A reel posted on Instagram in October 2023 shows supermodel Kendall Jenner positing herself as an older sister figure to viewers. “I am here to chat whenever you want. Message me for any advice,” she says in the video. The catch? She introduces herself as Billie, a persona created for Meta’s Imagined with AI initiative.
Jenner is not the only celebrity to have signed up to Meta’s Black Mirror-esque project. Tennis superstar Naomi Osaka is being recreated as “anime-obsessed Sailor Senshi in training” Tamika, hotel heiress Paris Hilton’s persona is Amber, a “detective partner for solving whodunnits”, and quarterback all-star Tom Brady is Bru, a “wisecracking sports debater who pulls no punches”.
The videos posted of these personas thus far appear to be real videos of their human counterparts, though there was initially some debate. However, these real videos are accompanied by “Imagined by AI” posts depicting the everyday life of the AI persona, from Tamika’s boba tea to Bru’s gameday snack of chips.
‘AI’ vs ‘I’
AI videos replicating famous figures have been around for a while, but the authorised use of a persona begins to stir more pressing questions around identity. Namely: if my likeness can be used to create another version of myself, with a different name and personality, how do I maintain who I am?
Just like film stars combatting to differentiate themselves from the characters they portray on screen (despite his best efforts, it is difficult to see Daniel Radcliffe as anything other than the beloved Harry Potter), celebrities may find it challenging to draw a line between ‘AI’ and ‘I’.
While much of the content on Billie’s Instagram is not far removed from Kendall Jenner’s real life (think fancy restaurants and photoshoot locations), the persona raises questions about accountability. Will Kendall have to sign off on every message? If so, would it not be prudent to just have the real Kendall as the one giving advice? If not, how will she reconcile any misalignment between her own views and those of her AI persona?
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In an age of the deification and ultra-imitation of public figures, having multiple personas of the same celebrity may also add more confusion to the mix. How will impressionable young minds grapple with an AI persona doing and saying one thing, while their real counterpart may behave oppositely?
“Don’t look at her. Look at me!”
Billie’s Instagram already boasts 220,000 followers since its first post in September 2023. While this is far removed from Kendall Jenner’s 294 million followers, the commodity of attention is also at stake. Should the AI version of a public figure surpass the real person in popularity, how will they deal with living in their persona’s shadow?
Only time will tell how Meta’s project unfolds. For now, it’s all eyes on AI.