It's been common knowledge for a while now that you can't trust everything you read online. And a brand new report from Europol, the European law enforcement agency, gives us every reason to be extra vigilant.
Synthetic media "refers to media generated or manipulated using artificial intelligence," the report explained, and "experts estimate that as much as 90 percent of online content may be synthetically generated by 2026."
It goes on to say that "in most cases," synthetic media is generated for gaming, to improve services, or to improve the quality of life, but that "the rise of synthetic media and improved technology has given rise to disinformation possibilities."
Of course, 90% is a startling figure. Of course, people have already gotten used to the presence of bots, and text-to-image programs generated by artificial intelligence have certainly been making waves. Nevertheless, we shouldn't automatically assume that everything we encounter online is fake.
"On a daily basis, people rely on their own perception to guide them and tell them what is real and what is not," the Europol report states. "Sound and video recordings are frequently accepted as accurate depictions of what transpired. What if, though, these forms of media can be manufactured, modified, and used to present false narratives, fabricated evidence, and other forms of dishonesty?"
Disinformation, especially that fueled by deepfake technology, received a lot of attention in the report. This 90% figure, however, begs the question, what does the rise of artificial intelligence systems like Dall-E and GPT-3 mean for creative types like writers and artists? What will the dissemination and consumption of information look like in a world driven by that much AI-generated digital stuff, and how will that affect the spread of false information?
When all is said and done, we're all just trying to keep up with the ever-changing pace of the digital world, and by extension, the physical world. The point is, we should keep in mind that significant shifts are currently transpiring. Don't be frozen with paralyzing fear and miss opportunities. However, a degree of caution is warranted before moving forward.