When you think of the world’s greatest living fashionistas, who springs to mind? Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, maybe even one of the many Kardashians on offer? Of course not – like me, your mind inevitably goes to the good Lord’s representative here on earth, Pope Francis, who set the internet alight this weekend when an image surfaced of him wearing an impressively large white puffer jacket…

You might think that a bright white oversized puffer jacket is a look more suited to the man who has most recently taken on acting duties for the role of the great Catholic leader, Jude Law, rather than for the anointed man himself.

And you’d be right: after surfacing on Reddit before making its way to Twitter, the image was quickly called out by the eagle-eyed as an AI-generated image from Midjourney, an artificial intelligence tool that creates highly realistic fake images.

However, this didn’t stop swathes of people from taking the image at face value. For the most part, people revelled in the Pope’s cutting-edge new look:

Chrissy Teigen spoke for many when she tweeted: “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.” Far-right influencer Ian Miles Cheong tweeted, “The Pope is a fashion icon. Respect the drip.”

Keyon Elkins, YouTube vlogger, was more mixed in his reaction, saying that he had been “gagging” over the image all day: “The picture of the Pope in a puffer trench coat is AI????? I’ve been gagging all day and it’s not even real???”

Trump has become a favourite of the AI generators… Image: PetaPixel

This is not the first time Midjourney has been used to create convincing fake images. It has been used to generate photo-realistic images of former President Donald Trump getting arrested, and Trump even shared an AI-generated image of himself praying.

One of the easiest ways to spot an AI-generated image is to look at the hands. Midjourney has difficulty generating hands and the fake image of the Pope is no exception. However, this may not be the case forever, as AI technology continues to improve.

While Photoshop requires a certain level of skill to create a convincing fake, anyone can now use AI tools like Midjourney to generate fake images simply by typing in a text prompt.

With the 2024 US presidential election just over the horizon, there are concerns that these AI-generated images could be used to spread disinformation and misinformation. Moreover, if AI-generated images do become a focal point of the US election, it will only be a matter of time before they become a talking point in Aussie politics too.

The AI puffer in question… we’re quite fond of it. Image: @skyferrori

These serious concerns aside, it speaks volumes that so many people were so enthusiastic about the Pope’s new look, even if they were easily duped.

It might be true, as one Twitter user says, that “the fact people find a picture of the Pope in a long puffy jacket thrilling is a good indicator AI is going to have a really easy time destroying humanity”, but that doesn’t mean that Pope Francis shouldn’t be taking notes on how well that puffer silhouette worked for him…


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