AI-generated images are not new. However, they have been viral before. This picture of the pope in a puffy jacket is the most popular. You can call him the Supreme pontiff. The Balenciaga bishop. The vicar of drip.
It appears that the image was first uploaded online on Friday. The submission was made to Midjourney’s subreddit, which is a subreddit dedicated to the AI image generator Midjourney. It spread quickly on Twitter and other social media networks over the weekend, becoming a meme, then being debunked. Chrissy Teigen was tweeting on Sunday about it, which is a reliable indicator of an internet joke becoming mainstream.
“I thought that the puffer jacket of the pope was real, and didn’t think twice about it.” Teigen tweeted the response of many internet users, “No way am I surviving technology’s future.” Teigen replied to a commenter who said that AI-generated was a joke. Teigen responded, “Oh man, now I’m Really confused.” Is that real? i hate myself lol.”
This image is clearly fake. It was posted to Midjourney along with three other images (Midjourney typically generates four images per prompt), but the image also shows telltale signs that it is artificially generated, such as a few areas where details are smeared. It has a hand that isn’t quite grasping a cup of coffee; a crucifix that doesn’t have proper angles and depicts Jesus as if it were made from clay; and the edges of glasses lenses that somehow transform into their own shadow. These are all signs of AI generation. They are products of a system that only knows the surface of reality, but does not know the rules that govern how physical objects interact. An AI-generated image is characterized by a blurred or smearred image.Collage: The Verge
Yet, it seems silly to point this out because the image is real for a certain definition. You probably scrolled past the image in your Twitter feed on Friday and didn’t think twice about it, maybe tweeting “dang, pope a dripgod” before moving on to your day.
It’s important to understand why this image became viral. This tells us a lot about the spread of AI fakes in the months ahead. However, this is only a small part of the story. The field is changing too quickly for predictions to be kept longer than frozen leftovers. The viral image was created because it represented a specific alignment of subject matter and aesthetic. It is a fake because it matches the way we consume images today.
The pope is the first. Ryan Broderick, a journalist, noted that there is something about the pope’s image that lends credibility to the fake. Broderick tweeted: “My theory about why it’s fooling such a large number of people is that the pope visually exists in the same uncanny Valley as most AI art.” You can be explicit about this: The pope is well-known for his stylish clothing, which makes images of him go viral.
Trend forecaster Ayesha SIDDIQI pointed out that there is a strong association between the bishop in Rome and Italian fashion. The Vatican was forced to deny rumors that the pope wore designer loafers. The official response was that the pope does not wear Prada but Christ. There are so many photos of Pope Francis that you can see on the internet. Others were able to pair this AI fake with real examples like the pope signing a Lamborghini. This contrast between the pope’s spiritual authority, and his material swagger is what makes him a popular meme. He tweets some really good.
Artificial intelligence art generators are especially attuned towards a hyperreal aesthetic
Not only is the fact that the pope is a celebrity making unbelievable images of him more plausible. The AI art generators create a style of image that is more realistic. This particular look is closely linked to Midjourney’s software. It received an update a few week improving its output quality. This has in turn created a mini-wave of believable AI fakes currently circulating the internet. It helps that Midjourney has a lot of photos of celebrities, which makes them easier to create.
This style is called hyperrealism. It’s used as an adjective in text prompts to create such images. Second, it links the aesthetic to Jean Baudrillard’s concept of the Hyperreal, a culture where simulations replace reality.
Hyperrealism is a style that emphasizes the beauty of artificial intelligence images. It includes perfect lighting, glossy surfaces and dramatic poses. It is stylized and exaggerated. This is the kind of image that we associate with celebrities. Their likenesses are often reproduced with such a high degree of detail and care that they often look fake. It is interesting that the AI art community refers to these images as “photorealistic”, even though they appear cartoonish. These people believe that the output of AI systems is real. It’s the simulation that replaces reality.
These factors are what I believe have accounted for the virality of certain AI images recently. This isn’t the only reason why the swag pope has gone viral. There are fake photos of Elon and AOC holding hands; of French President Emmanuel Macron running through tear gas or Donald Trump being detained. Each case is a prime example of how celebrity can make us believe the content and the celebrity of the subject. ).
This is scary and reassuring. It’s reassuring as it indicates that AI fakes are currently limited in their credibility, but frightening because the technology is changing too quickly to provide any reassurances for very long. In reality, there is only one certainty when it comes AI images. They will only become more convincing. They are not restricted to their current aesthetic. They will soon become hyperreal, as Baudrillard described it: blurring the line between real and imaginary.