Manufactured through a sinister confluence of advances in computing power and artificial intelligence, "deepfake" videos depict people—often prominent politicians or celebrities—saying things they have never said or doing things they have never done. Rather than view deepfakes as an arms race of increasingly sophisticated efforts to produce and detect fabricated documents, Dr. McNamara instead locates deepfakes in the ancient tradition of using obvious falsehoods in the service of persuasion.
Dr. Charles McNamara is Preceptor in Contemporary Civilization in Columbia's Core Curriculum. He studied Classics, and in particular the notion of forensic certainty in antiquity and its afterlife in early modern Italy. His interests include the rhetorical tradition, ancient philosophy, and ancient education.