Walking By Faith in the Era of DeepFakes

We can no longer believe what we see even with our own eyes. How does a Christian walk by faith in the era of DeepFakes?

Recently I was searching for a YouTube video that demonstrates the talents of Bill Hader’s impressions. I wanted to show my wife how good this guy was. When I found this particular one (see below) it amazed even me. He wasn’t only changing his voice and mannerisms. Even his eyes looked different when he did these impressions. I was so amazed that I actually watched it twice. It was unreal! In fact, this couldn’t be real! I did a google search on the video and learned quickly, it indeed was not real.

This is what is known as a deep fake. Through a subtle manipulation of the video someone can actually create the appearance that something occurred which did not actually occur. In this instance, Bill Hader did not transform into Al Pacino and Arnold Schwarzenegger while he sat with Conan.

The Age of DeepFakes

In May a video was distributed across social media that showed Nancy Pelosi apparently drunk, talking in a slurred speech and looking sluggish. The video was viewed millions of times and shared in the tens of thousands before stories began to emerge that it was not real. This was an edited video that simply changed the speed of the words and her movements to meet the image of drunkenness that the creators were aiming for.

These sort of DeepFakes, while convincing to some are not actually that complex. There is a new, more advanced technology that will present far more complicated challenges to us in discerning what is real and what is fake.

Digital Trends describes DeepFake technology as follows:

A combination of “deep learning” and “fake,” deepfake technology allows anyone to create images or videos in which photographic elements are convincingly superimposed onto other pictures. While some of the ways this tech has been showcased have been for entertainment (think superimposing Sylvester Stallone’s face onto Arnie’s body in Terminator 2), other use-cases have been more alarming. Deepfakes make possible everything from traumatizing and reputation-ruining “revenge porn” to misleading fake news.

 

The danger of DeepFakes is that they target a growing problem in our society to alter reality to fit our own narratives. We are already doing this but DeepFakes provide visual evidence so that you can personally experience what is true versus what is not and base your judgment upon that experience. The problem, of course, is that the experience is completely false.

What happens in next year’s election cycle if DeepFakes fill our social media feeds and we find video of the Democratic and Republican candidates doing and saying things that simply can’t be true – but our eyes are seeing it so it must be true?

DeepFake Culture

The reality is that we don’t even need DeepFake technology to be fooled. There has been a significant breakdown in our ability to discern fact from fiction when we watch the world around us. We do not believe our leaders. We do not trust our media. A survey released last week from the Pew Research Center found that 75% of Americans believe trust in the government is decreasing.  On top of that, 64% believe trust in our fellow man is decreasing. Around 61% believe the media intentionally ignores stories that are important to the public.

deepfake

We live in a culture and an era where facts and truth are in retreat. Opinion and outrage are advancing, and we are drawn toward them.

Your own initial response to each of these stories above (one of them is false) might demonstrate the level of personal distrust you have for the media and these politicians. It also may demonstrate where you source your facts from, that is, who you believe is telling the truth and who you believe is lying.

walking by faith

Our modern cultural context is one driven by our response to what is fake or perceived as fake, rather than by what we know to be true. Day by day we are detaching from truths and principles that sustain a quality life and embracing the momentary outrage to whatever scandalous claim might be presented before us.

What Is Truth In An Age of Deception  

Time and again throughout the gospels Jesus warned that fear and deception would be a hallmark of the end of history. Watch out that no one deceives you. Matthew 24:4 (He warns against being deceived four times in this chapter alone.)

Our society tells us that the way we resist deception today is by taking hold of the side of truth; the right leader, the right cause, the right media outlet. This is actually the easiest way to be deceived. It does not matter if your side is right. Being right is not the same as being on the side of truth. Truth is of a higher dimension altogether.

walk by faith

When Jesus stood before Pilate a short discussion took place. The Roman governor did not understand the magnitude of what was unfolding but he contributed to the historical dialogue nonetheless.

You are a king, then!” said Pilate.  Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me. “What is truth?” retorted Pilate. John 18:37,38

Truth is not a Republican or Democrat issue. It is not a debate between Fox News and CNN. It has nothing to do with anything designed by human hands and minds. It is born from the heart of God and the mouth of Christ. Everyone on the side of truth listens to Him!  Therefore, everyone being deceived and led astray by the DeepFakes, lying leaders and media, and the seduction of anxieties and outrage of our day is not listening to the right source. They are not listening to Him!

  • You might also enjoy this podcast episode I did a few years ago when Post-Truth was the word of the year.

Walking By Faith, Not By Sight

For we live by faith, not by sight. 2 Corinthians 5:7

The antidote to the deception that is filling our culture, and will only increase, is to shift the channels from which we gain life. In the onslaught of DeepFakes, Fake News, Post Truth, lying leaders and media, our responsibility is not in finding the real and separating it from the false. It is in finding the will of God and walking in accordance to it, no matter what takes shape in the world around us. That is walking by faith, not by sight.

Another aspect of the truth is that it sets you free (John 8:32). When we live in accordance to the truth we live free, unbound by the anxieties, frustrations, and outrage of the modern culture that thrives on deception.

Jesus actually spoke very frequently about these things throughout the gospels, as does the whole of the New Testament. Believe it or not, we were born into a war between truth and deception, light and darkness. As believers living at the end of history, we need to be very careful that we are not deceived and consumed by the errors of this age.

Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. John 14:1

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