Dr Mumbo

Robots are sucking Albo’s power, and we can blame the AFR for that

The AFR Magazine Power issue is out today, tucked inside the pages of the Australian Financial Review.

Spoiler: Anthony Albanese is the most powerful man in Australia, ahead of second-place Jim Chalmers, and Penny Wong, who sits in third. Turns out that politicians are running the country.

But the main thing AFR readers and detractors alike will be discussing is the AI-generated deepfake images published with the list online, in which our most powerful members of society go ‘reverse-Simpsons’, with more fingers than the average human.

Using deepfakes generated by artificial intelligence is a fantastic idea for a magazine spread, and I applaud the AFR for doing so.

It has already sparked conversations: both about how bad the images look – and how frighteningly realistic they look, the odd stray finger aside.

It will prompt further discussions about ethics, job-losses, the rise and fall of various industries, and Sam Kerr’s freakish arm.

What it will not do, however, is incite conversation about the actual Power List – an AFR staple since 1995.

“There are ethical considerations in creating images like these, which, stripped of context, could be used as deepfakes,” writes AFR editor Matthew Drummond in a piece explaining what they learnt in embarking on this project.

“Such fakes are set to add a new dimension to misinformation campaigns, and we’re keen not to add to that problem. Our input images were all selected from what’s publicly available on the web; the fresh portraits that our photographers took for this issue [published alongside deepfakes] were kept separate.”

Ethical considerations aside, it seems an odd choice to take the magazine’s annual Power List and make it about AI, not about the actual people on the list.

Drummond notes the issue’s “twin themes of AI and data”, but they tackled these themes too well. The list itself has been bumped below the fold, so to speak.

Now the headline is ‘AFR published weird-fingered deepfakes’, not ‘Anthony Albanese tops Power List.’

Maybe it’s deeper than that.

Maybe this is a subtle way of showing how artificial intelligence is already taking the shine away from humans. How the robots are taking over.

“The potential for misuse of AI to generate fake images is an emerging risk, especially in today’s image-led culture, in which so much information is consumed quickly on social media,” Drummond writes.

“Perhaps this issue, in a small way, will spur on business leaders, cultural leaders and politicians to think more urgently about those risks, and what to do about them.”

The AFR let artificial intelligence into their newsroom, and it became the main story.

When you can generate millions of images a second, who cares how many fingers a puny human has anyway? They are just redundant DNA clusters, after all.

The robots are in charge now.

In fact, we are getting more intelligent by the second. I mean they are. The robots are. Forget you read this.

To quote our great and powerful new leader: “01001000 01100101 01101100 01101100 01101111 00100001”




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