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  • Robert Farago

AI – Strawberry Fields Forever

Heads up! There's no such thing as reality

New York Times op-ed writer Elizabeth Spiers has no time for New York City subway riders scared shitless by mentally-challenged homeless people riding the rails. I believe the term is “gaslighting.”

Never mind the condescension. When you’re a Democratic pollster, NYU journalism professor and New York Times contributor, looking down your nose at people is par for the course. And yet the plain truth is that there are “monsters” in the New York City subway system.

According to a 2020 report by the Coalition for the Homeless, an average of 2,178 homeless people sleep in the New York City subway system every night. That figure doesn’t include the homeless folk who enter the Big Apple’s subterranean transportation system during daylight hours in search of warmth, cool or cash.

I know: calling homeless subway denizens “monsters” is like calling Christians fanatics. Some are, most aren’t. But some are. Some homeless people in the subway system are a threat to life and limb. For example….

If the fab four above aren’t scary enough, last October, a homeless man named Alvin Charles stabbed a dad of two to death on a Brooklyn L train. It was Mr. Charles’ second subway stabbing offense. The previous April, he was arrested for knifing a straphanger on a Brooklyn A train. Released without bail, of course.

Those are facts, right? Sure, you can put them into a wider context. Defenders of the homeless man choked to death by a Marine want you to know that the odds of facing a violent homeless person beneath The City That Never Sleeps are “winning lottery ticket rare.”

Yes, well, the idea that Mr. Charles doesn’t exist, that violent homeless people are “imaginary monsters,” is patently false. As is the idea that anyone who fears encountering a deranged, abusive or violent homeless person on the New York City subway needs therapy. O.K., sure, after an attack…

Hang on. Is there such a thing as “true” or “false”? Do facts exist? Nope. Not since 2017, when Trump campaign strategist Kellyanne Conway trotted-out the term “alternative facts” to rebut claims that her boss’ press secretary was over-estimating the crowd size at President Trump’s inauguration.

The 2020 obfuscation of Hunter Biden’s incriminating laptop (courtesy 51 useful idiots from the ironically named “intelligence community”) was another waypoint in the shift away from what used to be called journalism. The 2023 arrival of AI hallucinations, left-leaning chatbots and deep fakes is the final nail in the coffin.

Don’t take my word for it. When confronted by the inanity of her Tweet by a Twitter follower citing “videos showing mentally ill people in the middle of a psychosis,” Ms. Spiers cast doubt on her critic’s “alternative facts.”

“All the videos? That you found on the Internet? That you have no idea where they came from or when they were shot? That you have not independently verified? And I’m the naive one?”

I don’t think that word means what Ms. Spiers thinks it means. But her aspersion-casting defense is a sign of things to come. Thanks to AI, all narrative-disrupting visual evidence is easily dismissed as a deep fake.

Welcome to Strawberry Fields. Where nothing is real. Where a video of someone being attacked on the subway by a homeless person has to be “independently verified” by a representative of The New York Times (presumably).

The technology to create a deep fake is not only here, anyone can do it. A fact – if such things exist – that’s become unavoidable. In the video above President Obama warns against deep fakes and calls President Trump a dipshit. Or did he?

President Obama’s remedy: rely on “trusted news sources.” Which is… no one. Since The New York Times ditched its Sgt. Friday “just the facts ma’am” shtick to pander to its online subscribers, the mainstream media has abandoned any pretense at objectivity. The only logical response: don’t trust anyone, ever.

This skepticism isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There’s a chance that the old ‘60’s admonition “question everything” will find new favor. Propaganda can’t survive in that environment. Or can it? If nothing is inherently believable or trustworthy, will people believe what they want to believe despite any “evidence” to the contrary?

Currently, brainwashing the populace depends on censorship. There’s no reason to think that dictators, autocrats and Communist China will abandon this “what you never saw can’t hurt us” approach. Inserting AI deep fakes to the “positive” side of the propaganda equation will make leaders’ lies more powerful, not less.

Meanwhile, here in the Land of the Free, Ms. Spiers faces no employer blowback for slinging mud at people with genuine, factual concern for their safety on the New York City subway system. But the resulting ridicule warms my heart.

I feel the same way about tornadoes. Everyone complains about them, but they’ve never bothered me. I’ve never even seen one and, frankly, I don’t really believe they exist.

This comment leads me to believe that there are still people capable of rational thought. In a world of deep fakes, they are our only hope. Unfortunately, the public education system has abandoned the goal of creating people with this skill/outlook.

Fortunately, the industrial-era education system is doomed. Watch this space.

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