Will AI kill reality?

Like the viral photo of Pope Francis in a Balenciaga down jacket, AI-generated DeepFake images are becoming increasingly realistic. Are we on the verge of losing touch with reality?

For several days now, an image has been spreading virally across the web: a photo of the Pope wearing a long white down jacket worthy of the most opulent American rappers. Will the pontiff launch his hip-hop career?

Not at all. The truth is, this image was created from scratch by the MidJourney image generation AI. It was originally published on March 24, 2023 by an American named Pablo Xavier. on the Reddit forum dedicated to this tool.

Later, over the weekend, this hilarious photo spread on Twitter and other social networks. Initially shared as a simple meme, the image then became the symbol of the advent of the of DeepFake.

Like many Internet users, American model Chrissy Teigen explains that she thought the photo was real and never doubted it. Ashamed of having been so gullible, she fears ” not survive the future of technology “…

Why is this DeepFake so credible?

The shot looks so realistic that some people still refuse to believe it’s a fake. However, the three other variants generated by MidJourney were also shared on Reddit.

Plus, certain signs are unmistakable. By observing carefully, we notice some anomalies on the pope’s right hand and coffee cup, on the crucifix, or on the glasses.

anomalies deepfake

All these details are inherent to generative AI a system that knows the surface of reality, but is unable to understand the underlying rules governing the interaction between physical objects.

Nevertheless, it is clear that these subtle elements can go unnoticed when the image is briefly glimpsed while scrolling through the news feed on a social network.

And as journalist Ryan Broderick points out on Twitter, this photo is misleading many Internet users for several reasons. First, this pope is known for wearing elegant clothes and stylish clothes. Several real-life snapshots of him have gone viral for this reason.

In addition, MidJourney has recently been updated to version 5.0 and the images generated are much more realistic than before. The tool excels in particular at celebrity staging, having been trained on a dataset containing numerous photos of stars.

Truth be told, this DeepFake is not realistic. The lighting is perfect, the surfaces brilliant, the poses dramatic and the colors saturated. L’image is therefore stylized and exaggerated, but we are used to to seeing photos of celebrities with the same characteristics!

For many years now, the photos published by the magazines have been highly retouched to the point of appearing fake. As a result, this “hyper-realism” no longer shocks our perception.

Thus, excessive photoshopping has largely prepared the groundwork for AI-generated DeepFakes. This is why a large proportion of Internet users have difficulty distinguishing the real from the illusory.

Welcome to the era of DeepFake

In the future, we can expect a massive proliferation of of AI-generated DeepFakes. Before the photo of the Pope in Balenciaga, several other images produced by MidJourney have recently gone viral.

These photos include of Emmanuel Macron gassed during a demonstrationDonald Trump arrested by police Elon Musk holding hands with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Each of these fakes features celebrities in an incongruous situation linked to current events : protests in France, rumors of Trump’s indictment or Elon Musk-related scandals.

For the time being, we can conclude that AI can only create the illusion with photos of famous people. However, this technology is evolving at lightning speed. Sooner or later, it will simply be impossible to distinguish reality from fantasy…