Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the next logical step in technology, right? We knew it was coming. We’ve been waiting for Rosie from the Jetsons to be a real thing forever but what happens when AI becomes our normal reality and can do almost everything humans can do?
We’ve all seen the movies but I’m here to tell you that the future is now. While listening to Dr. Michio Kaku give his keynote at LiveWorx in Boston last month, I was blown away. It made me start really thinking about how long it would be until humans were useless because let’s face it, humans are flawed.
Humans are by design flawed by emotion, memories and physics. A human body wearies. A human brain is imperfect and, in many cases, damaged by chemistry. We love, we hate, we worry and we fail. In the end, we live on a curve. We peak and then we decline.
We gain wisdom. We grow. We experience. We emote in a way only human beings are able to do. We are perfectly imperfect and for all of our flaws, this is the very thing that makes us special and irreplaceable on some level. Our humanity makes us indispensable.
Perfection has always been our goal as human beings. At least, it’s always been mine. Logically, I know it’s impossible and unattainable but that has never stopped me in my pursuit. Therein lies my flaw; my failure. Chasing a ghost.
Then, this past week I learned about Miquela Sousa, aka Lil Miquela internet phenomenon with, at last count, 1.2 million followers on Instagram. Meanwhile, I’m stuck at around 3.5K Instagram followers. Oh, did I mention that Miquela is an AI Influencer created by BRUD, an artificial intelligence startup?
She has a backstory and everything. She’s a 20-year-old, Los Angeles-based Brazilian/Spanish model rocking streetwear and couture alike with brands like Chanel, Heron Preston and Supreme featured. It’s easy for her to look perfect, say all the right things and wear all the right things because she has been created out of thin air; the fantasy of some human’s imagination.
Lil Miquela has been vocal about the Black Lives Matter movement and Families Belong Together and has even caught the eye of beauty guru Pat McGrath becoming his latest muse. Miquela updates her followers on her everyday “life”, inserting relatable captions in her photos, hanging with her “friends” and eating froyo — completely ignoring the fact that she does not actually exist. Apparently, so do many of her followers even after she outed herself as an AI Influencer.
Virtual influencers are labeled as the start of a new chapter in influencer marketing, peaking the interest of major brands. The thing that bothers me is that she’s influencing humans and she’s not human. It’s a manipulation by a tech startup on all of humankind.
What I mean is that it’s easy for an AI influencer to be flawless because they are computer generated, the creation of a human in the pursuit of unachievable perfection. Miquela can easily have a perfect body and flawless skin because reality has no bearing on her existence. She will be perfect in perpetuity.
Which makes me sad because if you think girls/ women have been unfairly influenced by anorexic models who are airbrushed sending many regular girls into spirals of depression from not being able to attain the perfection of an airbrushed human existence, what the hell do you think is going to happen when our little girls are trying to look like an AI Influencer? Is it even possible? Probably not without extreme body modifications and even then, most likely still impossible.
Setting aside my own experience with body dysmorphic disorder and anorexia, ignoring my entire parenting lifetime of actively raising little girls to love themselves in a world where they are objectified like pieces of meat, what about the ethical fact that the people who created these AI Influencers are trying to dupe mankind? The stakes have never been higher for our little girls and now, we go beyond the human situation into the AI existence? We are systematically making ourselves irrelevant.
Our collective obsession with technology continues to increase daily as we push the boundaries of what technology can do. Building online connections is the norm. People don’t bother with face-to-face anymore because digital is faster, more efficient. Social media has become an integral part of our daily lives, birthing “influencer marketing” with many people looking to mimic the unattainable lives of celebrities. In response to this behavior, a never-ending quest for authenticity has emerged as we look to follow those who have lifestyles that are more relatable to our own. We’ve come full circle. Does that mean that influencer marketing is dead? Nope, it’s here to stay. But instead of following photoshopped influencers we’re being manipulated into following AI influencers; avatars who have human-like characteristics, both physically and emotionally.
The thing is that compared to human influencers, who are more susceptible to criticism, unpredictability and drama, there lies an opportunity here for brands to develop virtual content with AI Influencers with none of those issues. Which means that now, instead of human influencers gaming the system with airbrushing, professional photographers and perfectly staged photos of a life that doesn’t exist we’ve moved on to actual fake people because they are easier to control. We can order them up to our specifications eliminating human flaw from the equation. Sounds good, right?
Nope. We are being lied to and we are punitively relating to the human existence. But there is something that an AI Influencer cannot do, it cannot relate on a human level. Meaning, sure Miquela can put in her Insta bio that #BlackLivesMatter but doesn’t exist and has no idea what life even means. She can’t understand the concept of oppression and the desire for equality because she can’t feel; the very thing that makes us human. Maybe we humans are imperfect, flawed and messy but there is nothing like it. Until we live in a world where only AI beings exist there will always be a need for humans if only to create the AI influencers that we can relate to because without a human driving the experience, it would be completely unrelatable. A complete disconnect.
The way that computers have become invaluable in our pursuit of efficiency and knowledge, I do believe AI will be indispensable in these same ways but an inanimate object will never be able to empathize in any meaningful way and what is our world without that connection?