In the second season of BBC mystery thriller The Capture, deepfakes threaten the future of democracy and UK national security. In a dystopia set in present day London, hackers use AI to insert these highly realistic false images and videos of people into live news broadcasts to destroy the careers of politicians.
But my team’s research has shown how difficult it is to create convincing deepfakes in reality. In fact, technology and creative professionals have started collaborating on solutions to help people spot bogus videos of politicians and celebrities. We stand a decent chance of staying one step ahead of fraudsters.
In my research project, Virtual Maggie, I attempted to use deepfakes to digitally resurrect former UK prime minister Margaret Thatcher for a new drama. After months of work, we were unable to create a virtual Maggie acceptable for broadcast.
Producing convincing deepfakes in high definition requires top spec hardware, a lot of computer time, and human intervention to fix glitches in the output. This didn’t stop me enjoying The Capture, despite knowing that Ben Chanan’s drama was not a scenario likely to play out in the near future. Like every good dystopia, it had the seed of something that might one day be possible.