Every day, the world of culture suffers a blow because of artificial intelligence (AI). First in music and visual arts, where software is improving its performance. And we are still in its childhood.
Algorithms bring hope, but, for the moment, it is only a question of creators being scorned, plagiarized, discarded by the machines, and of a public deceived on the goods – it thinks it hears Elvis Presley in an unpublished song when it is only a digital avatar.
In this debate, creations based on AI are still little studied. As little as the society they outline. The American company Levi Strauss & Co gives us the opportunity to do so. The clothing manufacturer, famous for its blue jeans, is about to launch a large advertising campaign with models generated by this technique. The company has partnered with Lalaland.ai, a leading Dutch studio.
Levi’s justifications are instructive. According to the company, the consumer will first have “a more personal shopping experience.” This means it will be able to confront people like him or her. Fake people, but real ones, in the sense that they will be more like the consumer than heroes on glossy paper. No dream body, no Brad Pitt.
The photo unveiled to launch the campaign is the portrait of a young woman, in her twenties, with long unrestrained hair, wearing a white T-shirt and a denim dress, looking at the camera, and appearing more absent than inhabited. The line between the chin and the neck is unclear and the face is smooth, without any particular character. Oh yes, she is Black, but not too much.
No ego to deal with
This is Levi’s second justification for his choice of artificial intelligence: “Increase the number and diversity of our models” in order to be more “inclusive.”
Levi’s intends to do good for its customers, whom it calls “communities,” as they will find something to identify with among the multiple combinations of “body types, ages, sizes, races and ethnicities.” But the company also intends, and this is unprecedented in the discourse, to do good to our contemporary society by highlighting all sorts of pixelated minorities.
Inflating one’s catalog of models responds to a commercial logic that we can understand, especially since the company will continue to work with flesh and blood models. But to put forward ethical reasons for the use of AI is exaggerated. Levi’s said in 2020 that Black people “deserve better” than their current visibility. Well, if the company wants to help, they can just pay real Black people to put on a pair of jeans and pose for a photographer. Real life is where inclusion is judged, not in the metaverse.
You have 52.4% of this article left to read. The rest is for subscribers only.