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A History of Fake Things on the Internet summary

Walter Scheirer

From Hoaxes to Deepfakes

2.9 (20 ratings)
18 mins
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    A History of Fake Things on the Internet
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    The story of myth and meme-making

    Imagine the bustling streets of ancient Athens. Among the crowds, a group of craftsmen gather to discuss their latest creation – a remarkable piece of pottery. What made it extraordinary wasn’t its exquisite craftsmanship or intricate design, but rather the clever humor it conveyed.

    On the surface was an image of an owl adorned in battle attire, a playful yet unmistakable representation of the city’s revered goddess, Athena. However, on closer inspection, one would notice that the owl was donning a comically oversized helmet and wielding a tiny spear, a whimsical nod to the grandeur of war. This amusing portrayal is an early example of a meme, a form of cultural expression that transcended the boundaries of time and technology.

    In the digital age, the internet often takes the blame for the proliferation of fake news, memes, and conspiracies. However, to truly understand this phenomenon, we must recognize that the internet is merely a medium – not the root cause.

    Myths have always held a special place in human culture, providing a structured explanation for the complexities of life that allows us to make sense of our existence and our place in the world. They’ve been an essential coping mechanism throughout history, giving people a way to navigate the chaos and uncertainty of reality.

    Early memes helped myths spread and evolve. They often took the form of comic pictures, etched onto pottery, and served as a means of cultural expression. These ancient memes were shared, modified, and passed down through generations, illustrating the human propensity for creating and sharing humorous or thought-provoking content.

    Fast forward to the atomic age, when society experienced a refragmentation of sorts. The advent of the internet in the late twentieth century marked a pivotal moment in human history. It transformed the way we communicate and disseminate information, providing a new platform for global connectivity. You might think this would’ve brought us closer together, but instead, we’ve used this platform to divide ourselves into myth-based tribes via conspiracies and other fakery.

    Today, the internet is saturated with content that has questionable veracity. Misinformation, disinformation, and conspiracy theories circulate freely, exploiting the internet’s democratization of information. These digital narratives gain traction and fuel the formation of alternative realities.

    Moreover, artificial intelligence – or AI – is increasingly being fed this content, inadvertently pushing society further into a hallucinatory realm. AI algorithms, designed to optimize user engagement, inadvertently amplify divisive and sensationalist content. As a result, our collective perception of reality becomes increasingly distorted, with the boundary between fact and fiction blurring.

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    What is A History of Fake Things on the Internet about?

    A History of Fake Things on the Internet (2023) explores the origins and evolution of digitally fabricated content, from early photo manipulation to today’s AI-generated deep fakes, analyzing key technological advances that made new forms of deception possible, and tracing their real-world impact back to fundamental aspects of human behavior. It argues that problems stemming from fake online content relate more to creativity and destruction inherent in human nature, rather than the nature of the faked content itself.

    A History of Fake Things on the Internet Review

    A History of Fake Things on the Internet (2022) explores the rise of misinformation online and its impact on society. Here's why this book is worth your time:

    • Unveils the hidden mechanisms behind fake news and digital deception, shedding light on how they shape our views and decisions.
    • Provides insightful analysis on the evolution of fake content, offering a fascinating look into the intersection of technology and human behavior.
    • Engages readers with compelling case studies and examples, ensuring a gripping exploration of the internet's darker side.

    Who should read A History of Fake Things on the Internet?

    • Technology historians
    • Media literacy advocates
    • Anyone interested in information security

    About the Author

    Walter J. Scheirer is an Assistant Professor at the University of Notre Dame, who previously held positions at Harvard University, and co-founded a computer vision startup after receiving his Ph.D. from the University of Colorado. His research focuses on developing advanced machine learning techniques for fundamental problems in biometrics, computer vision, and recognition.

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    A History of Fake Things on the Internet FAQs 

    What is the main message of A History of Fake Things on the Internet?

    The book explores the evolution and impact of deception in online content.

    How long does it take to read A History of Fake Things on the Internet?

    The estimated reading time is a few hours. The Blinkist summary is a quick alternative.

    Is A History of Fake Things on the Internet a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The book is a valuable insight into online deception, making it a worthwhile read.

    Who is the author of A History of Fake Things on the Internet?

    Walter Scheirer is the author of A History of Fake Things on the Internet.

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