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Views from the Prairie

November 2023

The Aura of Truth

A businessman signs papers stating that his property is worth far more than it really is. Because he confidently asserts that his ideas of worth are reality some people actually believe him. A TV commentator pushes his own ideas and as long as he acts confident, people take his word. We have a problem with truth. Assertiveness and confidence are no longer enough to be true. For too long, authorities have assumed that their confidence was sufficient to have them be believed. Today, we need more ways to test for truth. Each time that we have a new technology that cuts the cost of publishing, it has required new ways to test for truth.

The new AI tools are spitting out tons of falsehoods, but doing it in language that makes it sound as if it were truth. It can now create a "documentary" on a totally false topic and use a voice that sounds very authoritative such as similar to a famous documentary speaker. It makes the falsehoods sound very believable. The people who have used lies in the past to get ahead will jump on the AI bandwagon as it makes lies so much faster and more believable.

In history, when a new technology for communication has shown up, it often creates conflict. What happens is that people with strong ideas grab that new technology and spread their ideas on part of the people. Without a way to test those ideas for truth, they often generate fights or even wars. The faster the communications, the broader the wars.

History was first written on clay tablets that had to be fired to last. Kings wrote their stories on stone stelae. At one time, paper was so expensive that only those who could verify information could afford to write things down. That meant that what was written had been verified before it was written. Likewise, much of what was written on the stones by ancient kings has truthful items. We now know that they omitted their failures and exaggerated facts. We have ways to test some of writings from the past. But we don't have the ways to test modern stuff for truth.

As human beings, we don't have the time and energy to test everything, yet we need to. We hear sayings and if they fit within our existing ideas or nearly so, we often will accept them as true. If a proposition makes us feel better, we accept it as true. If something will put more money in our pocket, we often accept it as true. All of these are incomplete and often wrong ways to test for truth.

Already, we are seeing politicians use AI to generate fake pictures, fake videos, and put out false statements for ads and to confuse the voters. So far, the fakes have been more obvious. However, with the more money and the higher the stakes, we can be sure that our next presidential election will full of AI generated false items. With overwhelming lies, people will vote not on truth but on what they want to be true.

We are in desperate need of new ways to test pictures, videos, writings, etc. for truthfulness.

Do we really want to be seen?

Dell Computer used a spokesperson for a while. Their tag line, "Dude, you're getting a Dell" was heard a lot. Then, that young spokesperson was caught smoking what was illegal at the time. Those commercials were dropped along with that spokesperson.

Phil Romano developed a restaurant chain and put his name on it. Later, he said that he was sad that he put his name on it. After he sold it to a larger company, they changed many of the parts that he valued. Mr. Romano didn't want his name associated with the changes.

A businessman put his name on his company and on many of the buildings used by that company. Now, the company is at risk and he might lose control of his company and his name.

There are risks to putting our names or our faces as the public image of the company. When we want to move on, we might lose control of the use of our name or face.

Another risk is that we may outgrow our original business focus. At that point, changing the name to something that reflects the new growth would be needed.

The company reputation is a key part of its value. It is easy to lose that reputation when the spokesperson makes a public mistake. Most reputation problems are self-inflicted. One report suggests that 76% of those reputation problems were preventable. It is safer to not have a specific person as the corporate spokesperson. An alternative is to use a fictional character in the public square which can be totally controlled.

Many times, it is better to not be the face of the company but to work hard on managing the company reputation through quality and good management of people.

Risky World

Amazon has a huge problem with counterfeit goods and AI has just made things a lot worse. Rory Cellan-Jones worked hard to write the story of his family and get it published. In a few days, AI generated a fake biography of him with totally false narratives and Amazon's algorithm was pushing the fake over the real. A "Steven Walryn" published 15 books a day on Amazon.


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