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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios
Researchers have broadened the controversial technology called "deepfakes" — AI-generated media that experts fear could roil coming elections by convincingly depicting people saying or doing things they never did.
Kaveh reports: A new computer program, created at OpenAI, the San Francisco AI lab, is the latest front in deepfakes, producing remarkably human-sounding prose that opens the prospect of fake news circulated at industrial scale.
Details: The new OpenAI program is like a supercharged autocomplete — a system like Google uses to guess the next words in your search, except for whole blocks of text. Write the first sentence of a sci-fi story and the computer does the rest. Begin a news article and the computer completes it.
Why OpenAI created the program: The lab says it aims to create a general model for language — a program that can do what humans can (speak, understand, summarize, answer questions and translate) without being specifically trained to do each.
How it works: The program "writes" by choosing the best next word based on both the human-written prompt and an enormous database of text it has read on the internet.
Because of how this technology could be abused, OpenAI announced that it will not release the program that generates the most convincing-sounding text. (Next week, we will return to this aspect of the story.)
The big question: How dangerous are text deepfakes?
Photo illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios, Photo: Jim Watson/Getty
Kaveh wrote the first two sentences in italics below — they're from a story we published in Monday's newsletter. Then, the OpenAI program discussed above wrote the rest, on the first try.
On the heels of a sweeping new U.S. plan to retain dominance in artificial intelligence, the Pentagon has cast Chinese development of intelligent weapons as an existential threat to the international order.
A day after the release of an executive order by President Trump that omits naming China, the Defense Department, in a new AI strategy document, speaks in stark terms of a "destabilizing" Chinese threat.
It warns of a "new arms race in AI" and says the United States "will not sit idly by" as a "highly advanced new generation of weapons capable of waging asymmetric warfare" is "possessed by aggressive actors."
Related: New White House plan on China may spark a cyber arms race
"China uses new and innovative methods to enable its advanced military technology to proliferate around the world, particularly to countries with which we have strategic partnerships," the Pentagon said in its five-page strategy outline last week.
The new U.S. strategy will be a major component of the White House's first National Security Strategy, coming in two parts in September.
"The President has directed me to undertake a study of our strategy toward a world of artificial intelligence," Defense Secretary James Mattis told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday.
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
Alibaba, China's e-commerce behemoth, is making new inroads in the U.S. and Canada, adding its mobile payment system to thousands of stores — convenience, drug stores and other shops — frequented by Americans of all income levels.
The big picture: Alibaba is enticing U.S. businesses with Alipay, which allows users to pay by scanning a QR code on the app. It has more than 700 million Chinese users. It is telling U.S. companies that if they add the system, they'll get a big piece of the tens of billions dollars Chinese nationals spend in the U.S. every year.
Alipay already has 4 million U.S. users and works with luxury brands like Lacoste and Rebecca Minkoff, and can be used at duty-free shops and Vegas hotels — places frequented by Chinese tourists.
But the move this week into 7,000 Walgreens, and earlier into 7-Eleven in Canada, is part of a separate strategy, says Humphrey Ho, an analyst with the Hylink Group. "The real play here is for the students, the new immigrants, and the people here to work for just a few years," Ho says.
My thought bubble: Though it's possible that Alibaba could follow Japan's strategy from the 1960s and 1970s and break open the American market, it seems to me that Alipay's expansion will be limited to Chinese nationals for the foreseeable future.
Photo: Underwood Archives/Getty
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios
Screenshot: Peppa Pig
In a new phenomenon, young Americans are falling under the influence of a cartoon pig, and speaking with British accents and idioms.
The culprit is Peppa Pig, the star of an animated U.K. series whose dialogue includes phrases not used by ordinary Americans, like knackered, snuggle, straightaway and toh-MAH'-toh, writes Kelly Conaboy at the Cut.
Go deeper: Watch Peppa Pig.