Press X to doubt - Digital Threat Digest
PGI’s Digital Investigations Team brings you the Digital Threat Digest, SOCMINT and OSINT insights into disinformation, influence operations, and online harms.
Last week, my colleague wrote a piece about the illusion of choice – how everything that hits our Netflix and Amazon Prime follows the same basic structure, even if the main characters and settings change. This edition is going to run off that, but as much as I enjoy a good movie or show I prefer to spend my spare time getting increasingly frustrated as I smash X, O, Up and Down, so we’re going to use gaming as the scene setter.
We’re currently in a stagnated age of gaming remakes, off-the-shelf MMORPGs (massively multiplayer online role-playing games, for you non-gamers) and monetisable battle royale games (Apex Legends, Fortnite, etc.). It’s been a long time since an original game has called out to me; in recent years we’ve been hyping up sequels and prequels of already known and loved games, Far Cry 6 or FIFA24. Or the game targets an already-established fanbase – a la Hogwarts Legacy. Even games marketed as ‘groundbreakingly original’ such as EA’s ‘Anthem’ follow Activision’s successful ‘Destiny’ vibes and aesthetic.
There’s nothing inherently bad about this, we all still buy and play them – in my MMORPG career, I’ve ‘Leeroy Jenkins’ed my way through RuneScape, World of Warcraft, EverQuest, Elder Scrolls Online, EVE, Lord of the Rings Online… They’re all the same game under the surface – same objectives, same character customisation, same creative freedoms, same community-building aspects, but we can’t help but run to something marketed as ‘new’ and the ‘next best thing’, even if we know deep down it’s the same as what’s come before, just with prettier graphics. That’s why Resident Evil 4’s remake did so well – because of course I’ll pay £60 to have a more graphically-appeasing Leon Kennedy on my screen.
And that’s also why I’m hesitant to get too excited about NVIDIA’s ACE technology. ACE will allow users to engage in real-time with NPCs (non-player characters); asking them questions and allowing the player to be in control of the game’s narrative and cadence – say goodbye to the days of smashing ‘X’ to skip through the dialogue only to be confused as to what the mission is about five minutes in. It sounds cool and when I first watched that video, I pinged it around my gaming friends with caps lock excitement. But now I’ve had a chance to sit and think about it and I think that AI integration into gaming is kind of just the same as running it on a better GPU – it’s going to make the game look and feel prettier, more seamless, but is it going to fundamentally change the game? No. Because truly original change can only be created by humans. AI uses what has come before to generate what should come next. AI will be great at coming up with what game should be remade next based on success statistics it gets given access to. AI will be able to create an ‘original’ game, but it will be made up of bits and pieces of other pre-established, off-the-shelf, successful elements of other games.
It's the same with AI-generated influence operations, conspiracy theories, and disinformation. You break the guardrails of ChatGPT by telling it you’re writing a book or a play, you get it to start writing conspiratorial social media posts and, at first, you drown in the dread of an AI-led political apocalypse. But nothing ChatGPT is creating is new. It’s relying on tried and tested narratives – antisemitism, transphobia, flat Earth, chemtrails, global cabal. As bad as these are, and as much as conspiracy absolutely leads to real-world harm, we already know about them. There are already hundreds of academics on Twitter calling them out, articles being written on their impacts and origins, and counter-radicalisation initiatives in place to help those who have gone so far down the rabbit hole they’re now a danger to society. But, with respect to there being a wave of novel, unfounded conspiracy theories on the horizon because of AI? I highly doubt it, because if humans can’t even come up with novel ideas for TV, movies, or games, can we really come up with enough sparkling new hateful narratives to set the present for AI to generate from? Press X to doubt.
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Our Digital Investigations Analysts combine modern exploitative technology with deep human analytical expertise that covers the social media platforms themselves and the behaviours and the intents of those who use them. Our experienced analyst team have a deep understanding of how various threat groups use social media and follow a three-pronged approach focused on content, behaviour and infrastructure to assess and substantiate threat landscapes.
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