With all the buzzwords circulating about digital worlds superimposed on ours, metaverses where we will be able to buy digital goods that mirror our own, and personal avatars that express our own personalities… we are well on our way to this digital utopia in the sky. The thing is, the idea of digital characters isn’t new; it is the fact that society sees them more than ever as extensions of themselves.
Gorillaz, in addition to being an incredible band that still, and I will say, always stand up to everything on the streaming service of choice, have truly pioneered their look-alikes on all media in the band. Daft Punk, shortly before them, became a robot phenomenon without their fans ever knowing what they really looked like. The music industry, in many ways, introduced us to the idea of the virtual influencer long before technology could create Lil Miquela.
Stick with me here, because I truly believe we live in a time when mainstream media is going to be inundated with digital likeness. What was arguably perfected by Daft Punk and the Gorillaz soon swept the music industry. DJs Deadmau5 and Marshmello followed in their trademark visual footsteps. As technology made CG animation more accessible to a larger group of artists, we began to see digital avatars take the place of musicians. Riot Music’s K-pop group K/DA is the shining example of a supergroup united under the banner of digital avatars. Technology, it seems, has been the catalyst for the spread of virtual characters in the media.
Take a look now at the film industry. High-end visual effects companies have tried for years to use CG de-aging techniques to bring older actors back to their prime, with varying success. But it’s still an example of a virtual character, even if it’s just a stab at a younger version of themselves. The AI technology behind deepfakes is where it gets really interesting, and potentially concerning, if not a game changer in how society views the future digital utopia we’ve all been waiting for. Our ability to bring people back from the dead, through recreated visuals and sounds, signals a future where we as a society have no idea who is real and who is a digital creation of AI. of a character.
And it all comes down to this: Does it really matter? If the music industry has taught us anything with the foundations laid by Gorillaz and Daft Punk, it’s that the talent and creativity behind the character is what’s important. Just enjoy navigating the metaverse knowing that what you’re looking at may or may not be a real human being. If you enjoy the content, there’s no guilt in being entertained.