What Technologists Want

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On the same day that scientists announced successfully cloning monkeys, this horrific gem about deepfakes was reported by Motherboard:

Since we first wrote about deepfakes, the practice of producing AI-assisted fake porn has exploded. More people are creating fake celebrity porn using machine learning, and the results have become increasingly convincing. Another redditor even created an app specifically designed to allow users without a computer science background to create AI-assisted fake porn. All the tools one needs to make these videos are free, readily available, and accompanied with instructions that walk novices through the process.

Techno-utopianism is officially dead and the technologists killed it.

They shaped our tools. And then they made those tools our tormentors. They looked at what these tools could do, and in the case of deepfakes these technologists chose to do harm. Where one technologist devised a way to erase a woman while robbing another of her identity and dignity, other technologists saw an opportunity to empower more to follow. Technology isn’t a biological entity, even though it’s fashionable to describe it so. It doesn’t need or want. It doesn’t grow solely through its own evolutionary mechanisms (not yet, at least). Technology is an implement and in that way it’s the hands shaping the tool and wielding the tool that deserve our scrutiny.

The 21st century, it turns out, will be one defined in part by wrestling with how the cruelest of humans and the most sinister of all of our natures can amplify themselves through digital tools. The evil made exponential. Governments will need to reign in control of these toolmakers, and we’ll need to monitor that control. As users, we must be willing to protest these tools even when we often benefit economically and socially from some of their applications.

It’s time to stop lauding cleverness without interrogating its consequences. It’s time to demand moral, political, and regulatory control over digital technologies.

You fuckers ruined it for the rest of us.

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