Meta has a new feature for their messaging apps that embeds the personality of a celebrity. This is a small step, mind you. These are fake profiles of people who don’t exist. The faces are real but everything else is a kind of archetype-persona wrap. For example, Kylie Jenner is the ‘big sis’ ‘keeping it real’ but also on the DL (fuck me). I literally don’t know what either of those things means, but I’m sure someone, deep in the neon-dark pits of Meta’s data team, does. Snoop Dog is Dungeon Master (more Dungeons and Dragons than BDSM). This shit is weird. It’s also undoubtedly backed by petabytes of data.
Even the Queen of Australian sports, Sam Kerr, has a persona. Meet Sally. And she just, like, totally loves to surf one wave at a time.
Taking life one wave at a time…..?
The revenue stream of celebrity goes hand in hand with the platforms that promote them. To the celebrity, their oxygen is the social platforms that perpetuate their infamy, and therefore their earning power. What's interesting is that these celebs are potentially scorching their own earth. If you squint you can see Meta's longterm play. They're white-labelling social influencers and celebrity. We're getting cheap-knockoff versions of Snoop for now, but you blend that long enough and you'll get 'Taine', a completely falsified individual. We'll either not be able to tell the difference or not care. They're all just 'people' on our screens.
Undoubtedly, we’re at a tipping-point. The technology isn’t the thing holding us back. We can replicate the look, the voice and, in some sense, now fake the personality.
Fake people on the internet is nothing new. However, the amalgam of technology packages it differently. These AI-driven people have certain lives they lead, pictures they take and places they go. One is a ‘proud-momma of two’, another is a man who gives out dating advice. The images are classic life-style ‘eat,love,laugh’ influencer shtick - beach-wedding, aesthetically-pleasing food, Thai yoga retreat and.. yep, private plane.
Meta says their goal is get everyone to create their own AI-bots. I feel that when they say ‘everyone’, they really mean influencers. Oh, and brands.
All the motherfuckin’ brands.
So, what’s this got to do with Meta? Well, and I’m probably wrong, but I think a lot. Meta is in the business of supplying brands with access to people. They are the bridge-troll that takes brands money so they can cross into the chasm of people’s inner-thoughts and life.
The second and third order effects of having AI-lives creates other avenues. Threads, their Twitter (I’m not calling it X), competitor is undoubtedly very interested to see how these personalities can play a role in creating content and ‘engaging’ people.
Where can it go wrong
** Scenario A: The Bots go bad**
It took just 48 hours for Microsoft’s Tay AI bot to go from Johnny-5 to robo-Nazi. The obvious danger is that the AI just starts posting wild, insane stuff. It’s almost so obvious as to not be an issue because Meta has very smart people who would see this coming a mileaway. Let’s be clear though. The danger isn’t the spreading of misinformation or just fringe ideologies, it’s the disconnect between the brand and the ai-nfluencer (does that work?). You can’t have Ford Motors pay millions to a robot that’s going to say Nazi’s are awesome.
But it’s not the obvious stuff like racism or anti-semantic remarks I’d be concerned about. The problems are more nuanced than that. If Taylor Swift bot says she’s anti-abortion, is that bad? Is that good? The nuances here are too many. A brand is defined by what it isn’t as much as what it is. Can a bot exhibit a stance on anything? Second question - what does it mean if it does, anyway? Was Microsoft’s AI Tay racist - what is Tay?
Scenario B: The bots go off-brand
The danger is that in order for the Meta AI’s to be effective, they’d need to adapt to current affairs and contemporary issues. Therein lies the danger. You can’t have Kylie Jenner reflecting on the issues in the Middle East. You can’t have Snoop Dogg aka Dungeon Master be pro-Trump. This is nuclear-levels of danger to the celebrity brands. A celebrity IS their brand. You can’t fuck with that, least you be cancelled.
The door-swings both ways - if you’re going to leverage the likeness of Kylie Jenner and Mr Beast to create a connection to their AI counter-part, then you’re also going to be on the hook for when they behave inverse to their carefully brand-managed selves.
Scenario: C People demand real. Brands go real(er)
The other danger is normal, human people don’t want anything to do with AI personalities. And why wouldn’t we? Already these celebrities live lives that aren’t relatable. Private jets, exotic holidays, expensive clothes is what many aspire to replicate. Being known is the very definition of celebrity. Adding an artificial photo to the life of an artificial person with an artificial caption isn’t appealing. It’s poser behaviour. And lame. And.. dystopian.
Everything Meta does openly is a validation test that effects billions of people. And that’s what we’re in now. This is a social company, testing technology, and hoping to use these AI personas as the vanguard for ai-fluencer brand integrations.
And this is the big thing. If Meta is able to create artificial brand people, who engage and have discussions, that represent themselves in a one-to-one style relationship but at scale, then.. I don’t know what you have exactly. Falsehood, I suppose.
Scrolling through some of these profiles, I can’t but feel that we’re better than this. I mean, the tech community as a whole. This can’t be the apex of what we’re able to achieve. It’s not, obviously, but some incredible minds contribute to this shit.