The New “Black Mirror” Season is Not Just Fiction: Celebrities Are Selling Their Digital Replicas

The new, sixth season of Netflix's dystopian TV show “Black Mirror” was released about ten days ago, to the great satisfaction of the audience. However, initial enthusiasm quickly died down when viewers realized that the new technology announced in the series already exists in the real world.
Is artificial intelligence evolving so fast that it has surpassed the visionaries who created the new season of this TV show?

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black mirror

Illustration: Lenka T.

Disclaimer: This article contains spoilers. If you haven’t seen the series yet, save this article for later. 

Netflix has released all five episodes of the sixth season of Black Mirror on June 15. The season opened with an episode titled “Joan is Awful”, which depicts the heroine of the same name whose life has been turned into a television series in detail thanks to artificial intelligence, more precisely deepfake technology

The use of technology in the first episode of the new season   

The technology enabled the fictional streaming platform to, at the end of each day, distribute an adaptation of the life of the protagonist Joan by monitoring and listening to all her activities through the devices she uses and that surround her. The problem arises when Joan realizes that the process is completely legal, that is, that she herself gave consent for tracking by clicking on the “Accept and Close” pop-up at some point. 

Her AI clone is portrayed in this episode by renowned actress Selma Hayek, who soon becomes enraged by the way her virtual replica, or digital twin, is used. But she also faces the harsh fact that she has agreed to it on her own, and that there is nothing she can do about it, regardless of all her fame and power. 

While earlier seasons of this series were perceived as visionary and futuristic, scary but at the same time unimaginable in the real world, season 6 had a slightly different effect on audiences. 

Has the future announced in Black Mirror already begun?   

The new technology that this series talked about in earlier episodes has always been based on true technological advances and events, but it has been applied in such an advanced way, and widely accepted, that it seemed as if humanity was still very far from that scenario, and therefore safe. 

However, the first episode of the new season flirts with the idea of digital twins – a technology widely used in developed Asian countries such as South Korea and Japan. 

Not only that, it’s no secret that celebrities have already started selling their AI clones, and that their agents are focusing on getting informed about the legal consequences and precisely defining contracts, in order to determine the limits in which situations an AI clone can be used, how revenue is distributed, and more. 

In one of the earlier texts , we explained how the famous actor Tom Hanks sees the application of this technology in the entertainment industry and why he thinks it could extend the careers of actors worldwide. 

How many AI clones are currently represented? 

Now, many celebrities decide to learn more about the possibilities of this technology in order, on the one hand, to unlock a new stream of income, and on the other hand, explore the possibilities of the entertainment industry and engage in that transformation in time. 

Many of them want to be pioneers in this field, but also to establish better control over the representation of their own character in the media. 

If we completely trivialize this situation, it can be said that deepfake technology can allow them to be in (at least) two places at the same time, which further means that they will be able to make two films at the same time or perform simultaneously at two concerts. 

That said, it is clear why this idea sounds tempting to many. 

So far, we have already witnessed the successful application of this technology, so, for example, footballer Neymar attended Fashion Week as a 3D avatar, while the AI clone of supermodel Eva Herzigoca walked the virtual runway. 

On the other hand, individuals or companies will use digital replicas of celebrities either way, since the technology is so affordable and easy to use, although they are not entitled to it. However, the regulation still does not define precisely how such abuses can be handled. 

That’s why celebrities have decided to take matters into their own hands and make sure they’re the ones making money from their own character, not third parties. 

Applications and possible consequences 

Another potential of artificial intelligence in the media industry will allow content to be tailored to the individual user, and the scenario in which there is a TV show curated especially for us may not be so unrealistic. 

In theory, deepfake technology can allow the user to choose the actors they want, as well as influence the course of the plot, so in the near future we can really expect the film industry to move in this direction. 

In addition, the application of these AI clones will be possible in other industries, most notably in the context of sales and establishing a closer and more personalized relationship with consumers. 

However, the question is whether the effect of this technology will still be so fascinating if it is present at every turn.  

A journalist by day and a podcaster by night. She's not writing to impress but to be understood.

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