It’s late December and the media are amping up pre-election chatter. The United States, the United Kingdom and India are all going to the polls. It’s the biggest election year in the history of the democratic process. The dominant narrative is, of course, AI. Deepfake video and audio content are threatening to laugh in the face of democracy and broadcast lies which are so convincing, they’ll make a billion people question their allegiance to a government or a challenger.
It should be acknowledged that these will be the first major elections since the rise of generative AI. But I’m not so sure that the combination of AI and upcoming elections deserves quite the amount of column centimeters it will receive. And this is why.
In the United Kingdom, a change of government is imminent. But please don’t think this is about Sir Keir Starmer replacing Rishi Sunak. That’s not the way elections work in Britain. The representatives of each constituency have to prove their past or future value to a local population. A deepfake audio production of Sir Keir, which has just been released, is not going to have the slightest effect on the voters of Bromley in South East London. They’re not voting for leadership, they’re voting for someone who will represent them as a community.
There are 650 constituencies in the UK. Anything that’s deepfake can be easily explained as such in the town hall. And it’s just not possible for two opponents in one constituency not to distance themselves from anything that humiliates the other. That’s not the British way of gaining trust. It won’t matter what AI throws at the British people, the Conservative party will no longer be the government because the majority of the 650 elected representatives have failed the community they have represented for the last decade or so. Not because of a seamlessly produced and ultra-realistic false exposé of a leader.
The United States do vote for a single leader, however. He or she is a tentpole for an entire infrastructure of Congress men and women. The other difference is that the country is politically divided between red states and blue states, almost all of which will vote for the red or blue candidate no matter what. No matter what. So, apart from the few ‘swing states’, it doesn’t matter what AI generated mud-slinging goes on before election time, the majority of the American populace will vote for ‘who their daddy voted for, and who his daddy voted for’. The real battleground, the swing states, will be won or lost on investment in jobs and business incentives.
It will not be won or lost by videos of Donald Trump reading the collected speeches of Adolf Hitler, or Hunter Biden testing machine guns in North Korea. There is going to be plenty of fake material flying around in the run up to the American elections, but it won’t make the slightest difference to the overall result. That may look like a bold prediction in the face of the collective anxiety we all feel about anything deepfake. But the logic is unassailable. Anything deepfake that gets a fair bit of attention will be ultimately derided for its lack of authenticity.
In India, someone is going to have to magic up a video of Narendra Modi in conversation with the evilest of Gods in the Hindu religion, Kali, if they want to have any impact on the electorate. His party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, are sitting comfortably in the number one spot. Nothing will prevent them from winning the next election. The economic and social reforms alone make Mr. Modi the most successful premier in Indian history.
And don’t underestimate the vote-getting value of placing a vehicle on the moon, as happened earlier in the year. The spike in national pride turned out to be a plateau which hasn’t yet dipped. There is more chance of an assassination that a voter shift.
Every day for the next nine months, we are going to see some truly awful trash and it will be as convincing as the advancing AI technology allows it be. But it will not have a marked effect on any of the three elections. Not that the elections won’t have a dirty smear of their own.
Politicians have never needed any help to lie their way to the top. Who needs AI to do what they’ve already perfected?
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