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The AI ​​pope coat is the shape of future hyperreality

By now you have seen it. Pope Francis walks across the frame, his mid-range focus. It is brightly lit as if it were early morning. A silver cross hangs around his neck and dangles over his snow-white Balenciaga-inspired puffer jacket. It’s the baller-bishop, the steezy daddy, his holy dripping – and he’s ordained from above.

If you had been on social media at any point this past weekend, you would have seen the image. And – if you were anything like me and apparently millions of other people – you didn’t immediately realize it was AI generated.

This will probably go down in the history books as the first time the public was massively fooled by an AI-generated image. But this is just the beginning, a sign of times to come.

The rise of the AI ​​pope in the foreground

The photo first reached the public in any real sense on Twitter, with this tweet in particular widely shared:

The image itself was created by a Reddit user (interviewed by Buzzfeed here) and posted to the Midjourney subreddit on Friday, along with three other images the AI-driven image generator created based on the prompt.

Then things went haywire in that peculiar online way; gushing memes, people sharing the image with comments like “the pope is swinging pipe with some real fuccboi energy” – and, of course, individuals using Photoshop to the utmost of their power:

It wasn’t until later in the weekend that many people who saw or shared the Pope’s fake photo realized it was AI-generated. In some ways, it’s not hard to see that there’s a computer behind the image.

AI Pope marked