Month: April 2018

Fake Nudes (False Alarm! part ii)

Fake Nudes (False Alarm! part ii)

The future of face-swapping! The REAL deepfakes speaks! Artist Lynn Hershman Leeson tells us how technology has transformed the way she plays with fact and fiction. Dipayan Ghosh warns us about AI powered ad-targeting. Criminal’s Phoebe and Lauren drop knowledge on the untrue in true crime. Plus your host meets STORMY DANIELS!

Illustration by Jordan Crane and new series logo by Val Dorito.

Age of American Unreason in a Culture of Lies

When Susan Jacoby published her book on anti-intellectualism and public ignorance The Age of American Unreason in 2008, it was timely — so now that she’s updated it for 2018, we settled on this new edition being… bigly timely.

The new edition is subtitled “In a Culture of Lies.”

Susan is not a technologist or even a technology critic. She is a scholar of ideas, a scholar of culture. In 2008, she told me she felt like a technophobe. The main reason she updated her book was a realization that she gets culture better than the real technologists and the real technology critics. 

The real deepfakes

We have an exclusive interview with the one… the only… deepfakes. I’m not even sure how to describe what went down… but this meme from 4chan will give you the basic idea.

Building a fake you can believe in

The blurring of fiction and reality is central to the art practice of Lynn Hersman Leeson. You will find a reference to it in almost everything she does, including her latest film Vertighost.

Vertighost was made for San Francsico’s Legion of Honor — an important location in Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo. Lynn uses archival footage of Kim Novak along with interviews of several woman discussing their relationships with the real and the fake. Natasha Boaz is an art critic who explains that we’re not at war with the fake: we prefer it.

Being a San Francisco Artist, Lynn Hershman Leeson has taken full advantage of the technology booms. For example, she made dolls with webcams in their eyes that were livestreaming onto the internet… in 1996!

In 2000, she made Agent Ruby and Dina, chat bots that could do more than Siri, which didn’t come out til 2012. For example, Agent Ruby’s mood would be affected by how many people were talking to it at once and Dina ran for election!

But perhaps Lynn’s most famous invented person was analog. When one of her pieces was kicked out of a gallery show for using sound (!!) in 1966, she decided she needed a space of her own, safe from the closed minds of curators. She filled this room with artifacts of a fake person. This was the birth of ROBERTA BREITMORE.

There were some similarities between Lynn and Roberta but they were totally separate people. Roberta went to her own psychiatrist and worked her own job as a secretary to pay her rent at her own apartment. Roberta had bank accounts and a driver’s license. She even went out on dates!

Lynn also created a few male alter egos. Art critics! Hebert Goode, Prudence Juris and Gay Abandon. These men would write reviews for journals and newspapers — of her work! She also made a series of fake fires… sometimes the fire department came, even though Lynn says they had permits.

Pieces like that I have a hard time imagining being possible to do today — but Lynn thinks Roberta would be the hardest piece to do today… because of computers.

Targeted advertising is the sun

Dipayan Ghosh is a fellow at New America where he studies disinformation and internet platforms, but unlike pretty much everyone — he’s NOT focused on bad actors like Cambridge Analytica or Russian Trolls. He’s focused on the digital advertising infrastructure that makes disinformation campaigns possible. He’s recently co-authored a report called Digital Deceit on the technology – the tools and services both real advertisers and fake disinformation campaigns use to get their message out. As platforms like Facebook augment these tools and services with AI, we warns that the good the bad and the ugly will all use them to target us.

AI makes it so easy to not only target, but to create custom content for individual users. This was once called a “dark post” since it didn’t show up to anyone except for you, but they prefer to call them unpublished posts.

Since he wrote a paper warning us about AI enhanced tools, I figured Dipayan would agree with me that Mark Zuckerberg’s faith in AI tools to battle fake news and misinformation was ridiculous… but he didn’t! He felt that AI was essentially inevitable– that for these companies to use AI  like that is as natural as a plant reaching for the sun. 

Murder Podcasts

Phoebe Judge and Lauren Spohrer are the producers of Criminal, a widely loved true crime podcast — which is why i was surprised to hear that some true crime diehards aren’t into their show. These people prefer, “murder podcasts” — where they can confirm that fucked up things actually happen.

I too have listeners who complain — who are confused about what’s true and not. Phoebe and Lauren told me how they deal with the unknowns in their stories: admitting that they’re unknown!

But Phoebe ultimately doesn’t believe that the true part of the crime in her show matters… people just like crime.

I believe Stormy Daniels

A few weeks before Stormy Daniels got her new awesome lawyer and went on 60 Minutes to tell the world about her relationship with Donald Trump she went on a tour of stip clubs across america — the Make America Horny Again tour.

We were disappointed to find the place was full of journalists. They all were hoping to find a real Trump supporter. We weren’t looking, but we did end up finding a Trump supporter– Toni-Ann who was opening for Stormy Daniels. She loved Trump because he understands how to lure people into the world of fantasy and then run away with their money. According to her, Trump would have made an excellent stripper.

Finally at Midnight, Stormy Daniels strode out on to the stage in her little red riding hood outfit and as she took off her cape and then her cap… I realized all of my hopes are riding on this woman!

Which is unfair I know… but if an unabashed, unashamed exibitionist can’t make us see that the emperor has no clothes… then who can???

This Is Not A Drill (False Alarm! part i)

This Is Not A Drill (False Alarm! part i)

Our New ToE series on the battle between the real and the fake begins with a text alert sent out to everyone in Hawaii on a balmy Saturday morning. We also hear from the man who has written the text alert that will go out to all New Yorkers in the event of a real emergency. Photographer Stan Douglas shows us how to reconstruct a future that makes sense, and your host turns to fellow podcaster Jody Avirgan for advice on how to own the “real-ish” podcast genre. Plus the little boy who cried wolf meets the Emperor with no clothes!

Read our Medium page for details on the entire episode

Illustration by Jordan Crane and new series logo by Val Dorito.