At the weekend, a photo caused a stir on social media, which at first glance increased the coolness factor of the Catholic Church many times over – but on closer inspection it turned out (of course) to be a fake. It shows Pope Francis in a white down jacket, a mash-up of photos of the pontiff and the British boy band East 17. A good reference to the 1990s, with which the head of the church would have presented himself at the cutting edge of fashion and pop culture. The meme was created with the AI program Midjourney, which finds what it is looking for on the Internet with a text command.
Carrie Fisher Peter Cushing reunited in Star Wars
In the cinema, such “deepfakes” have long been normal, they are called computer generated images (CGI). Twenty years ago, the idea that digital effects could one day be used to produce “new” films starring Humphrey Bogart and Marilyn Monroe was still considered sacrilegious among cinephiles. But at least since 2016’s “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” reunited the young Carrie Fisher and (then long dead) Peter Cushing from the first trilogy and moved fans to tears, such mash-ups are no longer worth the excitement. In “Gemini” by Ang Lee, Will Smith fights against his thirty-year-old alter ego, for “The Irishman” Martin Scorsese rejuvenated his stars Robert de Niro and Joe Pesci for a lot of money back to the “Goodfellas” era.
The animation studios of Hollywood have meanwhile also discovered the phenomenon of the uncanny valley (the resemblance between the original and the fake is just good enough to make the effect seem rather spooky). And so the question arises as to whether AI will eventually make the legions of expensive CGI experts superfluous. A new genre of digital fan fiction has already sprung up online, collaging young Jerry Seinfeld into pulp fiction (complete with sitcom cans of laughter) or wrinkle-free Brad Pitt slipping into the role of Jason Bourne.
At the moment this is still a fun pastime, but it shows the technical possibilities in a time when “reality” is, among other things, a question of computer power. AI will not only change the world of work, but also storytelling. If the algorithms were to succeed in authentically sampling emotions, the history of the film (as can already be observed in pop music today) would be freely available and combinable. The definition of “intellectual property” would no longer be limited.
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I have been working in the news industry for over 10 years now and I have worked for some of the biggest news websites in the world. My focus has always been on entertainment news, but I also cover a range of other topics. I am currently an author at Global happenings and I love writing about all things pop-culture related.