How lengthy does it take for “digital folks” to take over relationship apps?

During the first few months of the COVID-19 shelter-in-place, Cathy Gover joined the dating website Plenty of Fish. Like many people during the pandemic, the Tennessee widow suffered the onset of loneliness and decided to search for love online. It wasn’t long before she met Marc from Atlanta and fell in love with his considerable charms. Then six weeks after their online romance Marc asked Cathy for financial help.

Of course, you’ve heard this story many times. An older woman looking for love and companionship encounters a predator who masquerades as a lonely heart only to be betrayed by thousands of dollars. Sometimes these cases can be frustrating and make us wonder how the victim missed all of the bright red flags.

In the end, Cathy discovered that the pictures Marc had sent her were actually from a Brazilian pastor. But not before he freed her of the cool $ 3,000 and severely damaged her trust in humanity and of course her subdued hopes of finding love again.

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With just a few stolen photos and a six week “love bomb” operation, this con man was able to steal a considerable amount of money from Cathy, and he (if it was any him) has undoubtedly done the same to dozens of others. Now imagine how many more he could fool if he could create hundreds of original, compelling and interactive identities at the touch of a button.

That scary prospect isn’t as far away as you might think.

Enter the MetaHumans. High fidelity digital people who can be created in minutes with the help of a new tool Epic Games – the MetaHuman creator – promises to “empower anyone to create a bespoke photorealistic digital human who is fully manipulated and equipped with hair and clothing”.

While not perfect, these digital creations are still pretty scary and show how far this type of technology has come.

Epic’s main audience for this formidable tool is, of course, developers from the game, film, and entertainment industries. We can only imagine the fantastic experiences they will take advantage of, but we shouldn’t rule out malicious use either. Especially in this new, more virtual world that often relies more on remote video communication than on face-to-face interaction.

However, as a species that evolved to trust our senses, we must slowly unlearn the idea that “seeing is believing”. At the same time, more serious considerations should be given as to how we can stay one step ahead of a future in which legions of these MetaHumans (and their equivalents) are set free online to mislead and deceive those who cannot identify them as fakes.

But even if governments were able to regulate in a way that blocks or discourages the weaponry of this technology (which seems unlikely), we should pause to reflect on how we would like to see the legitimate, transparent use of it wrong people feel outside of the narrow world of movies and video games.

Could they replace people in commercials or even in the classroom? Would you like to have your children read a bedtime story? Could they model clothes without stumbling on virtual runways, or easily host the next online conference you attend? There are many options, but each heralds a real human being’s redundancy. One wonders why we are so anxious to create technology in our own image when it could be the ultimate act of self-sabotage …

Even if we dismiss the idea that digital people will infiltrate our daily lives in the near future as a fantasy, we shouldn’t overlook this for concepts from these much younger generations – along with fake news and Like deepfakes and tech GPT-3 – become Be part of their understanding of the world. They are generally less “sneaked out” by the AI ​​and its creations, and rather to deal with bots in all forms. As such, we have a real responsibility to think about how to use these tools and what lines to keep them from crossing … even if it all feels a little bit Dr. who.

This article was originally published on they The Data by Fiona J McEvoy. She is a tech ethics researcher and founder of

Published on February 18, 2021 – 11:55 UTC

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