Over the years, AI has become an integral part of our daily lives, from helping us generate beautiful images and helping us learn complex topics better. ChatGPT, the most well-known AI tool used worldwide, has made learning and understanding complicated issues easier. As AI continues to evolve and become more sophisticated, they've begun to impact our memories and perception of reality in ways that were once confined to the realms of science fiction.
Earlier this year, photos of Pope Francis in a giant white puffer jacket circulated the internet, with many people believing that the image was indeed one of the Pope. An AI video-generating tool was also used to create mock marketing collaterals for brands like Balenciaga. While the video wasn't actually used in the brand's marketing campaign, it made for a very convincing piece of media that could easily be confused for something real.
As the world relies more on AI, it's worth understanding how such content can affect our perception of reality and alter what we believe to be true.
We're becoming victims of the Mandela Effect
In an article, ExpressVPN explained the effects of the Mandela Effect and how deep fakes could possibly influence what we perceive to be real. For those who might not be aware, the Mandela Effect is a psychological phenomenon in which a large group of people collectively remember an event, fact, or detail differently from the way it actually occurred. The term was coined by paranormal researcher Fiona Broome in 2010.
The term was inspired by the widely shared false memory of the death of South African leader Nelson Mandela in prison during the 1980s. In reality, Mandela was released from prison in 1990 and became South Africa's first black president, passing away in 2013.
The Mandela Effect has sparked numerous discussions and debates surrounding the nature of memory, perception, and reality. It's also been cited in relation to various widely held false memories, such as the misremembering of famous movie lines or the spelling of popular brand names. Many popular brand names, like Froot Loops, Coca-Cola, and Kit-Kat, have been misspelled as people have remembered them falsely.
While we might not fully realize it, memories are not as static as we might think. Research from various establishments like Better Mind, Frontiers, and the National Institute of Health in the U.S. have demonstrated that various factors can influence and alter our memories. These factors can include suggestions from others, new information, and even how we recall incidents to others. AI technology can potentially exploit this vulnerability in our mental capacity depending on the type of media created.
For example, AI-generated content, such as deep fakes or synthetic images, can create false memories by presenting individuals with realistic but fabricated scenarios. Early this year, AI-generated pictures of former U.S. President Donald Trump running away in an orange jumpsuit usually worn by prison inmates were published on social media. These photos were created after news of the former president's possible indictment was circulated. Given that the images appeared at a time when the indictment result was not confirmed, it's easy to see how people could believe that Trump had been indicted when he wasn't (at the time).
These digital fabrications can be so convincing that they can lead people to believe they witnessed events that never actually occurred or recall conversations that never occurred. As a result, our trust in our own memories becomes shaky, blurring the line between reality and fiction.
Augmented reality could make things worse
Augmented reality (AR) technology combines the digital and physical worlds, overlaying digital information onto our perception of the real world. AI plays a crucial role in AR by enabling systems to recognize and interpret the environment, creating realistic and contextually relevant digital content.
While AR holds immense potential for educational and entertainment purposes, it can also distort our perception of reality. As the digital world becomes more intertwined with our physical environment, it becomes increasingly difficult to distinguish between what is real and what is computer-generated. This blending of realities can lead to confusion and a lack of trust in our own senses.
AI is undeniably transforming our lives in once unimaginable ways and has given rise to inventions we didn't think were possible. As technology advances, it is essential to consider the implications of these changes on our memories and perception of reality. By understanding the potential risks and benefits of AI, we can make informed decisions about the role of technology in our lives and work to create a future where AI enhances, rather than distorts, our understanding of the world around us.