Sunday, January 7, 2018

Reality & Fake News

By Alon Cohen: Jan 7, 2018

I did not write any blog posts for a while. Part of it is probably laziness or the fact that if I have nothing to say I just don't say anything. This time is different. Google forced me to write something or they would delete my blog.

Last night I was given a warning shot when they blocked my access to a Google Form that I created, without any explanation. For those who know me in 2015 they completely shut down my Google account for three days and that almost erased my existence from the earth so I am taking that warning shot seriously. This shot was also probably related to a warning about deleting this blog if I don't post a new one.

So here I am.

So what is the reality? In the old days, it was history books, which told us about what transpired in the past and we thought this was the reality back then. History books were written based on printed documents and stories passed. Now we have Internet and TV that are so up-to-date that we tend to believe that this is the reality.

It is clear to everyone that create content that whatever is recorded on the Internet will be the historical documents that will tell the story years to come.

Yet how real that story will be is debatable.

There are researchers that claim that the Bible is Fake News. They ask why there are no Jewish ruminants in Egypt? They claim the Bible is just a collection of stories.

We know from our own life experiences that reality whatever it is, it is different for every observer. One can only assume that back then without Internet and fast way to propagate and record information it is possible that the core of the stories happened but the rest was just embellishments and gap closing of the storyteller.

Well, this is the best they could do back then.

We don't have to go that far, 40 years ago or so there was an article about my Dad in the newspaper. Apparently, someone thought he was getting paid too much for keeping few hundred passengers safe on for 12 hours cross-Atlantic flight (before the days of the computers). Ohh well. However, the inaccuracies in the article about him our family and his work were so profound that I asked my Dad about how real was everything else you read in the newspaper. His answer 40 years ago was “Don't believe anything you read, the only true thing is the date”. We checked the date and on that day even the date on the newspaper was incorrect.

Maybe a thousand years from now, people would debate if that day even existed since there are no Israeli newspapers on that date.

Over the years I also had the opportunity to see articles written about me and again and again, the embellishments were so profound that you could almost miss the reality. You know what is true and what is not when it is about you. Everyone else, however, who kind of knows you, think this is all true. After all, it is in black and white. Apparently, and I have tried it few times, reporters do not like you to see the article before they publish it even if you just promise to do a good fact-checking.

Well, I thought they just don't “like” it but hey, when you invent everything you write there is really nothing to check, it is all fiction.

Moving to the now. It is clear that objectivity does not exist. Even in court, they would change your offense from speeding to improper lane change if you get a nice prosecutor. Or change your speeding from 20 above to 15 above in order to "help" you keep your insurance cost at bay. In NY city they don't even care if you committed any offense or not, you are always guilty. That modified reality is what eventually makes it to an official record.

So fake reality and real reality, are just not related, and the fake is the only thing, which is being recorded or saved. Even if the real reality is recorded it is mostly edited to its fake state and this is what is stored.

For that reason, it is so important that we always try to question what we read or see on TV and the Internet. I mostly like it when one TV stations expose fake video segment by playing back the real segment (but who knows maybe it is just another fake segment that seems real).

As technical people it is important is that we start thinking about how to record reality in a way that is immutable, signed, accessible to anyone (not just Google and other media outlets who can both alter, delete and hide what they don't like) but rather technology that provide access to raw footage that cannot be doctored so that innocent people, can prove innocence, and people who like real over fake can go back and see what actually transpired.

(Liquide metal or Halloween? - Gal & Jen)

Most importantly since AI will be very instrumental in defining our future we need that AI to be built (and trained) based on the real historical data and not base its future decisions and predictions on the Fake News being created every minute in this day and age.

What are your thoughts about this? Let me know.