Deepfakes and the epistemic apocalypse

Synthese 201 (3):1-23 (2023)
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[Author note: There is a video explainer of this paper on youtube at the new work in philosophy channel (search for surname+deepfakes).] It is widely thought that deepfake videos are a significant and unprecedented threat to our epistemic practices. In some writing about deepfakes, manipulated videos appear as the harbingers of an unprecedented _epistemic apocalypse_. In this paper I want to take a critical look at some of the more catastrophic predictions about deepfake videos. I will argue for three claims: (1) that once we recognise the role of social norms in the epistemology of recordings, deepfakes are much less concerning, (2) that the history of photographic manipulation reveals some important precedents, correcting claims about the novelty of deepfakes, and (3) that proposed solutions to deepfakes have been overly focused on technological interventions. My overall goal is not so much to argue that deepfakes are not a problem, but to argue that behind concerns around deepfakes lie a more general class of social problems about the organisation of our epistemic practices.


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Joshua Habgood-Coote
University of Leeds

References found in this work

Stop Talking about Fake News!Joshua Habgood-Coote - 2019 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 62 (9-10):1033-1065.
Oppressive Things.Shen-yi Liao & Bryce Huebner - 2020 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 103 (1):92-113.
White Ignorance.Charles Mills - 2007 - In Shannon Sullivan & Nancy Tuana (eds.), Race and Epistemologies of Ignorance. State Univ of New York Pr. pp. 11-38.

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