The idea of the future as equal parts wonder and nightmare is an old one. It's all over our science-fiction, in particular the notion that the same advances that push us forward could serve as the seeds of our own destruction. Robots built to serve humanity ultimately enslave us, and technology binds us and restricts us in the name of transparency and security, civic-minded ideas masking an authoritarian agenda at its heart. Grim stuff, I know, but not so grim as to prevent us from propelling ourselves ever onward toward a version of that same future close enough to be functionally indistinguishable from what we've seen on page or screen.
The latest bit of dystopia to emerge in the present day is deepfakes: videos and pictures that use technology to seamlessly insert someone's face and voice and create something wholecloth that previously didn't exist. It's not just creative editing; it's wholly creative, and deeply unnerving. Few of the innovations that might ultimately destroy us announce themselves as the seeds of our undoing, however, and the deepfakes posted thus far have largely been more lighthearted uses of the technology. (Jim Carrey in The Shining, anyone?) But the potential for malice and manipulation is plainly there, and with it the ability to topple empires and shake loose the foundations of our society, for anyone willing to look towards a dark future.
Surely these videos violate copyright law in what they're doing, say those who consider intellectual property concerns in the face of Gotterdammerung. But the question of copyright violation in deepfakes is not nearly so simple, opines Tom Kulik for Above the Law. The laws on the books on both the state and federal level are unsurprisingly ill-equipped to deal with such an incipient issue, and the gaps in the DMCA and fair use doctrines give sufficient cover that deepfake creators could continue their work unabated, over the objections of copyright holders.
The obvious solution to you and I is for lawmakers to set aside their differences (see, I can write science-fiction too!) and work together to pass laws addressing this new problem, lest they find themselves the victim of a deepfake in the midst of a contentious campaign. But laws are difficult to make and pass even without partisan rancor, a society as a whole is slow to recognize problems, and if we're being candid, many of our legislators are of a vintage that are still adapting to the smartphone. The stark truth is that the problem will need to get much worse before it gets better, or more accurately, it will have to become an acute issue rather than a looming concern before those in power are prompted to take action.