Facebook's parent company Meta is paying celebrities millions of dollars to let it turn them into silly AI chatbots — and to be honest, we're still not entirely sure why.
As The Information reports, one unnamed celebrity got as much as $5 million for a mere six hours of work to be turned into one of the AIs.
Last month, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the chatbots, which are based on the personalities of celebrities including Kendall Jenner, Tom Brady, YouTube creator James "MrBeast" Donaldson, and TikTok star Charli D'Amelio.
As of right now, they're limited to text only, but according to Meta's onstage demo, the company is looking to have these faux celebrities speak with users through video as well.
But what does Meta get for its millions of dollars of investments? Besides, who exactly are these chatbots for?
Zuckerberg, for one, is convinced of the tech, telling The Verge last month that there's a "huge need" and that "people want to interact with Kylie," referring to the "Keeping Up With the Kardashians" star, adding that "it'll be fun for consumers." (While Kylie Jenner isn't currently on Meta's list of celebrity chatbots, her sister Kendall Jenner is.)
Whether there's any truth to Zuckerberg's sentiment remains to be seen. And given the reactions so far, which have been mixed to say the least, the feature could turn out to be nothing more than a short-lived and ill-advised attempt to cash in on the current hype around AI.
For one, the marketing has been nothing less than confusing. Instead of explicitly selling these AI personalities by using their real names, Meta has given each chatbot an altered moniker, perhaps in an attempt to preempt any potential defamation lawsuits. Jenner's chatbot is called "Billie," for instance, while Brady's assistant is called "Bru."
Billie even got her own Instagram account, introducing herself in a perplexing video that may or may not have been the product of a generative AI itself.
"Chatting with me is like having an older sister you can talk to, but who can’t steal your clothes," the bot wrote in the video's caption.
The eerie clip clearly didn't hit the mark, with confused commenters calling it "so creepy" and "honestly scary."
"Is this legal?" one Instagram user wrote. "Did Kendall consent to this?"
Then there's the question of having famous people give up their likeness to train an AI at all. As Jezebel points out, the Screen Actor's Guild, which is currently on strike, has warned of studios trying to scan background performers to avoid paying them more than "one day's pay."
The union has demanded protections from developers exploiting actors by creating AI-generated works or reproducing their voices and likenesses without their explicit consent or remuneration.
As of right now, Meta's celebrity AIs are still in a limited beta, and considering the sheer amount of mayhem AI chatbots have caused over the past year or so, the company will likely tread very carefully, especially considering these celebrities' reputations are at stake.
In other words, it's presumably only a matter of time until users find ways to exploit these chatbots and skirt around Meta's guardrails. When they do, what will their celebrity sources think?
Above all, it's a perplexing attempt to shoehorn AI tech into Meta's existing products. Chances are celebs like Brady are simply looking to cash in, not unlike when he took $55 million to endorse the since-collapsed crypto exchange FTX.
In short, there's clearly some quick money to be made. But whether that'll remain the case remains to be seen, especially considering the fate of FTX and other NFT ventures that were heavily endorsed by celebrities before the market fell apart.
More on the chatbots: Losing Human Users, Facebook Releasing Chatbots for Lonely to Talk To
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