A photo of Pope Francis went viral over the weekend when an image of him stepping out in public in a stylish, puffer-coat version of white papal wear made its way around the internet, inspiring jokes for some and complete shock for others.
The image was fake.
What would be the name of the Pope Francis lifestyle brand? pic.twitter.com/PQf8ogP3PD
— Don Moynihan (@donmoyn) March 25, 2023
According to Insider, the image was created with the “generative AI” program Midjourney, a platform where you can enter text and receive often highly detailed, sometimes uber-realistic images in return.
In a Reddit thread, r/midjourney, people submit images that were created using the program, from a Rembrandt with cellphones to Severus Snape from the Harry Potter universe playing at the 1969 music festival Woodstock.
On Friday, a user posted a series of photos of Pope Francis in a white jacket, one of which went viral on Twitter. The image even fooled Chrissy Teigen.
I thought the pope’s puffer jacket was real and didnt give it a second thought. no way am I surviving the future of technology
— chrissy teigen (@chrissyteigen) March 26, 2023
“It went so viral, not just because it was funny to some people, but because most people couldn’t tell it was fake,” Sinéad Bovell, founder of media and technology company WAYE told CNN.
She suggested that social media platforms might have features in the future that would mark these types of images as AI-generated.
— Weird Ai Generations (@weirddalle) January 22, 2023
It is possible these photos are only going to get more popular as other generative AI programs that work similarly, such as DALL-E, from the same company behind ChatGPT, OpenAI, hit the mainstream.
Lensa AI was another program that used generative AI to iterate on inputted images that found itself in the headlines in late 2022. Users were seemingly wowed by the realistic, digital portraits that depicted users as woodland fairies or in space.
Still, there could be implications beyond what the Pope’s lifestyle brand would be called. We’re hovering on the edge of a world where “we can’t distinguish what’s real and what’s not,” Bovell told CNN.