The concept of influencers has taken a fascinating leap into the realm of artificial intelligence and this new wave of influencers brings forth a unique set of possibilities and challenges. Virtual influencers, shaped by human creators (for now!), stand as digital reflections of our society, embodying both its virtues and vices. In this era where the digital and physical worlds intertwine, AI influencers emerge as a paradoxical blend of accessibility and complexity, promising unprecedented opportunities for connection and impact. However, as we delve into the realm of virtual personas, it becomes imperative to navigate the ethical considerations and potential pitfalls that accompany this groundbreaking technology.
Social media reflects the world: the good and the bad.
“This is true for influencers too, both real and virtual. For now, behind every virtual influencer are human beings who know how to create them, and therefore they will be created in our image, with all our biases.”
The Good: Accessible and better for mental health
“AI influencers do signify an interesting turning point. Being digitally programmed, they can be the most accessible version of influence we’ve seen to date. They can speak any language we want, create content quickly, stay constant and be fully adaptable. Research has also shown that human beings find it easier to open up more to a virtual person than a real one- think ‘confession box’, a safe space to be honest with no judgement. It has the possibility to support our mental health and wellbeing needs in ways humans can’t.”
The Bad: Unrealistic standards and creators not reflecting the character
“There are many negatives to the use of virtual influencers. Most virtual influencers are human form, and the majority are female, based on unrealistic beauty standards – they blow our fight against unrealistic body standards out of the water. A virtual woman will never age, never change, and they’re often overly sexualised. But for me, one of the most concerning things are the people behind them. We get into dangerous territory when characters are made through the lens of people who don’t live the experience of the character they’ve made. White people creating black people. Men making women through the male gaze. These are murky and dangerous waters, especially as we’re already grappling with the challenges around bias we face with wider spread uses of AI.”
What is means for brands
“That’s why brands, media platforms and creators of this technology need to be super aware of the effects and ethics of virtual influencers. Weigh out the pros and cons and truly understand how it affects real people and ask yourselves who wins and who loses when we make this character? We must consider the full diversity of the team behind AI influencers, as we build them to increase the chances of them representing reality, otherwise we’ll be forced to go back and fix a problem that is too far gone.”