Sometimes the question is not ‘can we?‘ but ‘should we?‘, and whoever decided to make a deepfake video of Steve Buscemi’s mug on Jennifer Lawrence completely ignored the latter. The result is one of the most frightening things you’ll ever see. Granted, beauty is subjective and in the eye of the beholder. But let us explain.
Yes, Steve Buscemi is getting up there in age, his younger days now firmly behind him. He’s also a great actor, and perhaps even an underappreciated one—he has an impressive acting resume that includes Reservoir Dogs, The Hudsucker Proxy, The Big Lebowski, and one of this editor’s favorite TV series, The Sopranos.
However, mashing his face onto Jennifer Lawrence is both weird to look at and frightening in the sense that it looks semi-realistic. This is what so-called deepfake videos are all about. These things are based on machine learning and artificial intelligence technologies, and they’re getting better by the day.
This is a power that isn’t necessarily being used for good. Some have used it to place faces of female celebrities onto pornography actresses, so that it looks like a famous actress appeared in an XXX-rated video.
That’s obviously problematic, though it’s not the only way to misuse the technology. We now live in an era of ‘fake news’ where it is becoming increasingly difficult to tell legitimate news stories from made up ones, and it’s a problem that Facebook has been dealing with, particularly in the lead up to elections.
What we have with Steve Buscemi and Jennifer Lawrence is much more innocent, at least on the surface. Reddit user VillianGuy made the video with a free tool called faceswap, with high-quality images to train the underlying AI. He says it took hours of coding and programming to get the final result.
That final result shows signs of being a fake, though that’s partly because we know what Steve Buscemi and Jennifer Lawrence look like. Mashing Steve’s face onto Jennifer’s body and using her voice generates a weird result. But there is a bigger implication.
“As deep fake technology becomes more advanced and more accessible, it could pose a threat to United States public discourse and national security, with broad and concerning implications for offensive active measures campaigns targeting the United States,” Rep. Adam Schillf (D-CA) and other members of the House of Representatives wrote in a letter to Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats last year.
This sort of thing is only going to get better with time. Sure, it’s funny to see Steve and Jennifer morphed together, but the implications are also frightening.