By Arif Khan | 5 Aug 2020
Inspiration for Alethea
I arrived in the U.S. three years ago from Singapore. After the contentious Presidential elections in 2016, I observed that the news media had become even more polarized. Today, continued economic uncertainty from Covid-19 and the proliferation of ‘fake news’ have deeply confused the public and eroded any last vestiges of trust the public had in the institutional media.
When I first encountered deepfake technology, I was horrified by its implications. Yet any dual-use technology comes with its positive use-cases too. I guided our AI research engineers and creative team to find transformative use-cases for the digital media industry, an industry I was intimately familiar with given my early career at LinkedIn. In our assessment, the trust crisis had to be solved and a solution needed to be developed by the private sector. Alethea AI was thus born. At Alethea, we aim to educate the public about deepfakes using AI-generated media, broadly known as Synthetic Media, while at the same time reimagining the creation and distribution of digital content completely.
Synthetic Media is a Megatrend that will completely reshape the media landscape. The enormous opportunities and industries that these technologies will enable cannot yet be fully imagined.
None of these faces are real and are generated with Alethea.ai’s technology
The pandemic has accelerated the demand for Synthetic Media due to film studios shutting, and the need to maintain social distancing. This may be a harbinger of the fundamental shift in the way media is created, consumed and distributed. Synthetic Media is disrupting three key areas today:
Celebrity Licensing & Film-making
In a pre-pandemic world, celebrities and athletes would often travel to events, host concerts and sign autographs. This is now impossible until we have a vaccine. Consequently, business has plummeted for celebrities and the overall entertainment industry. In our conversations with VP’s of Innovation at Talent Agencies and Sports Marketing firms, we’ve found that the appetite to innovate and discover new business models has accelerated as traditional streams of revenue dry up. Through Synthetic Media, celebrities will be able to appear in films without needing to be physically present. They will be able to control the use of their likeness and approve its access. We can now generate, copy, paste and modify a face or a voice similar to how we do it with text. Synthetic digital celebrities that are lifelike, emotive and expressive will enable new business models, licensing and opportunities. Faces and voices will be rented, modified, reskinned and repurposed. Here is a use case featuring the technology where Lady Gaga serves as a Mandarin news anchor.
B2B Content Creation & Localization at scale
Given that film studios are largely shut and content creators, publishers and brand marketers continue to have content needs, some have begun creating synthetic media at scale. Recently the WPP group launched a series of training videos using synthetic media at a fraction of the cost. Expect this trend to continue.
Trust & Cultural Preservation
The blockchain provides a novel opportunity for content to have a source of provenance. Should blockchains scale effectively, we can begin building other more novel use-cases on this trusted infrastructure. These may include preserving the voice of a relative for future generations or preserving the likeness of a savant mathematician or musical genius to serve as a constant source of inspiration for a society or community. Imagine Gandhi teaching you the principles of non-violence, or Plato walking you through his Dialogues personally or even a recently deceased relative reading a children’s audiobook to your yet-to-be-born children.
The Path Ahead
Like any dual-use technology, Synthetic Media can do irreparable harm or transform society in benevolent ways. The pandemic has accelerated the need for creative solutions in the media business. While the stakes continue to get higher as content becomes increasingly cost-effective, viral and realistic, we will need to have a solid grasp on our reality and the shared truths that undergird it.
The Synthetic Media phenomenon is here to stay and will transform multiple industries especially since it is remote-work friendly. What will be required is a clear understanding of its benefits, as well as a strategy for mitigating the damages potentially caused by malicious actors. The advent of Synthetic Media will present entrepreneurs, artists and creators new opportunities to generate income while working remotely. Reimaging how content is created may end up being a lifesaver for an industry ravaged by the pandemic.
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About Arif Khan
Arif Khan is the CEO and Founder of Alethea AI, a venture-backed deep-tech platform for Synthetic Media. Arif’s prior executive leadership roles include managing the global AI marketplace SingularityNET where Arif was its CMO and launched its Accelerator program. In his early career, Arif witnessed the disruptive transformation that digital platforms brought, where he led Growth and Business Development for LinkedIn in Southeast Asia.