How tech rotted out

Here's The New York Times's verdict on the 2010s: "The Decade Tech Lost Its Way." The individual stories–Deepfakes, self-driving cars, social media, fake news — aren't laden with opinion, and many simply chart the development and success of particular gadgets, platforms and policies. But it all adds up, in a way that seems implicitly subtracted from everything else.

News breaks of a video circulating on the internet that shows the "Wonder Woman" star Gal Gadot having sex with her stepbrother. The video is not real; someone had used artificial intelligence to superimpose Ms. Gadot's face on the body of a pornographic actress.

Phillip Isola, one of the A.I. researchers who pioneered the techniques used to create deepfakes: In 2011, 2012, deep learning started taking off. The big event was, deep nets could recognize animals in photos.

It took a few years until people started to make systems that could do the opposite: not take an image and recognize that it was a cat, but take the label "cat" and synthesize an image that looks like a cat — the inverse problem. You could make photos of really low-resolution faces.

Very rapidly after that, people were able to use these things for face-swapping and deepfakes and all of that.

The technology advanced so quickly right around those years. It went from "O.K., this is a really interesting academic problem, but you can't possibly use this to make fake news. It's just going to produce a little blurry object" to "Oh, you can actually make photo-realistic faces."