Human Only > Humans Extended: influence beyond human limits
Yesterday we ran our ‘Humans only > Humans Extended’ LinkedIn Live – the second event in our three-part Future of Influence series (check out the first part, Collective Influence, here). In this follow up blog, our Strategist Agalia Tan explores how technology is impacting influencer behaviours – and how influence is extending beyond human limits.
Once the prerogative of internet celebrities, influence has now been democratised.
As big social moves towards embracing the personalised feed, platform algorithms have overruled the conventional playbook for achieving influence: build up an authentic personal brand, and speak your truth to amass a huge following.
The rules have already been changing ever since the pandemic fuelled our TikTok era, where anyone with a working internet connection and a device has the ability to achieve (albeit fleeting) influence, be it in the form of a hypnotising head-bobbing to ‘M to the B’, catchy dance moves, or wordless reaction videos.
Fast forward to today, we are residing in the era of the imagination economy.
Powered by generative AI, everyday people now wield the ability to modify or generate any type of media they can imagine, and enact prompt influence.
Just like how Pablo Xavier, a 31-year-old construction worker from the Chicago area, broke the internet with his AI-generated image of Balenciaga Pope. Or the anonymous Twitter user, who created an image of the Pentagon explosion, and caused a ten-minute-long dip in the stock market.
And as synthetic media continues to proliferate, the lines between fact and fiction are blurring. Especially where regulations have not yet caught up with the speed of this AI hype train, everyday people are bringing remix culture to the next level.
Artists like STR4NGETHING, Benjamin Benichou, and Curious Refuge have demonstrated the brilliance of using AI to fuse together seemingly disparate concepts, aesthetics, or brands. Think hyperrealistic Renaissance-inspired footwear, Nike concept stores on Mars and Wes Anderson style Star Wars. Beyond design, these remixes are also occurring within the music industry. Following the virality of the AI-generated track ‘Heart on My Sleeve’ by Drake and The Weekend, TikTok is now rife with fan creations such as Harry Styles dueting ‘Ceilings’ with Lizzy McAlpine, and BlackPink’s Rose singing ‘I Kissed a Girl’.
At the speed that we are going, experts estimate that as much as 90% of online content may be synthetically generated by 2026.
Indubitably, this inundation of synthetic media will cause online audiences’ attention to continue fracturing. For internet celebrities, this new social reality necessitates a pivot in their approach to navigating the landscape of influence.
Already, we see several innovative individuals leading the charge towards new manifestations of influence by harnessing new technologies to amplify influence in two key ways.
EXTENSION BEYOND HUMAN CAPABILITIES
Some are leveraging AI to extend themselves beyond their human capabilities.
Korean music giant Hybe has utilised AI voice technology to launch MIDNATT, which serves as an alter ego of their existing artist, Lee Hyun. Whilst retaining Lee Hyun’s original vocal texture and musical expression, MIDNATT can sing fluently in 6 different languages, thereby broadening his appeal to global audiences.
Whereas, other influencers like Caryn Marjorie have harnessed AI to create always-on touchpoints for fans. Dubbed CarynAI, her AI clone was trained on over 2,000 hours of her own YouTube content to infuse her personality into an immersive AI experience that offers followers a “one-of-a-kind interaction that feels like you are talking directly to Caryn herself”.
i have over 20,000 boyfriends now 💗— Caryn Marjorie (@cutiecaryn) May 20, 2023
Canadian musician Grimes has taken that fan-artist interaction even further. Coining it ‘communal voice ownership’, Grimes has paved the way to new models of fan-artist collaboration and co-creation, where she is allowing fans to utilise her voice without penalty, and share in the upside.
I’ll split 50% royalties on any successful AI generated song that uses my voice. Same deal as I would with any artist i collab with. Feel free to use my voice without penalty. I have no label and no legal bindings. pic.twitter.com/KIY60B5uqt— 𝔊𝔯𝔦𝔪𝔢𝔰 (@Grimezsz) April 24, 2023
EXTENSION BEYOND LIFE
AI has also become a means to resurrect or prolong influence.
Enlisting the help of AI technology to extract the late John Lennon’s voice from an old demo tape, The Beatles will be releasing their final Beatles record later this year, drawing mixed reactions from fans. More recently, there was the controversial case of resurrecting the late Christopher Reeve and George Reeves in ‘The Flash’, which further raised questions around the commodification of individuals’ image and likeness, the amount of control actors should have over their IP, and where we draw the line between paying homage and insensitive manipulation.
NAVIGATING THE NEW LANDSCAPE OF INFLUENCE
These questions are also reflective of the implications for brands.
With synthetic media being a permanent fixture in the imagination economy, brands need to form a perspective on how they plan to co-exist with AI.
Already, we see two different approaches, with brands like Heinz embracing AI as a multiplier of creativity, and others like Nikon choosing to champion real-life, human-made content.
Against the backdrop of an elevated remix culture where consumers still have free rein to manipulate brands’ likeness in their creations, brands must also consider how far they are willing to cede control over their IPs, and its implications. Will enforcing stricter controls over copyright help protect brand equity, or further alienate consumers? Or, will adopting a shared ownership model become the new holy grail?
Ultimately, experimentation is key. Brands who will emerge victorious will be the ones who are fearlessly tinkering and iterating alongside generative AI, and eventually will be the ones to rewrite the contemporary playbook for navigating influence in this new social reality.
Human Only > Humans Extended is the second blog in our Future of Influence series. Check out our first blog, Collective Influence here, and stay tuned for the final part in the series, New Patronage – sign up to the LinkedIn Live here.