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#005 - April Fools' Day

Move over April Fools' Day. Make room for AI Fools' world, full of artificial confusion and an increased aspiration for authenticity and realness.

Artificial Intelligence and the lack of authenticity


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Last week was April Fools, a day on which practical pranks and hoaxes fool people. It is a tradition that has been celebrated in many places around the world for hundreds of years. For example, a machine designed by Einstein in 1877 endlessly fed the human race by turning soil into meat and water into wine. For instance, in 1962, you could, so to speak, transform a black-and-white television into technicolour by placing a mesh sheet over your black-and-white television. London's Big Ben was made digital again in 1980 and was called Digital Dave. All false truths that only saw the light on that one day. With the arrival of AI, this has changed, and we can say goodbye to a univocal reality.

For this newsletter about the possible end of reality, authenticity and Realness, I would like to add an adapted soundtrack: The new single from 70-year-old Kim Gordon, ex-Sonic Youth singer. It is a confusing, compelling sound in which she seems to say goodbye to everything we have known for so long. BYE BYE

Let's get this party started.

Artificial Intelligence entered the April Fool's scene in 2009 when Google announced CADIE, which stood for “Cognitive Autoheuristic Distributed-Intelligence Entity”. It was presented as an AI agent that could improve the text, reply to emails, solve problems and develop code (hm... that sounds familiar). Ten years later, it pulled off another AI prank by (allegedly) launching the Google Tulip, a gadget that could communicate with tulips using AI. It would be the first step towards automatically listening and interacting with the rest of our garden.

Artificial confusion

However, while these jokes were very innocent and funny on that one particular day of the year when we were all careful not to be fooled, we now have to be on our guard every day. The tide turned when the Pope Puffer Jacket confused the entire internet. It's an image that will go down in history as the beginning of artificial confusion. Because what is real anymore?

Pope puffer jacket

The photo of Kate Middleton on Mother's Day was artificially corrected (done by Kate herself and ultimately admitted) and set the entire internet in motion looking for other photoshopped photos of the British royal couple. While social media played a crucial role in previous American presidential elections, Artificial Intelligence is now taking over this role. This evolution is an ideal excuse for Donald Trump to dismiss every (real) video or quote in which he makes a blatant statement as "AI-generated". Something that many of his followers would like to believe. I also discussed how even scientific publications can no longer be trusted in SciSleuths. And look, this AI-generated, completely incorrect image of scientific research was even published after peer review.

peer reviewed research with false AI images

So, I expected a lot of AI-generated pranks on April Fools Day this year. Bizarrely, this day passed almost unnoticed this year. (Scotch tape won't release real Scotch, no.) Maybe we are already saturated with all the false truths day in and day out.

Authenticity in an artificial world

>> Life Aspirations

It is indeed a confusing and even stressful time, not knowing what is real or not. The growing authenticity crisis, as highlighted by Merriam-Webster’s word of the year for 2023, is a significant concern. Are people still authentic today (on social media)? Can companies be authentic (enough)? Is that photo, music, or social media post authentic? And is information authentic if it is created with artificial intelligence? We have never questioned authenticity so much. In the coming years, I expect that people will attach more and more value to Realness, one of the Life Aspirations about which I write extensively in my new book. We may even have to give the word a (partially) new meaning. Your company or organisation will also have to think about how this will be done because customers will no longer accept certain things at face value. If trust was already important in your sector, you can certainly expect it to become even more important. How can you incorporate this into your daily operations? It's not just a suggestion; it's a necessity. Should it become part of your mission, your company culture or customer promise? In any case, it can do more harm than good if you don't pay enough attention to it.

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