Just like consumerism, marketing knows no bounds, especially in the information technology industry where consumer preferences can change with blinding speed. There is no need to go as far back as CD-ROMs or DVDs; in the era of cloud, even flash disks and hard disks seem to be going out of fashion.
Is the consumerism extravaganza the result of the speed in which technology develops new products, or is insatiable consumerism the driving force behind those who develop new technologies? This is an example of the chicken and egg question. The biggest job falls on marketing ingenuity. They need to know both the consumer and the market, as well as the technology and the product. Who are they going to up-sell, and what is the message? How are they to talk consumers into purchasing a new and more expensive model when they already have one? How do they create a sense of necessity for non-essential needs?
In the information technology industry, the market appeared to have lost steam when hardware consumption evolved into mobile devices. But software and the internet came to the rescue. Just as we were about to take those for granted as well, the gaming industry received a helping hand to prevent a “game over” situation for those who were having a difficult time marketing hardware products. The marketing industry blasted a barrage of ads, and a category called “Game Computer” came to life. People of all ages were either convinced or forced into buying devices with stronger configurations so that they could play their favorite car race, or war and adventure games without a snag.
Now, it is time for “adult games.” These are early days, and so the addiction has not developed or spread yet. We get a feel for deepfake with the first examples released on social media: “I almost believed it. It was like it was real.” “We laughed so hard.” These initial deepfakes are a precursor to ads that want to know “if you find it difficult to make your own deepfake videos.” “Why should you be left behind when everyone else enjoys the likes for their deepfake videos?” “If you are going to purchase something, it needs to be a top-of-the-line computer model with a powerful processor, so no one can stomp over you.”
Influencers: ambassadors of artificial consumerism
In the past, a lot of money was spent on ads to reach more people and create new consumption habits. Now, it is a pinpointing game with spies that have infiltrated us. As citizens of the online world, we may not fully grasp what they are trying to do, but most of us know them. They appear in videos to tell us, in a warm and friendly way, how we should or could do certain things. They share their knowledge and experiences. We watch their videos, thinking that we are focusing on their story, when in fact, we just become a follower. We perceive them as people who can do what we can’t, who teach us how, or who have experience that we don’t have, or we idolize them as superior to us. Whatever we may be interested in, YouTubers boast knowledge, skill, and experience in every field. More often, we assume that they are sharing their knowledge and skills in good faith. However, the truth is that top influencers are managed by professional agencies. They draw up high-budget publicity contracts with companies and brands. In return, they promote certain products and brands based on our interests. New-comers try to entice brands by increasing the number of their followers. Brands acquire accomplished YouTubers with high fame and followers. They are our beloved influencers and advocates of artificial consumerism online.
I made my deepfake, so can you
If you are reading this article, it is likely that you know what deepfake is. But, once you know “what it is,” you are likely to ask “how it is done” as well. Online readers are bound to have seen it somewhere. Deep learning made possible by artificial intelligence (AI) allows machines to be trained with algorithms through artificial neural networks. The result is plausible fake media development technologies, made up of synthetic but hyper-realistic audio and video recordings that are derived from the original by altering its layers. A user named Deepfakes released the first AI porn videos on Reddit.com in 2017. In it, he replaced the faces of the women with those of famous people. The user has not come forward to talk about that story yet, nor have the anonymous “heroes” that deliver viral deepfakes of politicians, businesspeople, and artists to the media. But information and technology professors, the likes of Hao Li and Hany Faid, who develop deepfake technologies with the R&D te ams of prominent universities, are not content with academic studies. They stir up controversy in interviews on the world media. Open source platforms conveniently offer software libraries for deepfake production, and fun deepfake apps for mobile phones have been released to the market. However, the power of influence of the consumer ambassadors is just too sweet for them to let it go.
Influencers first began with phrases like “Check out my deepfake video, you can make one too.” And now, they are all over YouTube. It does not take much to find them. There are so many examples from several countries in different languages. These deepfake trainers prove to be highly responsible, and they are as meticulous as the academics. First, they let people watch deepfakes created using their own faces. Then, they make sure to point out, “Please remember that I didn’t do this to manipulate anyone. My only purpose is to have some fun with my friends. I’ll show you how to do it, but it’s up to you to decide what you do with it.”
Deepfake in one lesson: what’s really on the market?
The contracts between influencers and brands are no doubt confidential trade agreements between the parties. Thus, it is not possible to know who the invoice is being made out to and for what. Still, it does not escape our attention that we are provided with the “hardware requirement” information by those who explain to us what software to use and where to source deepfake technologies. They persistently remind us that “our processor, as well as the video card, has to be fast.” That is true. They are not tricking us when they explain how to create videos that trick others. While creating a desire to make deepfake videos, they are subconsciously promoting hardware manufacturers and highly-configured deepfake models. “Don’t hold your breath because you can’t do it without a fitting computer!” That is the real message they put out while teaching you how to create fake media using deepfake technology.
Publishing commercial videos that teach people how to make a deepfake may seem relatively innocent. However, even if they are made just for commercial purposes, they are as dangerous as cyber-attacks. When they create a manipulated video, they will eventually trigger much greater chaos than the deepfake media they create on their own.