FAKE news – it’s everywhere. Not on the website you're currently reading, of course, but certainly everywhere else. Closing your eyes and blocking your ears won’t help – your head is already filled with it. Most of what you think you’re thinking is what another thinker thinks you should be thinking. Like memory foam cushions, we’re mostly shaped by whatever last left an impression.

In the digital age, our hungry, absorbent brains are clay in the hands of those who seek to manipulate, recruit and profiteer. Most of us average six different screens a day, so there is little respite from advertising, propaganda, hive-think hyperbole and political misinformation. The brain’s natural firewall is cynicism, but it’s an unfashionable trait in this virtue signalling era of new puritanism. Unless a solar flare takes out the ‘leccy, it’s an impossible task to battle monsters without becoming one in 2018.

But the type of reality-distorting digital pollution currently favoured by powerful Presidential types will soon be viewed as very quaint indeed. The world is about to get significantly more confusing, and we will reminisce about how simple things used to be in the early 21st century. Why? Because AI has just made it possible for everyone to become fake news.

Cutting-edge software from Chinese firm Baidu now has the ability to clone anyone’s voice perfectly using just a one-minute recording of them speaking. The implications are seismic – not least that it suggests Donald Trump is either a prophet or from the future himself, such is his conviction that everything in the world that isn't Donald Trump is fake.

Note that Baidu’s idea itself isn’t innovative – several major players such as Adobe have been attempting such vocal mimicking tech for a while now – but this latest iteration is eerily accurate. It’s convincing enough to trick other sophisticated AI voice recognition systems – which are programmed to detect even the tiniest deviation in pitch and tone. This means it’s also good enough to fool your parents, partner or probation officer.

And it’s not only your voice AI will replicate with uncanny accuracy – soon, it will be your face and body too. Anyone who can work an app like Snapchat will have the ability to manipulate your perfect digital representation to do whatever they want you to be doing within any artificial scenario they choose. This footage will be indistinguishable from reality.

This tech will first revolutionise society’s biggest collective illusion, the entertainment industry – already capable of a hypnotic hoodwink so potent that Vanilla Ice was granted fame and fortune. Without even mentioning the untethered possibilities of the “adult” side of the industry, digital cloning and predictive AI will soon be able to create new Sinatra and Michael Jackson albums with the click of a mouse. A youthful Robert De Niro will appear in new movies. He might even co-star with James Dean. Far-fetched? Not at all. Actors and musicians are already taking steps to protect their intellectual property and image rights after death, fully aware of their posthumous futures as digital zombies. There will be no escaping the 20th century’s pop culture icons – Peter Cushing’s unsettling CGI cameo in Rogue One will look like Who Framed Roger Rabbit compared to what’s coming.

When the first stuttering iterations of cloning software first arrived, there was much fretful hullabaloo concerning national security risks and blackmailing opportunities. But cloning tech was still in its infancy. Fake voices sounded very unnatural – more Dalek than Derek. And without sophisticated AI this early software simply couldn’t mimic the human mind in conversation.

And at this point, no-one had ever heard the term “fake news”. Donald Trump was still an eccentric reality TV grotesque. Vladimir Putin had yet to realise the internet was a propagandist’s dream. Any early concern over AI’s terrifying potential to create the most convincing lies the world has ever seen went unheard.

Soon, however, the notion that we once had flesh and blood leaders and entertainers may seem very old fashioned – an archaic base reality unfathomable to digi-native future generations.

It’s increasingly likely that the wars of the future will be fought not by conventional weaponry, but by programmers distorting and disrupting reality for their paymasters. So lap up Trump’s “fake news” while it lasts. At least we can recognise it as such. Soon, lies will be completely indistinguishable from truth. Leaders like The Donald could rule indefinitely as digital avatars long after their demise. Perhaps it’s only when we see footage of a topless President Putin judo-chopping wild bears on Mars that we’ll know he has passed on.


IT’S been evident for a while now that Big Tech has its thumbs firmly on the throats of smaller, nimbler start-ups – either by making them offers they can’t refuse or cloning their tech and integrating it into their own systems. The most recent example being the fast-fading Snapchat which inspired a number of new Facebook additions, just weeks after the firm rebutted a Zuckerberg cash offer.

So, there was little surprise this week when Jeff Bezo’s Amazon bought home security start-up Ring for £700 million. The firm’s doorbells stream HD video to any screen you have in your possession, allowing you to chat remotely to whoever is standing at your door. Jeff clearly hopes it is an Amazon delivery driver. The deep pockets of the Big Tech behemoths – Facebook, Apple, Amazon and Google – boast a combined loose change of $2.5tn. This effectively makes them untouchable when they snap up new innovations to consolidate their power.

Will things change? Almost certainly not. Those at the helm of cutting-edge technology and mass communication will still be the ones who pave culture’s path and dictate societal trends. But following current tech tenor to its natural conclusion, the notion of society itself – nationalism, government, religion, trade, education, monetary transaction and party politics – may crumble sooner than anyone anticipated. And no-one will be able to say we didn’t have plenty of warning.

Tech titans such as Apple and Google are already aware their societal influence now dwarfs antiquated systems of traditional government. Accepted reality can be disrupted with any new social paradigm of their choosing. We just have to look at who is the US President to see their astonishing power in action. Tech firms being able to dictate their own levels of tax perhaps suggests they are already in charge. Brexit will certainly seem very quaint indeed when these new superpowers either unite as one – or declare war on each other.


JESUS travelled into the middle of the desert to find himself. So did The Inbetweeners. But it took a wee machine called The Edges to go there and find the answer to everything. Unlike the U2 guitarist, who still hasn’t found what he was looking for.

In case you don’t have the internet and only read the Sunday Herald, let me break the news that one of the greatest observations in scientific history was announced this week – detection of the very first stars in the universe. This neonatal light sparked off the full illumination of infinite void you see in every night sky. The cosmic switch flicked on 180 million years after the Big Bang, kicking off a complex chain of events that eventually led to the Trump presidency. Although these stars’ radio signals have been travelling towards Earth for 14 billion years, 2017 somehow felt longer.

Of course, we can’t see the actual light from these stars – they were too far away and are now long dead, having endlessly recycled their materials to create countless new suns, planets and solar systems. What The Edges picked up on in the centre of the digital-pollution-free Australian desert were faint radio signals from these first foetal stars – an achievement many scientists once believed was impossible. The jubilant researchers themselves – from Arizona State University – called their discovery a true “needle in a haystack” moment.

But it’s not just about the detection itself – the information gathered tells us much about the universe in those early jumpers-for-goalposts days. Firstly, it seems space was even brisker than the Beast From The East – around -270C, much colder than previously thought. Secondly, astrophysicists now have myriad new avenues to explore the mystery of “dark matter” – a mysterious substance that doesn’t emit light or energy and is thought to make up more than 80 per cent of the universe.

Initial results suggest a weird form of communication between “normal” matter and the invisible dark kind. It’s now speculated that the rapid expansion of the universe – all galaxies are zooming away from each other at an astonishing rate – is being refereed by a hitherto unknown fundamental force. God? Of course not.

You don’t have to be a scientist to know that it’s the most tightly bonded things in life that inevitably become the most powerful opposing forces. Like Oasis’ Liam and Noel.

Just like the battling brothers, all existence was once very,very close indeed - condensed to the size of a ping pong ball, until the Big Bang set it free to create you, me and everything your eyes can see. Dark matter, like bitter memories, seems to fill the space left by things as they break apart. All things must end. One exception that perhaps proves the rule U2 never splitting up. Because that's already a very dark matter indeed.