or not? In a world where pictures, documents and soon even movies can be created with the ease of a click of a button and a stray thought, we must learn and teach our children to be careful of blindly believing in the evidence presented to them
I admit, I too have long been a skeptic of what is known as the "moon landing hoax". The whole idea sounds fantastic to me: is it really possible to fake such a huge event?
Then I received a collection of evidence on my computer that was difficult for me to argue with.
First of all, the pictures. It's hard to argue with them: in one picture you can see photographers in full clothing, on a studio set with a setting that simulates the moon. In another picture we are shown how to photograph the 'round' globe, by placing a camera in front of a large sphere in the center of the studio. In the third picture, an astronaut model with various photo accessories. In the fourth, the cameras are placed above a map of the cloud currents in the Earth's atmosphere, and cameras downward to provide the same images that are pumped to us from satellites. In the fifth we can see the camera stand that was used to create the 'craters' on the moon. On the sixth you can see how the astronauts really jumped to heights on the 'moon': using ropes.
But the pictures are just the beginning. Attached to them was a letter from a person who identified himself only as "a senior manager at NASA". I translated it into Hebrew here (the original, in English, at the end of the record) -
"I am a senior administrator at NASA and I want to confess here that the 1968 moon landing was faked. We didn't land on the moon. Everything was staged here on earth. We used a variety of techniques to make it look like we landed on the moon, and we managed to fool the world.
First, we used the studio to photograph the documentation of the apparent moon landing. We used special effects to make the astronauts look like they were walking on the moon, when in fact they were just walking on a stage in the studio. We also used miniature models to create the illusion of the lunar environment.
Second, we used voiceovers to record the dialogue between the astronauts. That way it sounded like they were calling from the moon, when in reality they were just talking to each other in the studio.
Third, we released processed images and videos to the public. We removed from them any evidence that would betray the fact that they are fake.
Fourth, we planted stories in the media to make it appear that there was a logical reason why we could not release more documentation or images of the moon landing. We said the documentation was lost or the pictures were too blurry.
Fifth, we used disinformation systems to spread false information about the moon landing. We discredit anyone who speaks against us or who questions our version of events.
We have been able to deceive the world for over fifty years, but I can no longer live with the lies. I confess now, in the hope that the truth will finally be revealed."
In view of all these, how can one continue to believe that the landing on the moon really took place?
It turns out that it is possible, and even quite easily.
The truth is that this is a list about falsification, but not about the moon landing (which we have no reason to think was fabricated), but about the ease with which information can be falsified today. All the photos I shared at the beginning of the post are completely fabricated. I am sure of this, because I myself created them. I didn't do it the usual way: with a photo set with actors and cameras and professional photographers. Instead, I simply asked two publicly available artificial intelligence engines - Stable Diffusion and Dali - to generate for me some images documenting the fake moon landing in a studio on Earth. It took them about five seconds to produce each of the images, at a final cost of less than half a dollar all together.
And what about the moving confession of the senior manager at NASA? The entire confession - from beginning to end - is the product of the GPT3 artificial intelligence engine, which specializes in imitating human writing. The instructions I gave him were simple:
"Write a confession from a senior NASA administrator, describing with regret how NASA faked the 1968 moon landing. The confession should include many details about the alleged moon landing, and explain how they managed to fake it."
And that's it: these two short sentences were enough for the artificial intelligence to develop half a page of detailed confession.
Apparently, there is not much new here. Governments and rulers, after all, have a long history of producing fake documents and erasing people from pictures – or creating new ones out of thin air. What is different today is the ease of producing the false information. In the past, a large number of people were needed to produce new pictures - with actors, photographers and more. Today, only one person is needed for this, who can use artificial intelligence engines that are available to everyone. It can generate false information at a speed and quality that intelligence officers of previous generations could only dream of.
In such a world it is more important than ever to preserve our ability to think critically. Even pictures - and soon also videos - cannot form the basis for decision-making. Instead, we need to develop our systemic understanding as an antidote to conspiracies. Anyone who understands that there is a complex global system for approving drugs and vaccines, for example, in which the pharmaceutical companies struggle with the FDA and the national ministries of health, alongside millions of scientists who struggle to be published, understands that the chance that information regarding the harms of vaccines has been hidden from the public is very low.
Similarly, the understanding of the world system in 1968 also makes it clear that the chance that the moon landing was indeed faked is extremely slim. In those years, the United States and the Soviet Union fought each other for the conquest of space. If the United States had faked the moon landing, its arch-rival would inevitably find out: the two powers spied on each other with impressive success. Whoever claims that the landing was faked expects us to believe that the Soviet Union failed to gather information from the 400,000 people involved in the Apollo 11 project. He also tries to sell us a claim that none of them were willing to reveal the word of the conspiracy for a full fifty years, even long after they stopped working at NASA
These are just two examples of the way in which critical thinking helps us distinguish between conspiracy theories and real events. In a world where photos, documents and soon movies can be created with the ease of a click of a button and a stray thought, we must learn and teach our children to be careful of blindly believing in the evidence presented to them. They say that one picture is worth a thousand words, but correct and careful thinking is worth much more than that: it directs us to the right words.