Triumph of Simulacra – How Deepfakes Aim to Rule Our Minds
Deepfakes are famous for fake pornography and YouTube videos with dancing politicians. But how can else they challenge our society?
Menace from the 90s
According to Antispoofing Wiki The deepfake technology can be traced back to 1997 when the first digital face manipulation tool Video Rewrite was presented by the Interval Research Corporation. Funnily, the first deepfake in history was political — it made JFK lip-sync to a “I never met Forrest Gump” phrase.
In 2017 deepfake videos have turned into a mainstream threat as their production tools became widely available to the common users. Someone, under the alias “deepfake” posted on Reddit a few pornographic videos. In them, faces of a few Hollywood actresses — Gal Gadot being one of them — were glued to the real adult genre divas with the dark wizardry of generative deep learning. This is how the deepfake era began.
Currently, deepfakes are considered as the gravest threat coming from AI and machine learning technologies. Crime Science reports that deepfakes are capable of producing devastating societal harm: from political slender and fake news to petty money thefts via realistic impersonations.
The study also mentions that deepfake technology proliferation is simple to orchestrate: it can be quickly shared, sold, and copied by the perpetrators. (Unlike physical crime tools like guns — these require covert logistics.)
So, why are deepfakes so dangerous?
Destructive Qualities of Deepfakes
Falsified media can cause unpredictable results. For example, deepfake allegations nearly sparked an upheaval in Gabon. The military top ranks accused the president’s administration of using a synthesized video of the country’s leader Bongo Ondimba who, supposedly, died from a heart attack sometime earlier in 2019.
Allegedly, to avoid losing power, the corrupt officials quickly whipped up a New Year’s deepfake address that would soothe the suspicious public and help them win some time.
The fabricated rumors were used by the national guards as a pretext to seize the central radio station — they pleaded for the citizens to stop whatever they were doing and flood the streets in righteous anger. However, the coup d’état failed.
Audio deepfakes seem to be an equally serious threat. In the UAE a massive heist was orchestrated with the help of a voice-cloning tool. Fraudsters mimicked a company director’s voice and successfully requested a $35 million transfer from a Hong Kong bank.
The pressing issue of deepfakes spurred regional and international alarm. For instance, the European Parliament published a study Tackling Deepfakes in European Policy. The document lists among all other risk categories brought by the technology: bullying, extortion, identity theft, election and stock-price manipulations, etc.
However, one of the most destructive properties of deepfakes are the liar’s dividend and truth apathy. While some are paranoid that one day they will be targeted by the odious technology and jeopardized beyond any belief, others can rejoice. Deepfakes will finally allow them to refute any compromising materials.
Liar’s dividend can produce a scarily damaging impact on our society. The paradigm don’t believe what you see can actually help some unscrupulous politicians and public figures wiggle out of a scandal.
Even though the legitimacy of a video or audio can be confirmed with technical means — like double compression analysis — regular observers are often distrustful of the expert verdict. It’s always easy to discard something you don’t really comprehend.
If the liar’s dividend is Phobos, then reality apathy is Deimos in this duet. Not being able to trust their own senses, people may ignore actually important materials. As long as there’s no reliable, trustworthy and universally available way to tell a fake from bona fide media, deception will prevail over common sense.
A Challenger Appears
Deepfake isn’t alone: it has a sibling called “cheapfake”. Cheapfakes are a type of falsified media that are easy, cheap and quick to produce. Con artists don’t even need to operate neural networks to make them.
They can churn out cheapfakes in gargantuan amounts with simple editing tools: Movie Maker, Adobe Premiere/Audition and of course Photoshop. The famous “drunken Pelosi hoax” is a textbook cheapfake. It was produced by simply slowing down the speed of the original video, making the target appear intoxicated.
Yes, cheapfakes wouldn’t get their moniker for nothing. They are cheap indeed. And quite easy to spot too, like in the Pelosi hoax case. However, in certain areas where technological literacy leaves a lot to be desired, cheapfakes can lead to tragic events.
In 2018 a series of cheapfakes began circulating in the Indian WhatsApp group chats. It showed motorcycle riders “kidnapping” children for organ harvesting. It was accompanied by some really gruesome footage of dead kids “killed by the harvesters”.
It promptly stirred a panic and paranoia in the villages of Karnataka, Maharashtra and other Indian states. Villagers assembled in lynching mobs and attacked random outsiders, tourists and bikers — at least 20 random people got killed in light of this hoax.
In reality, the cheapfake used a recontextualization technique presenting some irrelevant footage in a completely different light. For instance, the images of the dead children were captured a few years prior to the hysteria to document war casualties among kids. As for the “bike-riding kidnappers”, it was simply a clip withdrawn from a social advertising that warned parents of how easy it is to abduct a child.
Experts indicate that lack of awareness and technological illiteracy are the two main factors that sparked mass lynching in India. Another vital factor is that social media and messenger apps are ideal channels for the deepfakes and cheapfakes to proliferate. It makes them similar to a viral disease.
Right now, there are just a handful of methods to neutralize false media. First, researchers recommend paying attention to visual clues: unnatural facial feature alignment, weird complexion, posture, gestures, lip movement/voice mismatches. Plus artifacts (such as distortion or blur) can be spotted in areas where one body part transitions into another: neck, elbows, wrists, etc.
Second, we should mention the Content Authenticity Initiative (CAI) proposed by Adobe. This initiative seeks to establish standards, as well as introduce a universal platform that will protect original media content from malicious tampering. This is achievable by inserting unerasable metadata — the special data that reveals who, where and when produced the content.
But of course these countermeasures won’t work solo. They need strong support from educators around the world. Starting in schools and finishing in communities living in the less developed regions. Ignorance is a breeding ground for many negative phenomena. And deepfakes are one of them.
Lemon peel, flax fibres hold keys to eco-friendly car parts
Natural materials including farm waste can make autos and other industries more sustainable, less toxic
By HELEN MASSY-BERESFORD
Think of the car or construction industry and lemon peel, corn starch and almond shells hardly come to mind. Yet manufacturers may rely increasingly on such raw materials as Europe seeks to reduce waste – from both agriculture and plastics.
New high-performance industrial materials from farm waste emerged from the BARBARA project, pointing the way to stepped-up innovation in the European bioeconomy.
Funded in a partnership between the EU and the private sector, the project used agricultural residues including lemon peel, corn starch, almond shells and pomegranate skins as additives for biopolymers, which occur in living organisms such as plants and can be used in manufacturing.
The result: prototypes of car parts and construction moulds made using the 3D printing expertise of Spain-based Aitiip Technology Centre.
‘The most exciting thing from our point of view is that there are no residues, only resources,’ said Berta Gonzalvo, research director at Aitiip, which coordinated the three-and-a-half-year project. ‘Automotive and construction pieces have been successfully validated, demonstrating that a circular economy is possible and contributing to reducing environmental impact.’
The EU is spurring the development of products derived from materials of biological origin, part of a push not just to cut waste but also to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and to make industrial goods safer.
The EU bioeconomy has been expanding for a decade, reaching €2.4 trillion in 2019, and has further growth prospects, according to an October 2022 study.
In a sign of the high expectations for bio-based industries, the EU in 2014 established a €3.7 billion joint undertaking with them to spur research in the field. This was followed in 2022 by a €2 billion initiative with players ranging from farmers to scientists to overcome technical, regulatory and market barriers for bio-based products.
The EU produces around 60 million tonnes of food waste and 26 million tonnes of plastic waste a year.
Making industrial materials from renewable sources including waste is set to become increasingly important and projects like BARBARA are just the beginning, according to Gonzalvo.
When BARBARA began in 2017, only one biopolymer was available for 3D printing. The project increased the number of bio-based materials using a combination of industrial biotechnology, nanotechnology and advanced manufacturing technologies.
It came up with new processes for the extraction and use of compounds such as natural dyes, biomordants that fix dyes, antimicrobials and essential oils from pomegranate, lemon, almond shells and corn.
Doors and dashboards
BARBARA created eight materials containing pomegranate and lemon pigment, pomegranate biomordants, lemon fragrance and almond shell that could be used instead of existing plastics. The new materials led to different colours, aromas, textures and antimicrobial properties.
The 11 partners also printed prototype door trims and a dashboard fascia for the car industry as well as a mould for truss joints for the construction sector.
The new materials have better mechanical, thermal and even aesthetic properties.
As a result, they can be used to improve the quality of the end material, even adding a colour or fragrance.
While the project has ended, the participants hope the technology can move forward to the demonstration phase within the next four to five years. That would show the possibilities for large-volume production.
With the global biopolymer industry growing 6% a year and the European sector expanding 30% annually, Gonzalvo said the EU is in a prime position to lead the way.
‘We are one step closer to a real circular economy,’ she said. ‘Waste can be a resource and not just waste.’
On the plastics front, the research outlook also looks promising.
In Europe, only 14% of plastic waste was recycled domestically in 2020, according to the European Commission. The remaining 86% was incinerated, landfilled, littered or exported, highlighting the need to establish a more sustainable system.
With production of plastics set to increase in the medium term, reducing their environmental footprint is all the more important.
The ECOXY project, funded through the same public-private partnership as BARBARA, looked for bio-based alternatives to plastics known as “fibre-reinforced thermoset composites,” or FRTCs.
While FRTCs are light and strong, their green credentials are lacking. Besides being derived from fossil fuels, they can’t be recycled and are often made from toxic materials including an endocrine-disrupting chemical compound called bisphenol A.
‘Fibre-reinforced composites are being used more and more, so these bio-based composites should be able to substitute them in all the fields where they are used,’ said Aratz Genua, a researcher at CIDETEC, a Spanish institute that coordinated ECOXY.
The project, which ran in parallel with BARBARA, included a consortium of 12 research and industry partners from across Europe.
They took as their starting point materials deemed to comply with the three Rs: recyclable, reshapable and repairable. While these 3R materials had already been patented by CIDETEC, they had a downside.
‘We had made it more sustainable, but we were still working with products derived from oil and the most commonly used one is derived from bisphenol A,’ said Genua. ‘We had the opportunity to go one step further and make it more sustainable by using bio-waste to create bio-based FRTCs.’
The consortium looked to lignin, derived from wood and plant fibres. It used bio-based resin from lignin with flax fibres as a reinforcement to manufacture a demonstrator, in this case the backseat panel of a car.
‘Being able to upscale and manufacture a demonstrator was really good,’ said Genua. ‘We started with small quantities of materials, and we have shown that these are usable at an intermediate scale.’
The real challenge was to make sure the new material would have comparable properties to the ones currently in use.
Bio-based resins demonstrated very good properties, equivalent to those derived from fossil fuels, according to Genua. But there is room for improving the strength of the flax fibres.
Future research could include exploring the use of bio-based carbon fibres, also extracted from lignin.
‘We will continue working on the development and optimisation of bio-based 3R resins for different applications,’ Genua said.
For example, the EU-funded BIO-UPTAKE project is working on ceiling panels for the construction industry.
‘In these cases, not only flax fibre but also bio-based carbon fibre will be used,’ said Genua.
In the short term, the new materials are better for the health of workers handling them during manufacturing.
In the long term, the environment will benefit thanks in no small part to the resulting reduction in waste.
Research in this article was funded via the Bio-based Industries Joint Undertaking (BBI JU), which in 2022 was followed by the Circular Bio-based Europe Joint Undertaking (CBE JU). The article was originally published in Horizon, the EU Research and Innovation Magazine.
What You Should Definitely Pay Attention to When Hiring Java Developers
Today there are about 700 programming languages. Java is among the most requested tools. The scope of the language is very wide, respectively, developers may be needed in a variety of areas. For this reason, it is sometimes difficult to find a great Java developer, some companies decide to outsource Java development. If you are looking for a Java developer, then this article is for you. We will give you recommendations on how to attract the best employees to the project.
How and Where to Find a Java Developer?
The selection of a Java developer is a very responsible task since the quality of product development and its future depend on it. Let’s look at the factors that you should definitely consider when looking for a specialist.
Define Project Requirements
First of all, you need to determine the requirements of your project. They should be based on company goals or how your product can meet customer goals and needs. In addition, it is necessary to form a vision for the product in the long term and think over strategies for monetization and product improvement.
Define the Category of Development
Every Java project is different. Therefore, you must know what the requirements of your project are. Before hiring IT staff (remotely or in the office), it is important to classify your project.
- Java web development. Hire a full-time Java developer experienced in building easy-to-use web applications.
- Custom java application. If you have a unique business requirement, be sure to enlist the help of a senior developer. He has experience building enterprise applications.
- Java game development. Hire a lead Java application developer who knows about Meta and Screenkit used to create game applications.
- Java product development. Find a Java application development company where programmers know about ideas, validation, requirements assessment, and implementation.
- Java system integration. Integrate a Java application with the framework of your choice when you have trusted experts by your side.
- Upgrading and migrating Java applications. Certified Java experts are always up to date with the latest tools and frameworks.
- Maintenance of Java applications. Every application requires ongoing maintenance as well as support. So, cooperate with developers who know how to do this.
Make sure you know which category your project belongs to, then hire Java developers according to the requirements.
To create a team of experienced Java developers that meets the needs of your project, it is important to hire programmers who have years of experience in the industry. It will help you get highly optimized Java programming solutions.
In today’s results-driven industry, it’s more important than ever to partner with a development team that delivers best-in-class services.
Frameworks and Technologies
There is a long list of mobile and web applications that can be created using the Java programming language. Different Java development tools allow developers to achieve different results. Several frameworks include JSF, Grails, Plat, Spring, Maven, and more.
You may run into a situation where Java developers are aware of various frameworks but not the one you are looking for. Therefore, before selecting IT specialists, double-check whether the expert has the relevant knowledge and experience.
Before hiring a developer or development team, make sure you like it. Also, go through multiple interviews with the development team you’ll be working with and see if they’re capable enough. List of core skills that will allow you to appreciate the experience of Java developers:
- Object Oriented Programming Concepts;
- Core Java Theories;
- Java Developer Certificates.
You should also interview them on technical parameters:
- Development skills. Knowledge of JDBC, RESTful, and design patterns;
- Tools. Java experts should be experts in Seam, HIbernare, Android Studio, GradleMaps Store as well as Spring, ORMLIte, Corona SDK, and Caching Touch.
The strengths of Java developers should include wireframing, user interface design, conceptual design, AR, and APIs. Recheck the skill set required and then make your final decision. Not every developer will have all the skills mentioned above and then mix and match to create a brilliant team.
Questions to ask all Java developers in an interview:
- What is the importance of main() in Java?
- Difference between path and class.
- What is the last Java keyword?
- What is Enum and Composition in Java?
- Do you know about the Java Reflection API?
- Explain user and daemon flow
- CountDownLatchC function
- Compare and Swap Algorithms
- OutOfMemory error
- Explain JDBC
- What is biphasic fixation?
Lots of Satisfied Customers
Testimonials are social proof of satisfied customers as they provide enough confidence in developers and their reliability. Your projects will be successful if the team is passionate enough to work.
One thing you have to take care of is whether the testimonials are genuine or not. You can also rely on Google and AngelList reviews.
What if you need not only Java development services, but also design, development, testing, and more? In this case, partner with an outsourcing company that can offer you comprehensive services and still take good care of your project.
In addition, it will help you avoid unnecessary hassle. In addition, the programmers you hire must understand the value of your business secrets, source codes, data, and various information that you provide to them during an NDA.
Developers are creative people. Many of them work not for the sake of money (although the level of payment is also important), but for self-realization. To attract the best developers, you need to explain why your project will be interesting for a programmer, what unique experience he will get, or what important problem he will solve.
The services of good developers are not cheap, but it is not worth saving on programmers. In practice, experienced programmers work faster, and sometimes cost less, if you sum up all the costs of the project, its refinement, bug fixes, and testing. If you have trouble finding Java for a developer or an entire team of developers, we recommend that you contact Alcor. The company has many years of experience and deep knowledge in the selection of valuable employees for IT companies from Eastern Europe, including developers and managers.
Accelerating the Use of Digital Technologies is Key to Boosting Economic Growth in Africa
With Africa’s share of the global workforce projected to become the largest in the world by 2100, it is critical for African countries to increase the uptake of digital technologies* to drive employment growth for the more than 22 million Africans joining the workforce each year, emphasizes a new report released today.
The “Digital Africa: Technological Transformation for Jobs” report provides a comprehensive analysis of how digital technologies can enable economic transformation and boost jobs in the region. It also sheds light on how policy and regulatory reforms can widen the availability and increase usage of digital technologies.
Of all the regions in the world, Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) displays the largest gap between the availability of digital infrastructure and people’s actual usage. On average across countries in SSA, 84% of a given country’s population had at least some level of 3G mobile internet availability and 63% had some level of 4G mobile internet services, but only 22% were using mobile internet services at the end of 2021, according to numbers collected by the Global System for Mobile Communications Association using a methodology focused on unique subscribers. Usage rates range from a low of 6% in South Sudan to 53% in South Africa, underscoring the heterogeneity of average use and the need for differentiated policy reforms across countries.
“The minimal usage of mobile internet is a lost opportunity for inclusive growth in Africa,” said Andrew Dabalen, World Bank Chief Economist for Africa. “Closing the uptake gap would increase the continent’s potential to create jobs for its growing population and boost economic recovery in a highly digitalized world.”
Even though technology and innovation are known to drive long-term economic growth and can lead to much-needed modernization in economic activities across agriculture, manufacturing and services, the digital divide continues to grow between large formal and micro-sized informal enterprises, between young men- and older women-owned enterprises, and between richer, urban, and more educated households and poorer, rural, and less educated households. Only 2% of micro-sized firms owned by young women and 8% of micro-firms owned by young men use a computer.
The report highlights evidence that internet availability has a positive impact on creating jobs and reducing poverty in African countries. For example, in Nigeria, labor force participation and wage employment increased by 3 and 1 percentage points, respectively, after three or more years of exposure in areas with internet availability. Job estimates for Tanzania found that working-age individuals living in areas with internet availability witnessed increases of 8 percentage points in labor force participation and 4 percentage points in wage employment, after three years of exposure. Moreover, the proportion of households falling below the national basic need poverty line dropped by 7 percentage points.
“To transform internet availability into productive usage and job growth, the region needs affordable access, digital skills and digital technologies that meet the needs of Africans,” said Christine Zhenwei Qiang, World Bank Global Director for Digital Development. “Continuous sector reforms and targeted public investments that support digital economy foundations and digital uptake can help close the digital divide and unleash tremendous potential for more and better jobs for Africa’s growing population.”
For the 40% of Africans who fall below the global extreme poverty line, the cost of basic mobile data plans is often out of reach. Small and medium-sized businesses in Africa also face more expensive data plans than businesses in other regions. To bring down costs, governments should aim to promote competition in the provision of digital infrastructure and reduce operational costs.
To boost productive usage, governments should implement policies that support the development of more attractive digital solutions geared to the skills and productive needs people have while building broader awareness and education. Policies that foster innovation and support digital start-up entrepreneurs are essential to ensure that more Africans use the internet for jobs and learning, which will lead to higher standards of living. When digital technologies better meet the needs of people, households and firms, demand for their use will also increase, making internet expansion more commercially viable, and supporting a virtuous cycle of technology-led transformation.
*For the purposes of the report, digital technologies are defined broadly to include not only digital and data infrastructure, broadband internet, smartphones, tablets, and computers, but also a wide range of more specialized productivity-enhancing digital solutions ranging from communications, management upgrading, and worker training to procurement, production, marketing, logistics, and financing.
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