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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
What do you do with a technology that could restore the voices of people who have lost theirs — but also sow chaos and incite violence?
Kaveh reports: A growing group of companies are walking this tightrope, betting they can deploy deepfakes — videos, audio and photos that are altered or generated by AI — as a force for good, or at least non-malign purposes, while keeping the technology away from those who would use it to do harm.
These entrepreneurs are playing with fire. Experts have long warned that the power to convincingly alter or invent video or audio could be a dangerous weapon in the wrong hands.
The big picture: Deepfakes — or "synthetic media" — have largely been the purview of academics and online trolls for the few years they've been around.
Details: Betaworks is convening seven synthetic media startups for a three-month program this summer — and investing $200,000 in each.
Making money off of deepfakes requires extreme care, says Hany Farid, a Dartmouth professor and leading expert on synthetic media. Companies must build safeguards from the very beginning, he says.
"The abuses of social media should be a cautionary tale — the model of 'move fast and break things' is fatally flawed, and we should adopt a mantra of move slowly, innovate and don’t break things."— Hany Farid, Dartmouth
For now, Lyrebird and Synthesia are relying mostly on ethics policies: They say they won't alter a video or audio clip of a person without their express consent.
President Xi Jinping at Belt and Road conference last week. Photo: Wang Zhao/AFP/Getty
At China's big Belt and Road conference last week in Beijing, local officials bandied about a new moniker for the spidery, geopolitically important system of infrastructure it is building around the world — "Six Corridors, Six Roads."
The name gives more description to a project that fans out from China, around the region, and to most of the other continents, reflecting Beijing's ambitions, like Rome, to make all roads lead to it.
The big picture: Technically speaking, the designation is not new — Chinese President Xi Jinping first made Six Corridors, Six Roads public two years ago. But last week's heavy emphasis shows the Chinese are doubling down on it, says Jonathan Hillman, director of the Reconnecting Asia Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
That is, only the Pakistani route is being fully built out. The others are more skeletal.
Over lunch today in D.C., Parag Khanna, author of "The Future is Asian," said that faulty Western reasoning is turning Chinese ambitions into fears of a new Cold War.
Yet, China continues its march to lay down its Six Roads infrastructure. On Monday, Xi and Swiss President Ueli Maurer signed a memorandum of understanding to cooperate on the project.
Go deeper: Belt and Road is full of holes
Cliff Knight at his work station. Photo: Erica Pandey/Axios
Erica spent yesterday afternoon at a 1-million-square-foot Amazon warehouse in Baltimore, where over 2,500 workers assemble, package and ship out orders every day.
She writes: I asked Cliff Knight (above), who works at a packing station, if I could attempt to pack one of the boxes. He cautiously agreed.
Fun fact: Amazon says the time that elapses between a customer clicking "buy" and the item getting packaged and shipped is four hours.
There are 22,000 Barbie knockoffs in Minnesota — and Minneapolis authorities are cracking down.
Erica writes: The Feds have asked the U.S. Attorney's Office in Minneapolis for a warrant that would allow U.S. Customs and Border Protection to destroy the counterfeit dolls, which arrived from Hong Kong and were seized in 2017 at the Canadian border, reports the Star Tribune.