Google: Another Modest Proposal to Solve an Existential Crisis. No Big Deal, Right?

September 1, 2023

Vea4_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_tNote: This essay is the work of a real and still-alive dinobaby. No smart software involved, just a dumb humanoid.

I am fascinated with corporate “do goodism.” Many people find themselves in an existential crisis anchored in zeros and ones. Is the essay submitted as original work the product of an industrious 15 year old? Or, is the essay the 10 second output of a smart software system like ChatGPT or Is that brilliant illustration the labor of a dedicated 22 year old laboring in a cockroach infested garage in in Corona, Queens? Or, was the art used in this essay output in about 60 seconds by my trusted graphic companion Mother MidJourney?

9 1 hidden pixel

“I see the watermark. This is a fake!” exclaims the precocious lad. This clever middle school student has identified the super secret hidden clue that this priceless image is indeed a fabulous fake. How could a young person detect such a sophisticated and subtle watermark? The is, “Let’s overestimate our capabilities and underestimate those of young people who are skilled navigators of the digital world?”

Queens and what’s this “modest proposal” angle. Jonathan Swift beat this horse until it died in the late 17th century. I think the reference makes a bit of sense. Mr. Swift proposed simple solutions to big problems. “DeepMind Develops Watermark to Identify AI Images” explains:

Google’s DeepMind is trialling [sic] a digital watermark that would allow computers to spot images made by artificial intelligence (AI), as a means to fight disinformation. The tool, named SynthID, will embed changes to individual pixels in images, creating a watermark that can be identified by computers but remains invisible to the human eye. Nonetheless, DeepMind has warned that the tool is not “foolproof against extreme image manipulation.

Righto, it’s good enough. Plus, the affable crew at Alphabet Google YouTube are in an ideal position to monitor just about any tiny digital thing in the interwebs. Such a prized position as de facto ruler of the digital world makes it easy to flag and remove offending digital content with the itty bitty teenie weeny  manipulated pixel thingy.

Let’s assume that everyone, including the young fake spotter in the Mother MJ image accompany this essay gets to become the de facto certifier of digital content. What are the downsides?

Gee, I give up. I cannot think of one thing that suggests Google’s becoming the chokepoint for what’s in bounds and what’s out of bounds. Everyone will be happy. Happy is good in our stressed out world.

And think of the upsides? A bug might derail some creative work? A system crash might nuke important records about a guilty party because pixels don’t lie? Well, maybe just a little bit. The Google intern given the thankless task of optimizing image analysis might stick in an unwanted instruction. So what? The issue will be resolved in a court, and these legal proceedings are super efficient and super reliable.

I find it interesting that the article does not see any problem with the Googley approach. Like the Oxford research which depended upon Facebook data, the truth is the truth. No problem. Gatekeepers and certification authority are exciting business concepts.

Stephen E Arnold, September 1, 2023


One Response to “Google: Another Modest Proposal to Solve an Existential Crisis. No Big Deal, Right?”

  1. Linda McIsaac on September 1st, 2023 8:01 am

    As always, good thoughts

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