AI, tech, and the 2024 elections.
My son shows me a video on his phone. It’s a series of photographs of Mitch McConnell, DeSantis, and other GOP leaders in drag, set to Doja Cat’s “Boss B*itch.” I roll my eyes, but also let out an audible giggle at Mike Pence’s serious face and high heel pink glitter boots.
The images are work of the Rupulicans Instagram account and, of course, are not real. They are AI generated… flawlessly. The account is deploying age old tactics of mockery to try to diminish the power of the powerful during a fraught political moment. “Say hello to the GOP’s downfall darling, Rudy Garland, serving cuckoo couture,” reads the caption of Guilani dressed in leopard print. I am absolutely here for it.
Of course, no one thinks these photos were real (though Guiliani did dress in drag back in 2000, earning a kiss from Trump). But AI and other emerging technology that allow deception and manipulation are evolving at such a rapid clip, with another application the average consumer might not be able to keep up and distinguish fact from fiction. Just the other week, I fell for an AI photograph of a giant great white shark beached on the Outer Banks. I’m not the only one to have clicked on the image– the image had over 10,000 shares.
Using AI to create a picture of a beached shark isn’t particularly pernicious, but it does demonstrate the risk of the technology being used for deception. The image, from an account I do not subscribe to, came across my social media feed the same week I was looking to book a campsite to bring my son and his friends to the beach. I likely was more vulnerable to fall for it because of this fact– I was about to ruin a beach trip by forbidding any of the kids get in the water.
My 20 second lapse of judgment with the fake shark photo demonstrates exactly how AI and other emerging manipulation technologies pose a huge threat to the 2024 elections.
I’m not a luddite and believe– in fact, I know– that technology has and will continue to reveal new and important frontiers for humankind. But I also know that we are not societally prepared for AI’s impact. The ways that deep-fake videos, text-based chatbots, algorithms, and voice-synthesis technologies will impact our democracy is, at this point…