Fashion pope was AI getting the better of us

The recent deepfake photo of Pope Francis raises questions about the future of artificial intelligence and what's real.

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The Future. The photo of Pope Francis wearing a swagged-out white puffer jacket that went viral over the weekend was actually created using Midjourney. Yep, the internet was fooled by AI, and it won’t be the last time. As the tech improves, we may run out of visible-to-the-naked-eye ways of knowing an image is fake… and that could have much deeper repercussions than getting duped by the pope in a puffy jacket.

Deepfaked drip
No, the pope isn’t really out there in all that swag.

  • The Verge breaks down some tell-tale signs in the image: a wonky crucifix, a hand not actually holding a coffee cup, and glasses that look like they’re out of a Dalí painting.
  • Also, internet sleuths discovered that the photo was posted on the Midjourney subreddit with alternative outputs.

Once the photo was debunked after going viral on Twitter and other social platforms, Chrissy Teigen probably summed up our collective gasp at the AI unrobing best: “I thought the pope’s puffer jacket was real and didn’t give it a second thought. No way am I surviving the future of technology.”

Not so Gucci
So, as you’re all wondering: how could this happen? The Verge has a few theories.

  • Since the pope is a celebrity, Midjourney has had plenty of photos to train and draw on.
  • The pope is kind of known for wearing things that could come from a fashion house (he doesn’t, according to The Vatican).
  • Midjourney is good at generating “hyperreal” images — dramatic poses, saturated colors, and a faux sense of being photorealistic.

When you mix all those factors with a mindless scroll through Twitter on a lazy Saturday afternoon, it’s easy to see how we can be fooled.

David Vendrell

Born and raised a stone’s-throw away from the Everglades, David left the Florida swamp for the California desert. Over-caffeinated, he stares at his computer too long either writing the TFP newsletter or screenplays. He is repped by Anonymous Content.


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