Misperception is becoming reality

Decades ago, it occurred to me (and undoubtedly to many others) that there would come a day when movies would no longer need human actors.  We are on the verge of that.  Special effects will, in the future, mimic humans so well that no one will be able to tell the difference between a real actor and a computer-generated, algorithmic image on the screen.

The irony is delicious.  Human actors themselves are engaged in illusion, making the imaginary seem real.  This is true even with stage plays.  (Hamlet never really happened.)  Now the actors themselves may be replaced by illusions.  Maybe that will be for the better.


Holograms were just the beginning (Pixabay license).

However, there is a sinister side to this technology.  (Dammit, why do sinister people always have to ruin everything?)  While illusion may be innocuous in movies, it can be harmfully deceptive when employed as propaganda, fake news, and fraud.

We already have a taste of that.  Who among us has never received a call from the Social Security Department, or the Internal Revenue Service, urgently warning us that all our finances are at risk unless we call them immediately, with our account numbers and passwords?  While too many people fall for that ruse, most of us quickly disregard the impostors, especially when they speak in foreign accents.

Instead, suppose you get an unexpected video phone call from a loved one, or a business associate — someone you personally know.  There is an emergency.  Something bad has happened.  The face and voice on the call are spot-on perfect.  The voice, the emotional tones, the facial expressions of stress — all are indistinguishable from the real thing.  You speak to the caller, and the caller makes exactly the responses that you know he would make.  Everything is so convincingly authentic that it does not occur to you that you are being defrauded.  Send money, or provide a password, or something truly creative, like an electronic signature — or a voice signature.

Not serious enough?  Imagine the general or admiral getting a call from a trusted subordinate in the field.  There has been a dreadful breach of national security.  Launch missiles, immediately.  The financier is authorizing the disbursal of the requested funds (billions).  Buy or sell those stocks now.  Your medical test results are in.  Here are those criminal background checks you requested.  

Even if you somehow evade all these deceptions today, they are nonstop.  The lines of communication become flooded with disinformation.  When you get a genuine call, you have to waste precious minutes double-checking the authenticity of the caller — and has the caller himself been deceived?

Thus far, this is all science fiction, but sci-fi has a way of becoming fact.  The pace of technological progress is not only fast but getting faster all the time.  We are increasingly dependent on that technology.

Worse yet, the government itself has for very long been the master of deceit.  The dark state is so deeply embedded that it will never become transparent.  Those federal agents at your door have some questions for you, and no, you do not need a lawyer.  You don't have anything to hide, do you?  No, you don't, but do they?

It used to be said that perception is reality.  If so, then misperception is fast becoming the new reality.

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