The conspiracy theory about “the Giant of Kandahar” has been going around lately more than ever. This is thanks to a ridiculous AI image that has been fooling the internet over the past few weeks. It has gone viral and resulted in a bunch of comical memes – but also serves as a reminder of the potential dangers of AI-generated content.
The Giant of Kandahar
As I started digging for this article, I discovered that the Giant of Kandahar doesn’t only refer to the image that started making rounds just this month. Nope, it was allegedly an enormous humanoid creature that a group of American army soldiers killed on a mountainside in Afghanistan.
“According to online accounts, the Giant of Kandahar, who was said to be responsible for an entire patrol going missing, stood a towering 13 feet tall,” writes Military Times. “It sported a shock of flaming red hair, had six fingers on each hand and two rows of teeth for gnashing, thrashing and showcasing a smile that was undeniably dashing.”
Even though it’s been confirmed as a hoax (duh), there are, apparently, still people who believe it existed.
The AI image – how it started?
Earlier this month, I noticed that people started sharing the image on social media with the caption “The giant of Kandahar, photographed Afghanistan 1923.” As I traced it back, the first post I found was in the group Cursed AI. You can probably conclude from the name that this group is humorous and nothing we post there is serious. However, some people didn’t seem to figure it out and it started spreading around the internet with the same caption.
It went so far that some fact-check websites published articles debunking the image. Looks like too many people took it seriously just as they did the whole story about the Giant of Kandahar.
As it often happens, all the fuss about a (pretty obviously) fake image resulted in a bunch of hilarious memes. In fact, some folks in the Cursed AI group used AI to generate memes, which makes them even funnier (and yes, they look totally cursed).
Now, let’s get serious
This isn’t the first time an AI-generated image has gone viral and made people believe they were looking at the real thing. Remember Pope’s puffy white coat? Sure, while this one, just like the Giant of Kandahar, isn’t dangerous – some of these fake images can cause quite a stir. The most famous examples are AI images of Trump’s arrest and the fake Pentagon explosion.
I always do my best to question whether what I see is legit or not, and I try to educate others to do the same. But man, it’s getting harder! First off, we’re swamped with so much information and so many stories every day. It’s like we’re used to it; it has numbed us down. We rarely bother to scratch beneath the surface of what we see and read.
And then there’s the second thing: AI is getting better. It can even generate text now, and I don’t mean like ChatGPT. Just look at Ideogram: it can add text to your images and it even looks good (well, not all the time, but still).
So just as always, I’ll encourage you to use your critical thinking. When you see an image that leaves an impression, take a moment before you react or before you share it. Take a second look – if your guts tell you something’s fishy, it probably is. After all, you can always use tools like “AI or not” to double-check.