Spotting Bullshit: Deepfakes

Due to current COVID restrictions, this event has a capacity of 30 attendees. Registration required via EventBrite.  Please do not arrive before 12.30 hrs. If you have not registered, please do not travel to the campus but watch our event online. Live stream details to follow.

Bullshit is all around us. Sometimes it is easy to spot, but our brains can be tricked!
In this series of lectures we will need some tools to spot when we are being
manipulated through mental trickery.


We’re entering an era in which our enemies can make anyone say anything at any point in time.” So says comedian Jordan Peele in the famous deepfake video where he pretends to be Barack Obama. Does this mean we can’t trust any media in the age of deepfakes? What will happen to society when we can’t trust our eyes and ears anymore?

Deepfakes are a very recent development in media manipulation, where with the help of pre-recorded voice and video/photo samples, an algorithmic software program is able to make anybody say or do whatever you want. It started mostly with porn, as people put the faces of their favorite Hollywood stars on porn actors (to be fair: on actresses, mostly). The legal implications are still unclear; what is clear is that it does hurt the people who have been “co-opted”. But when this technology caught the public eye beyond porn, deepfakes began to inspire real nightmares. It’s hard enough to wade safely through all the opinions and trolls on the internet. But when anybody, anywhere on the planet, can create a completely false moving picture with sound so that it’s virtually indistinguishable from reality…how do you trust anything anymore? Truth flies out the window with the click of a button, as anybody can install a deepfake app on their phone. Scandals, defamation, trolling, blackmail, some of the most nefarious of human behaviors will be empowered. And the consequences are potentially life-changing.

What is the story behind this tech? In what state of development is it, and how can we expect it to evolve? What kind of countermeasures are being developed? What will happen to public trust, to journalism? What will you do when you show up in someone else’s fantasy and nothing you do or say can erase the image from people’s minds?

Tom van de Weghe is a Belgian journalist and researcher who led a research project into AI and deepfakes in journalism at Stanford University. He will tell us all about the current state of deepfakes, what they imply for society, and how to prepare yourself for them.

SG Presents: The Spotting Bullshit Series

Bullshit – roughly, the deliberate or accidental spreading of untruths – is all around us. It’s a thing of all ages, but it’s very possible that we are living in THE age of bullshit. Peak bullshit, as it were. Sometimes it is easy to spot, but our brains can be tricked!

In this series of seven interactive lectures, Studium Generale will tackle the issue head on and offer you some tools to spot when we are being manipulated through mental trickery. Join these lectures and inoculate yourself against fake news, logical fallacies and other manipulations, and become a beacon of independent, rational and critical thought!

The Spotting Bullshit lecture series will be held every Tuesday between September 22 and November 24 2020 during lunchtime (12:40-13:30) in the main hall in the TU Delft Library, except the lecture on September 29 (20:00). Registration is required via EventBrite or you can tune in via livestream (check our website or socials for the links). These activities are free of charge.

Visit the locations website here.