How Netflix's "Joan is Awful" addresses the current advancements and challenges of Generative Networks and AI

June 15, 2023
reading time:
8 min

In this article we discuss the transformative power of AI and the challenges it presents, particularly in distinguishing between reality and fiction. It discusses the rise of deepfakes, the difficulty of detection, possible solutions, and the ethical implications. The post emphasizes the need for regulation and ethical considerations in AI, advocating for responsible AI practices, while harnessing its power, research into deepfake detection technologies, and digital literacy. We call for collective responsibility and vigilance as we navigate the AI landscape, with a shared commitment to a future where AI enhances human wellbeing and upholds our shared values.

The Dystopian Reality:
A Look at Netflix's 'Joan is Awful'

In the Black Mirror episode 'Joan is Awful', we are introduced to a chilling scenario that seems eerily close to our current reality. The episode follows a woman named Joan, whose life is turned into a real-time TV series streamed on a fictional Netflix-like service, Streamberry. The show documents Joan's life, including her missteps and poor decisions, all in real-time, leading to her life crumbling around her.

The twist? The TV show is entirely computer-generated, using a digital likeness of actress Salma Hayek to play Joan. The show is created by a powerful algorithm that tracks Joan's life through her phone and turns it into a TV series for public consumption. The algorithm is so advanced that it can create shows much faster than traditional television production, leading to an "infinite content creator" that can spawn entire multiverses for entertainment purposes.

This plot is not as far-fetched as it might seem. In fact, it closely mirrors the advancements being made in the field of AI, particularly in image synthesis. Frameworks like Midjourney and Stable Diffusion are pioneering techniques that can generate highly realistic images and videos, today. These technologies use Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs) to create synthetic images that are almost indistinguishable from real ones.

In the case of Midjourney, their technology can generate photorealistic images of human faces, objects, and even landscapes. Similarly, Stable Diffusion's technology can generate high-quality videos that mimic real-world movements and actions.

The implications of these advancements are profound. Just as in 'Joan is Awful', these technologies are already used to create realistic depictions of people's lives, all without their knowledge or consent.

This raises serious ethical and privacy concerns, as it blurs the line between reality and fiction, and could lead to misuse and manipulation.

In the next section, we will explore how leading audio-visual artists are close to achieving this dystopian reality, and the implications of their work.

The Works of Leading Audio-Visual Artists: Bridging the Gap between Reality and Fiction

In the realm of audio-visual arts, the line between reality and fiction is becoming increasingly blurred. This is particularly evident in the works of leading artists in the field, who are leveraging advanced technologies to create immersive experiences that challenge our perceptions of what is real.

The Intersection of Art and Technology

The works of leading audio-visual artists are not confined to traditional mediums. Instead, they are exploring the intersection of art and technology, using advanced AI-based tools and techniques to create experiences that push the boundaries of what is possible.

In the case of Project Starline, this involves using cutting-edge audio-video technology to create a sense of presence and immersion that goes beyond what is possible with traditional video calls. The result is a communication experience that feels more like being in the same room with someone, even if they are thousands of miles away.

The Impact on Society

The impact of these developments on society cannot be overstated. As we've seen with the recent Black Mirror episode, "Joan is Awful," the line between reality and fiction is becoming increasingly blurred. The plot of the episode, which revolves around a dystopian reality where AI and social media have an outsized influence on people's lives, is not as far-fetched as it might seem.

In fact, with the advancements being made in the field of audio-visual arts, such a reality could be closer than we think. The works of leading artists in the field, pushing the envelop to what's possible are testament to this.

The Future of Audio-Visual Arts

As we look to the future, it's clear that the field of audio-visual arts is set to continue its rapid evolution. With leading artists and engineers continuing to push the boundaries of what is possible, we can expect to see even more innovative and immersive experiences in the years to come.

In the meantime, we can look to projects like Google's Project Starline as a glimpse into the future of the field. As the team at Google continues their work, we can only imagine what exciting developments lie ahead.

The Threats of AI: Navigating the Fine Line Between Reality and Fiction

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has undeniably transformed the way we live, work, and interact. From personalized recommendations on streaming platforms to virtual assistants on our smartphones, AI has seamlessly integrated into our daily lives. However, as AI continues to evolve and become more sophisticated, it brings with it a new set of challenges and threats, particularly when it comes to distinguishing between what's real and what's not.

The Rise of Deepfakes

One of the most prominent threats posed by AI is the creation of deepfakes. Deepfakes are synthetic media in which a person in an existing image or video is replaced with someone else's likeness, making it appear as though they said or did things that never actually happened. This technology leverages advanced AI and machine learning algorithms, particularly Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs), to create hyper-realistic but entirely fake content.

Midjourney deepfake "Heads of State in Hello Kitty Pajamas" image by u/j0wz

The implications of this technology are far-reaching. On a personal level, deepfakes can be used to create false narratives, leading to reputational damage or even legal implications. On a societal level, they can be used to spread misinformation or propaganda, undermining trust in media and institutions.

The Challenge of Detection

As AI technology becomes more sophisticated, so too does the challenge of detecting deepfakes. While there are ongoing efforts to develop detection algorithms, the rapid advancement of deepfake technology means that it's often a case of playing catch-up. Furthermore, as AI models become more adept at generating realistic synthetic media, the line between reality and fiction becomes increasingly blurred, making detection even more difficult.

We've tried the latest tools and whilst their general detection algorithms work reasonably well for unprocessed images and raw text, they easily can be manipulated to generate false positives by modifying the the source. This holds true for both text and image generated content.

Even certain images and text coming straight out of AI are undetectable, for instance the photo below generated by Midjourney could not be classified by AIorNot.

Midjourney generated image: "Photos taken from the maiden voyage of the Titanic in April 1912" u/PitchAdvanced4278

Who can I trust?

But you don't have to go so far to find people confused. If you are familiar with the Onion or the BabylonBee - sarcastic fictional publications aimed at entertainment - it's staggering how many people take the written word for granted and respond to posts in disgust about the content.

The blue checkmark was introduced on social media to give some sense of authenticity given that anyone can create any account with a random photo and pose as someone else.

The Ethical Implications

The ability of AI to blur the line between reality and fiction therefore raises significant ethical questions. For instance, should there be regulations governing the use of AI to create synthetic media? How do we balance the potential benefits of this technology, such as in film production or virtual reality, with the potential for misuse?

Moreover, as AI becomes more integrated into our lives, it's crucial to consider the impact on our privacy. With AI's ability to track, analyze and predict our behavior, there's a risk that our personal information could be used in ways we don't consent to.

Navigating the Future of AI

As we navigate the future of AI, it's crucial to be aware of these threats and to take proactive steps to mitigate them. This includes advocating for responsible AI practices, supporting research into deepfake detection technologies, and promoting digital literacy so that people can better distinguish between real and synthetic media.

In the world of AI, the line between reality and fiction may be blurred, but by staying informed and vigilant, we can ensure that we're prepared to navigate the challenges that lie ahead.

Moderation Efforts

The burden of responsible AI practices, are currently carried by Tech. Without moderation, ChatGPT, Midjourney and alike would not be made accessible to the public.

People are asking how to hotwire a car, instructions to build explosives and for Windows11 activation codes. And they find ways to achieve their goals. As it turns out, moderation and content restriction is very difficult to achieve with LLMs.

The creators of LLMs are themselves often in the dark about its capabilities. For instance, Language-based LLMs sporadically develop the ability to speak a language, which hasn't been part of the training. Many times this is often only discovered after the fact and cannot be predicted.

Moreover, there are several quite effective techniques to jailbreak an LLM (techniques to get the AI to ignore its general directive, confuse it, or break it in any way to act rogue) and give you unfiltered responses. Roleplaying and code injection methods are two examples used to achieve that.

So we are keeping the real world from the user, however that poses the question of those with access to unmoderated LLMs and what they are going to do with their powers.

Possible Solutions

As with so many services, at the moment you risk to lose access to your service if you are not adhering to the guidelines. For many that threat is enough not to cross the line, and the majority has a good read on where that line actually is.

But with open-sourced models and in the comfort of your home with anonymity, services run locally and open-sourced, 127.0.01 is your personal playground.

It becomes apparent that we need to link content creation of powerful tools to the individual.

In some cases the originators have an interest in doing so, in others the opposite is the case, and there is a massive grey zone in-between.

In the first case there are already initiatives under way that are aiming to achieve that, the Abobe Content Authenticiy Initiative for example, or the Soul-bound token of Vitalik Buterin, founder of Ethereum.

C2PA and DID are frameworks to address this very issue and they will be pivotal going forward. It's not just tech jargon, they're our best defense in a world where AI will be used to flood us with fakes and low-quality content. It's about keeping things transparent and trustworthy in the digital space.

C2PA providing insights into questionable content

There are eye-witness camera apps to document events with a chain of proof to hold up in court and KYC initiatives for individuals to help companies and the government to be in the clear that you are indeed, who you pretend to be.

Regulation and Ethical Considerations in AI: Safeguarding Our Digital Future

As AI continues to evolve and permeate various aspects of our lives, the need for regulation and ethical considerations becomes increasingly apparent. The rapid advancement of AI technologies, while offering immense benefits, also presents significant challenges and threats. These range from privacy concerns and data security to the ethical implications of autonomous decision-making systems and the potential for misuse of AI technologies.

The Importance of Regulation

Regulation plays a crucial role in ensuring that the development and deployment of AI technologies are carried out responsibly and in a manner that safeguards individual rights and societal values. It provides a framework for accountability, ensuring that those who develop and use AI systems do so in a manner that respects laws and regulations.

However, regulating AI is not a straightforward task. The technology is evolving at a rapid pace, often outstripping the ability of regulatory frameworks to keep up. Furthermore, the global nature of digital technologies means that regulation needs to be considered on an international scale, adding another layer of complexity.

Sam Altman, founder of OpenAI, has recently proposed the installment of a regulatory agency similar to the one overseeing nuclear developments.

Ethical Considerations in AI

Alongside regulation, ethical considerations play a vital role in guiding the development and use of AI. These considerations encompass a wide range of issues, including fairness, transparency, privacy, and accountability.

For instance, as AI systems are increasingly used in decision-making processes, it's essential to ensure that these decisions are made fairly and without bias. This requires careful consideration of how AI models are trained and the data they are trained on.

Transparency is another crucial ethical consideration. Users have a right to understand how decisions that affect them are being made, which is particularly important when these decisions are made by opaque AI algorithms. The moderation frameworks currently employed by tech companies, however are not accessible by the public.

The Way Forward

Addressing the need for regulation and ethical considerations in AI is a complex task that requires the involvement of various stakeholders, including governments, tech companies, and civil society. It's crucial to foster an open dialogue about these issues and to work towards consensus on the principles that should guide the development and use of AI.

Furthermore, education and awareness are key. By promoting a better understanding of AI and its implications among the public and policymakers, we can ensure that the benefits of AI are realized while minimizing its potential risks.

As we navigate the future of AI, it's clear that regulation and ethical considerations will play a pivotal role in shaping this technology and its impact on our society. By prioritizing these issues, we can ensure that AI serves as a tool for enhancing human wellbeing and upholding our shared values.

Call to Action

The journey into the AI landscape is one that we are all part of, whether as developers, users, or observers. As we navigate this journey, it's crucial to stay informed, vigilant, and proactive.

We encourage you to delve deeper into the world of AI, to understand its potential and its threats, and to engage in the conversation about its ethical and regulatory implications. Your voice matters in shaping the future of AI and ensuring that it is developed and used in a manner that respects our rights, values, and shared humanity.

Let's navigate the AI landscape together, with responsibility, vigilance, and a shared commitment to a future where AI serves as a tool for enhancing human wellbeing and upholding our shared values.

Navigating the AI Landscape with Responsibility and Vigilance

At Distributed Ventures, the transformative power of this technology became clear early on. AI has the potential to revolutionize various aspects of our lives, from how we work and communicate to how we make decisions and understand the world around us. However, as with any powerful tool, the use of AI comes with significant responsibilities and potential threats.

The challenges posed by AI, particularly in distinguishing between reality and fiction, are real and pressing. The rise of deepfakes and the increasing sophistication of AI technologies have blurred the line between what's real and what's not, raising significant ethical and privacy concerns.

Moreover, the need for regulation and ethical considerations in AI is more critical than ever. As we navigate the future of AI, it's essential to advocate for responsible AI practices, support research into deepfake detection technologies, and promote digital literacy.

This is where we can help, reach out to our team and take the necessary steps to ensure you and your business are prepared for the future.

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