You’re busy at work when an urgent video call comes in. You excuse yourself from the meeting to hear your daughter beg for money to help get her home. It looks like her, (exquisitely filtered as usual) sounds like her…but, hang on, you spoke with her earlier. Of course, it’s just another scam.
Back in the meeting you ask a couple of questions about the hefty report your colleagues are pretending to pore over. No one can answer. Clearly another piece of AI generated bumpf which no one’s even bothered to read. Genius.
Last night’s news still rattles about your brain. Are we really sending troops to the Ukraine or is this another AI generated slice of propaganda made to enhance a particular narrative? Leaving work you call your daughter to make sure she’s ok. You exchange the safe word and agree to change it the next time you meet in person. The satnav voice warns you of huge delays on the bypass out of town. Is it telling the truth or are you being sacrificed to help thin out the traffic for everyone else?
Within a few very short years we shall all live like this. Everything we see, everything we are told will be adjusted, enhanced, exaggerated or just downright fake: either a straightforward money making scam or a distortion of the truth to help nudge us in a specific direction. At this rate, eventually everything will be fake.
Most of us are already aware that the mainstream media, if only by omission, fails to tell the full story on a daily basis. Even the most genetically supine amongst us will at the very least be slightly more cynical of government diktats than they were, say, three years ago. But now, supercharged with the power of AI, the doors to outright, full blown, relentless factual distortion are wide open and beckoning us to play. Presidents declaring war and prime ministers caught cussing off camera, are nothing but the opening salvo for the onslaught of fakery that is about to engulf us. Even previously vanilla news items will be leveraged for political gain. Weather warnings will be relished and eagerly augmented, air quality levels exaggerated, travel warnings amplified and even gardening advice politicised. The apocalyptification of absolutely bloody everything will become the norm. I guess we’re pretty much there already.
In January this year, China brought in strict new laws on the use of deepfakes. Just imagine how even handed their authorities will be when they can choose the definition of ‘disinformation’. More worryingly, here in the UK our own Online Safety Bill will very soon be able to censor, fine and ban anyone who strays into the world of ‘mis’ or ‘dis’ information. The bill also gives Ofcom the power to force companies to scan private messages for ‘illegal material’. In the current climate where light sarcasm has already been misconstrued and weaponised, things ain’t looking so rosy in the free speech department.
I’m guessing most of you have heard Johnny Cash’s version of Barbie Girl. Brilliant isn’t it? So much better than his prophetic A Boy Named Sue. He’s also covered Simon & Garfunkel’s Sound of Silence. In the twenty years since his death his work really has embraced a veritable cornucopia of cultural styles and tastes, thanks to AI, of course. Considering this clever tech has only been around a few months the results are pretty uncanny. Will The Beatles release a new album? Obviously. Will you be able to see them in concert like Abba’s Voyage? Oh yes. All our cultural idols, icons and artists will be digitally disinterred and regenerated for eternity, that’s obvious. Everyone but Mick Jagger of course. He’s already immortal.
As contemporary culture matures and weans itself off three and a half minute pop nonsense the past will continue to be revitalised, regurgitated and reconstituted for all those who missed out on its heyday.
Although thankfully still alive and well, Tom Cruise, like Johnny Cash, has been super busy over the last few months, especially on TikTok. Alongside his career in multi million dollar blockbusters he’s made quite a name for himself dancing embarrassingly in people’s gardens and generally showing off with celebrity impressions and magic tricks. What we are witnessing, in reality, is a series of mini trailers for completely AI generated movies. The era of virtual production is just beginning and it’s a giant leap forward from the CGI we’ve become accustomed to. If you have any doubt about its potential check out the burgeoning choice of Text to Video software such as Synthesis, Hour One or Pictory. Real time render allows you to type a description of the scene you want to see while ‘live’ video appears, instantly adapting as you write. Clearly it won’t be long before we can download the latest James Dean/Marlon Brando/Marilyn Monroe movie. With a musical score by The Beatles, naturally.
Back in 2019 I wrote here that we were already cyborgs in that our smartphones bestowed upon us access to the sum of all human knowledge. No matter how obscure or trivial a question, it shall never be suspended awkwardly in limbo ever again. But when our AI assistants bring us constant and instant audio and visual feedback, everyone will be an Einstein. You can even make Einstein your personal assistant if you wish.
Service & Hospitality
How would you rate our service? Excellent or just extremely good? If messages like these annoy you now, just imagine how irritating it will be when every establishment you dare visit calls to ask about your experience. She will sound dreamily gorgeous of course, for it will be a she, and we will quickly learn how to ignore her seductive tones and cut short her needy pleas for constant affirmation.
Moods & Personality
Elon Musk’s Neuralink program is working hard to create a brain-computer interface. No surprises there. This is exactly the sort of thing we expect when a fifteen year old science fiction geek suddenly becomes a billionaire. On route to the big goals of solving paralysis and blindness however, it seems more than likely our brain implants will be able to adjust our moods according to requirements. Press ‘serious’ on the Neuralink app before an interview, or ‘witty’ before a blind date. What could possibly go wrong?
The Good News
The Kardashianisation of culture may be a decade old but things are about to get decidedly freaky. Social media is already awash with avatar filters that turn us into fantasy figures, cartoon characters and superheroes, and the enthusiasm for fake identities isn’t likely to wane any time soon. (Read my piece on The Insufferables coming down the here. However, by way of some reassurance, Newton’s Third Law is alive and well: for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. The more our lives are lubricated, managed and entertained by the magic of AI, the more we will seek out signs of genuine humanity. The more we are inundated with filters and immersed in fake hospitality, the more enchanted we’ll be by imperfection, sincerity, wit, humility and even sarcasm.
All the things AI is crap at.
Join me on X @retailfuturist for random retail-ish ramblings