Today: Apr 16, 2024

The Future Grabs Hold: A.I. Takes on the Past

3 months ago


– Generative A.I. technology that can create deepfakes and manipulate media is a concerning threat to society.
– While there are systems in place to secure new content, the lack of watermarked historical content leaves room for manipulation and deception to occur.

In a guest essay for The New York Times, Jacob N. Shapiro and Chris Mattmann express their concern about the potential dangers of A.I. technology when it comes to history. They highlight the fact that while there are reasons for optimism regarding society’s ability to identify fake media and maintain a shared understanding of current events, the same cannot be said for the past.

The authors argue that history can be a powerful tool for manipulation and malfeasance, and as generative A.I. technology becomes more advanced, the ability to create false historical content becomes easier. They discuss the concept of watermarking, which involves adding imperceptible information to a digital file to trace its origins. However, since most historical content has not been watermarked, it can be easily called into question.

Shapiro and Mattmann point out that throughout history, economic and political powers have manipulated the historical record to suit their own agendas. They provide examples such as Stalin purging disloyal comrades from history and altering photographic records to erase their existence, as well as Slovenia erasing over 18,000 people from the registry of residents, leading to their loss of homes and services.

False documents have also played a significant role in historical manipulation. The authors mention the infamous Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a forgery that has been used to justify antisemitic violence, and the Zinoviev Letter, which may have influenced the outcome of a general election in the UK.

Shapiro and Mattmann conclude by emphasizing the need to address the threats posed by A.I. technology to historical accuracy. They suggest that the creation of watermarking systems for historical content and the development of tools for detecting and verifying the authenticity of historical documents are necessary steps to protect the integrity of the past.