bottom of the email. 💥BLAST! grows only by word-of-mouth: do you have friends or colleagues whose dreary inbox would benefit from an injection of interestingness? Invite them to join in at blast.red. 💌

Found something I'd like? Is there something you'd like to see more? Or anything else; I'd love to hear from you—hit reply! If these emails are not being delivered correctly, try adding this address to your contacts. More good stuff next week. Meanwhile back-issues are in the archive.

💥BLAST! · c/o relating.to ltd. · 160 City Road · London, EC1V 2NX · United Kingdom.

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp