Miscellaneous Mental Musings of an Emerging Artist
Eventually the FaceApp’d elder you’ve made of yourself will be used to make an advanced deepfake video in which the person you have yet to become says things you could never imagine yourself believing in a voice that is not actually your own. The elder version of you shows up in campaign commercials for candidates you could never support, offers testimonials on products you would never buy. Beneath their image on the screen a crafty advertising agency has placed the disclaimer REAL PEOPLE NOT ACTORS and their attorneys have already drafted the briefs arguing that this is technically true and should perhaps also be considered legally true. The Supreme Court ruling that will ultimately decide the veracity of this argument is several years and dozens of motions away.
Your fake elder self becomes pervasive. They have a YouTube channel with several thousand followers and they release daily content that goes viral within both circles of people who find the videos laudable and those who find them abhorrent. The Fake Elder is using your name freely in their output and Google’s algorithm gradually places both you and them in the same pool of search hits. People who knew you in elementary school can’t believe what’s become of you and how poorly you’ve aged since last they saw you, and they send emails to your personal accounts and your workplace expressing their disappointment.
You start your own YouTube channel using your own face and voice in an attempt to counter your Fake Elder, explaining the situation that has led to this point. You clarify all of your own thoughts and positions and assert repeatedly that the Fake Elder is not a real person, no matter how much they may look like the version of yourself you may one day grow to become. You demand that whoever is responsible for creating and maintaining the Fake Elder cease and desist.
The Fake Elder records a response video in which they categorically refuse. They insist instead that you are the fraud, that your video is a deepfake that has been made using a filter that makes their own image appear several years younger. They release several additional videos in which they walk around their house and provide further evidence that they have always existed. One of the family photos on the wall of the home that may or may not itself be fake is an image of a person you recognize as a college student who works as a barista at your local coffee shop. In the photo they are 70 years old and sepia-toned and your Fake Elder refers to them as their dearly departed grandmother.
You gradually discover that there is a vast community of video bloggers just like your Fake Elder, and that there is now a spectrum of falsehood that includes not only older versions of real people, but versions that may only have a hairstyle change or that may wear glasses. There are versions of people you know personally as monolingual, English-speaking Americans whose online fakes speak only in fluent German. They are responding and linking to each other’s videos, and zealously denying the accusations of the other community, the one you belong to, the community of people who existed first.
You are stressed by the absurd nightmare of it all and you are neither sleeping nor eating well. While your Fake Elder appears much the same as they did when you first helped create them, you are haggard, anemic, aging prematurely. They look better in their speculative 80s than you will in your actual 60s. When you attempt to argue that the fact you can be seen aging at all is proof that you have been the real you all along, several other videos appear from both real and fake speakers explaining how sophisticated the deepfake technology has become, whether it has or not, and observing that the severity of your own aging is more likely evidence that whoever invented you is overplaying their hand within their simulation, while your Fake Elder has simply done a better job of taking care of themselves.
Eventually you die. You looked very little like your Fake Elder when you did. This is considered the definitive statement indicating that you were never who you claimed to be, and if you were still alive you would owe your own Fake Elder a sincere apology for having maintained the charade this long.
Your obituary is published online.
Somebody reads your name and says “oh, like that person on YouTube.”