The Pope’s Coat Is Here to Ruin Your Faith
The monitor is A weekly column is dedicated to everything that’s happening in the WIRED world of culture, from movies to memes, TV to Twitter.
Future generations will appreciate the change in mood. It happened last weekend when social media feeds suddenly filled with images of Pope Francis, usually a devout and understated guy who looked like a boss in a sleek white puffer coat. It was an instant meme, a LOL in a sea of bad news. It wasn’t real either. Someone created the image using the Midjourney artificial intelligence tool. But it fooled many people — so many that news outlets called it “one of the first examples of widespread misinformation coming from artificial intelligence.”
Just typing that sentence feels immersive. Like the first time you see someone in a red robe The story of the maid. Not that this suggests dystopia. After all, it was just a picture of the Pope looking like a fly. But what if it was an image declaring itself a battlefield in the war in Ukraine? Or that President Biden is holding some sort of secret meeting? The potential for AI to create this type of misinformation is frightening.
Of course, fooling dozens of people into falling for a catastrophic deepfake of Volodymyr Zelenskyy takes a little more work than fooling them with a silly picture of a pope. As Charlie Warzel pointed out in it The Atlantic this week everyone is using “different heuristics to find out the truth,” and it’s easier to believe Pope Francis would wear a buffer than, say, these AI images of former President Donald Trump being arrested are real are. So it’s not hard to see why so many just watched it, giggled, and kept scrolling without questioning its authenticity.
But this sets a disturbing precedent. The creator of the Pope’s cloak image was not trying to mislead anyone. In fact, he told BuzzFeed News that he’s tripping on mushrooms right now, trying to think of funny pictures. But what if it was part of a disinformation campaign? Much AI-generated content is already so clean that it is difficult for human eyes and ears to detect its origin.
Viewers would probably never have known that Anthony Bourdain’s voice in the documentary was fake road runner if director Morgan Neville hadn’t said so The New Yorker. Deepfakes are already being used as a political tool. So skeptics can consult trusted news sources if they suspect an image is fake, but trust in the news media is already nearing an all-time low. Now, if anyone can create an image of anything and trust in any source who could debunk that image is at an all-time low, who is going to believe their lying eyes?
Days after AI-generated images of Pope Francis went viral, the pope was rushed to a hospital in Rome with a respiratory infection. He’s improved since then, but as this (real) news spread, it got a bit lost amidst the stories about the fake picture. The pope was trending for two very different reasons, and at first glance it was hard to determine which was the main one.
The social media era has turned the Very Online into pretty good sleuths. skepticism reigns. But also conspiracy theories. Beyond the post-truth era is a time when compelling imagery, text, and even video can be generated out of thin air. One of the great promises of the internet was that anyone could broadcast information to a much larger audience than before. For years, the liars have been easier to spot: bad URLs, crappy Photoshop, typos—all of these things have given away the bad guys. AI can smooth out their mistakes. I’m not Chicken Little, but maybe I haven’t been fooled by a picture of the falling sky yet.
https://www.wired.com/story/pope-coat-artificial-intelligence-internet-trust/ The Pope’s Coat Is Here to Ruin Your Faith