Life imitating art imitating life imitating

People are gross

Miss AI - where traditional beauty pageantry is crossing the world of AI creators. Contestants will be judged on their beauty, tech, and clout for the chance to earn the Miss AI crown.

(Courtesy of Matt Muir, Webcurios. THANKS, MATT.)

Here’s coverage elsewhere. I’m avoiding clicks, because, honestly, the whole thing is such shameless clickbait. But here I am, contributing to The Discourse.

This is - to save you the click - the first ‘Miss AI’ contest, with an open invitation for one-handed MidJourney users to send in their horniest Canadian girlfriends. It is run by Fanvue, which is like ‘OnlyFans, but for people don’t want their porn experience diminished by any lingering suspicions of human autonomy’.

I suppose the one thing that isn’t surprising is that this exists. (I’m actually surprised it has taken so long. To the point that I suspect that ‘first AI pageant’ is what we call a ‘PR fact’ and not ‘true’.) But, whatever, this one is all over the press, and if I can’t unsee it, you’re stuck with it too.

I’m not even going to get into the plethora of fundamental issues involved, but they include ‘AI’ models being created from stolen photos of real human beings, AI standards of beauty are racist af, AI models are disempowering members of an (already predatory) industry, and how influencer culture was already reinforcing untenable, harmful standards of beauty even when you were ‘just’ asking people to compare themselves to other, actual humans.

Any one of those issues would be enough to bin this idea, but I suppose it is too much to expect basic human decency to triumph in the face of ‘wanking to breasty screensavers’.

Because you’ve got to look at the bright side, here are some of the funnier bits:

  • The FAQ reassures entrants that they ‘recognise and appreciate that so much time and creativity is put into the generation of AI models. You can rest assured that your intellectual property rights will be respected.’ The irony. Don’t worry, they actually clarify that they don’t care what software or tools that you use, and, although they don’t want you to nick from other AI models, they don’t care if the software you uses nicks from actual humans.

  • Despite the above… the terms & conditions for IP really suck. If you are a winner or runner-up then “you agree for your AI Model’s imagery and social channels to be used in marketing materials across Press/PR, paid, social and online indefinitely”. I’m afraid that Marianella Megabobbles (true gamer / love slave / DM for follow back) will no longer be your monogomous AI girlfriend. All her bases will belong to Fanvue.

  • After decades of pageants trying to reset the narrative that they are more than beauty parades and influencers trying to demonstrate some pretense at social value, WAICA is very clear that they’re judging solely on fappability and clicks.

  • Two of the four judges are AI models. It isn’t sexist to sexbots because the sexbots are involved!

  • That said, one of the two other ostensible humans bills himself as ‘Lord Sugar’s PR advisor’, which is somehow even less impressive than being ‘Barcelona’s digital muse / virtual soul’.

  • There aren’t actually any sponsors beyond Fanvue. At first glimpse, there’s a row of kinda respectable logos including the Telegraph and the New York Post (I said ‘kinda’) but none of those brands actually have anything to do with the competition.

  • I’m going to pretend the Telegraph are sponsoring it anyway.

It is a cliche to say at this point, but the problem with doing a book on cyberpunk is that the real world really does manage to outpace it at every turn.

other stuff

This was the most stressful piece I’ve ever written. Every week, Jonathan Gibb asks a guest to choose and introduce a dozen of their favourite short stories. Think ‘Desert Island Discs’, but with short fiction. I absolutely lowered the tone - and possibly added the first comic book in the project’s seven year history? - and it was immensely fun. I spent DAYS fretting over this, and Anne was about ready to yeet me into the sun by the time I had made my final selections.

As comprehensive a collection of cyberpunk science fiction as has ever been assembled, equal parts showcase and textbook. Whether you’ve been rocking out to the genre for decades or have just begun to dive in, looking to reconnect with old favorites or discover something new, this anthology is a must own.

That was nice!

real art is barf

Ganzeer writes about his ‘vomitbooks’ and his habit of doodling. (Well, to him they’re doodles, for the rest of us mere mortals, it is gorgeous art that I could never achieve in this lifetime or the next.) He talks about the practice has led him to ‘develop something of a nonchalant fearlessness in approach. Less stress about planning every little thing to death, and instead just allowing the chips to fall where they may, to relish in the flow state of making.’

Critically, he also talks about how developing the habit was difficult. This is a window of honesty I’m not sure we always see in creators’ ‘process’ updates. I find it inspiring to read the occasional reminder that even the greats had to work at it.

I used to maintain a decent vomitbooking habit of my own, for work at least, for about five years. Like Ganzeer, I used unbranded, unobtrusive notebooks (thanks, MUJI - RIP?). It wasn’t a monthly thing: I simply dated and filed them whenever I was done. They’re currently in a big pile of paper, more or less camouflaged by all the other piles of paper around the house.

I regret not keeping up with the practice, as the books have proven useful over time - both in the creative act of vomiting (not a phrase I’ve written before), and in having an occasional reference. I’ve used his post as inspiration, and bought some more notebooks. I’ve barfed my way through a fair number of pages already, and am - hopefully - retraining myself. We’ll see.

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