Putin Questioned By Deepfake AI Version of Himself on Live Phone-In Event

Putin Questioned By Deepfake AI Version of Himself on Live Phone-In Event
Russian President Vladimir Putin appeared briefly lost for words when confronted with an AI-generated version of himself

In a surreal moment during Vladimir Putin's annual (and heavily-staged four-hour Q&A) phone-in event with the Russian public, the president found himself facing an unlikely questioner - an AI-generated deepfake of himself. The encounter brings into sharp focus the rapidly evolving landscape of AI and its implications for global leadership and misinformation.

The AI doppelgänger, identifying as a student from St Petersburg University, inquired about Putin's thoughts on AI and whether he uses body doubles, a subject of persistent speculation. This surreal moment prompted laughter and a brief hesitation from Putin, who has consistently been at the center of such rumors. His response, marked by his characteristic directness, emphasized his unique identity, while also acknowledging the unavoidable advancement of AI technologies.

Putin's interaction with his AI 'double' raises crucial questions about the future of AI in global politics and security. While Russia, alongside other world powers like the U.S., China, and the European Union, is racing to establish dominance in AI technology, this incident underscores the risks and ethical dilemmas posed by deepfakes. These AI-created images or videos are becoming increasingly sophisticated, blurring the lines between reality and fabrication and opening new fronts in the spread of misinformation.

Furthermore, this episode casts a spotlight on Russia's position in the global AI race, especially amidst the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. The impact of this conflict on Russia's technological ambitions cannot be overstated. Reports suggest a significant exodus of tech talent from Russia, hampering the country's tech industry and possibly its aspirations to lead in AI. The parent company of Yandex, a prominent Russian tech firm, is reportedly planning to divest its Russian assets, further illustrating the conflict's toll on the nation's tech landscape.

In his remarks, Putin acknowledged the unstoppable nature of AI development, stressing the need for Russia to be at the forefront of this revolution. His candid acceptance of AI's inevitability, coupled with a pragmatic view on leading the charge, reflects a nuanced understanding of the technology's dual-edged nature. However, his insistence on Russia's unyielding stance in Ukraine, despite the heavy human and economic costs, paints a complex picture of a leader grappling with the intersecting challenges of technological advancement, geopolitical strategy, and domestic stability.

Chris McKay is the founder and chief editor of Maginative. His thought leadership in AI literacy and strategic AI adoption has been recognized by top academic institutions, media, and global brands.

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