An Information Ecosystem at Risk

A new video re-creates a history that never happened, showing the power of AI-generated media.

Starting in 2019, media artists Francesca Panetta and Halsey Burgund at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology teamed up with two AI companies, Canny AI and Respeecher, to create a posthumous deepfake. In Event of Moon Disaster illustrates the possibilities of deepfake technologies by reimagining this seminal event. What if the Apollo 11 mission had gone wrong and the astronauts had not been able to return home? A contingency speech for this possibility was prepared for, but never delivered by, President Nixon – until now.

The M.I.T. team did not set out to create a simple face swap. (Some machine-learning practitioners are now pushing the idea that with a bit of coding experience, almost anyone can make one of these deepfakes in as little as five minutes.) They wanted to create the best technical fake possible while documenting the labor involved. The process took more than half a year.

The full deepfake speech can be viewed at

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