Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Scientists highlight the dangers of deepfakes by reimagining Apollo 11 as a disaster

Hey, remember deepfakes? You know, the nascent, creepy AI programming that allows people to insert pretty much anyone’s face onto the heads of others, thereby potentially destroying our last vestiges of truth in service of Nic Cage memes and nonconsensual pornographic forgeries? Well, we’re happy to report today that the technology doesn’t always serve completely fetishistic and/or parlor trick purposes: It can also be used to rewrite history, giving us ever more soul-crushing tragedies to ponder!

This is In the Event of Moon Disaster, a short film courtesy of the MIT Center for Advanced Virtuality that envisions a world in which NASA’s historic Apollo 11 mission was an abject, Major Tom-esque failure. Using some of the most sophisticated deepfake technology available, researchers were able to create an uncanny, fictional press conference given by President Nixon using the infamous, eloquent (very real) speech written for him in the event of...well, yeah, in the event of moon disaster.


The video actual first made the rounds online back in November of last year, but now has some renewed virality after MIT shared the short film in conjunction with the launch of a new documentary and the moon landing’s 51st anniversary. M.I.T. collaborated with Scientific American on the short, To Make A Deepfake, which details the months-long process that went into the above deepfake.

“The M.I.T. team did not set out to create a simple face swap. (Some machine-learning practitioners are now pushing the idea that with a bit of coding experience, almost anyone can make one of these deepfakes in as little as five minutes.),” reads a description of the documentary on Scientific American. “They wanted to create the best technical fake possible while documenting the labor involved. The process took more than half a year.”

You can watch it below. Just, you know, don’t do this at home. Please.

It’s a haunting exercise, both in imagining our historical “what-if’s” and in reminding us just how dangerous technologies like deepfakes could pose for society. That said, In the Event of Moon Disaster isn’t as haunting as Ted Turner’s End of the World broadcast, which is a very real thing and seems likely to necessitate airing on TV in the near-ish future.

[via Insider]

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Andrew Paul is a contributing writer with work recently featured by NBC Think, GQ, Slate, Rolling Stone, and McSweeney's Internet Tendency. He writes the newsletter, (((Echo Chamber))).