If you go on This Person Does Not Exist you’ll see an image of a stranger, perhaps one you might meet some day, and each time you refresh another stranger comes up. Nothing remarkable, you might conclude.
You’d be very wrong. There’s everything remarkable about those pictures: Each and everyone of them is fake, they are not pictures of “strangers”, rather, they are pictures of people who do not exist. You will never meet any of them.
The site, created by Phillip Wang, an Uber engineer, builds on an Artificial Intelligence research from last year by chip maker NVIDIA, to generate fake pictures using complex algorithms and real faces.
“Each time you refresh the site, the network will generate a new facial image from scratch from a 512 dimensional vector,” wrote Wang in a Facebook post announcing the site.
Wang’s website has generated a lot of interest from tech reporters- it has appeared in virtually every tech publication worth the name. It’s an interesting development that demonstrates the ever growing power of Artificial Intelligence and the vast possibilities it offers.
But after the excitement comes the concerns: What can criminals and other malevolent people do when equipped with such tools? The possibilities for criminal enterprise are vast- from scams and fraud to propaganda. You can have a whole political campaign of people who don’t exist.
Fake profiles on social media will have realistic images that cannot be exposed by reverse searches. And certainly as the software grows more sophisticated, it should be possible to generate multiple, but different, images of the “same person”- enough to build an entire fake life complete with a backstory.
I have to add that I refreshed the page quite a number of times and didn’t see a single black person, but that’ll obviously change as more images are fed into the algorithm.
As Wang says on his Facebook post, “Faces are most salient to our cognition….” Indeed they are, except sometimes they are not real faces at all. And that’s not a comforting thought.