In the age of deepfakes, identity crises and Elon Musk, Merriam-Webster Dictionary has announced “authentic” as the Word of the Year for 2023. In its announcement, Merriam-Webster said the word reflects what “we’re thinking about, writing about, aspiring to, and judging more than ever”.
The word “authentic” saw high-volume lookup in 2023 on the back of rising stories and conversations about celebrity culture, identity and social media, it said. Many celebrities, including Taylor Swift and Sam Smith, made headlines with their statements about seeking the “authentic self” and “authentic voice”.
However, the most significant bit in the announcement came in the fifth para, signalling the role of a technological breakthrough that has quickly become ubiquitous – artificial intelligence.
“And with the rise of artificial intelligence—and its impact on deepfake videos, actors’ contracts, academic honesty, and a vast number of other topics — the line between ‘real’ and ‘fake’ has become increasingly blurred,” the announcement read.
The latest entrant into the Word of the Year list speaks of the times we are in, with AI taking centre stage in newsrooms, boardrooms and, well, in pretty much all rooms.
Earlier this year, the Cambridge Dictionary announced “hallucinate” as its Word of the Year 2023. The announcement was followed by the tagline, “When an artificial intelligence hallucinates, it produces false information.”
“Hallucination is when Large Language Models make things up in order to deliver output, whether accurate or not. In use cases where high accuracy is necessary, LLMs that are output-oriented will, over time, prove inferior to their domain-specific alternatives that prioritise outcomes over output.”
Another lexicon, Collins English Dictionary, went a step further and announced “AI” as its Word of the Year 2023. The announcement said that the use of the word (strictly an initialism) has quadrupled over the past year.
One of the words that “authentic” beat to emerge as a winner was “deepfake”. According to Merriam-Webster, the interest around the word spiked after Musk’s lawyers in a Tesla lawsuit said he is often the subject of deepfake videos and again after the likeness of Ryan Reynolds appeared in a fake, AI-generated Tesla ad.
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