By Callum Florance
Mark Twain once said: “explaining a meme is the quickest way to make it irrelevant”... and that was in like the 1800s or something. So why not do exactly that?
I released a meme through Peppercorn that added to the ‘[insert reference here] by Balenciaga’ lore, entitled Bishop & Schmidt by Balenciaga. I used Artificial Intelligence (AI) generators to make this happen, to bring ANU’s Chancellor Julie Bishop and Vice-Chancellor (soon-to-be retired) Brian Schmidt to life. Here’s the video, and my take on where AI and memes meet.
[Video] – Bishop & Schmidt by Balenciaga
For those who want to see the process, prompts, and audio feeds for Bishop & Schmidt by Balenciaga, scroll to the bottom.
‘By Balenciaga’ meme
I’ll start up top by arguing that the ‘By Balenciaga’ meme is the first (almost) entirely AI-generated meme. Jokes are great when they’re unexpected and reference something you know. So when you have an AI text generator come up with prompts, an AI image generator come up with close visual approximations of those prompts, an AI speech generator create a familiar voice that can say anything, and an AI animation generator that can make images come to life, the process itself produces so much variability that this something you know can quickly transform into something odd and adjacent to its original self – that’s what makes it hilarious.
The original and second Harry Potter ‘By Balenciaga’ memes by demonflyingfox are a testament to this thesis, slight references to the original characters with hilariously randomised changes. I hope that more AI-savvy users get on board and mess around with the process, as I’m sure there are many other well-developed, miscellaneous AI generators that could randomise things even further and produce even more shocking results.
AI as the ultimate, multi-talented assistant
I set out to create Bishop & Schmidt by Balenciaga before the meme became too weathered, before some other (almost) entirely AI-generated meme takes its place. I had heard the same argument over and over again: “AI will replace most unskilled jobs and some low-level skilled jobs”. After my experience journeying through the AI generators that are available now, I agree.
For example, contract reviews for clients are undertaken in commercial and corporate law firms and are typically done by associates, paralegals, or clerks. This involves manually trawling through, and analysing, a contract for any number of reasons. A pretty low-level skilled job, right? Well, KIRA Systems exists and can basically do that for you, provided that you engage with it correctly. Although KIRA Systems heralds itself as machine learning technology rather than AI, some argue that machine learning is a subset of AI and is the backbone of AI’s goal of replicating human consciousness through learning and mimicking. KIRA Systems will only develop and grow as lawyers become more AI-savvy and willing to engage with AI and/or machine learning technology correctly. This might take a hit for our billable hours, but it’ll make labour-intensive tasks like contract reviews more efficient for clients.
KIRA Systems is to contract review, as AI generators used in the By Balenciaga process are to the creative process. This will probably make it harder for unpaid internship-seeking creatives to enter the media and entertainment space (some of these AI generators cost less than $100 per year to do the same work more efficiently), but will hopefully open up more substantive opportunities for these masochists if they know how to use AI.
Conclusion – How to approach AI now
There’s a familiar story about typists. In the 1970s (and prior), no one needed to learn how to type unless their job was literally a ‘typist’. Someone decided to take a typing class despite not being a typist, which led to confusion from friends and family on what the point of that class was given that typing was so niche and irrelevant unless you were actually a typist. Now, typing is pretty much a given for every workplace after the information revolution post-1980s.
A few years ago they said the same for coding, that it’d be a pre-requisite for future jobs. However, the analogy to the typing revolution aligns more closely with AI because coding is language-dependent and highly technical, whilst AI software and generators rely on positive user experience being integrated into their development. AI generators might even take over the job of coding... I mean, half of the job is finding solutions on Google and GitHub, isn’t it? Why waste a qualified engineer’s time on manually typing up 10,000 lines of code when an AI text generator can search for an answer and make corrections?
If you want to have a go at learning about AI, just do a bit of research and sign-up for an AI software that aligns with one of your hobbies. It won’t do everything for you, but it’ll teach you something about delegation in the same way that you might delegate tasks to people in the workplace. You’ll still need to delineate the scope properly, you’ll still need to clarify where there’s any confusion, but managing that automated process will take a lot less effort than manually undertaking the same task yourself. This isn’t just fun, it’s also probably going to be important for the world post-university.
Good luck with your AI adventures, it was fun for me and I’m sure you will learn as much as I did!
Process, prompts, and audio feeds for Bishop & Schmidt by Balenciaga
Process: I followed PromptJungle’s video on how to make the By Balenciaga memes using different AI generators, including MidJourney, Eleven Labs, and D-ID.
Prompts: Here are the prompts used in producing the pictures you see in Bishop & Schmidt by Balenciaga:
1. 1990 screengrab of male model Brian Schmidt wearing grotesque black leather jacket with bold shoulder pads, paired with a simple white t-shirt and slim-fit jeans, fashion movie scene, Balenciaga commercial --ar 3:2 --v 4
2. 1990 screengrab of female model Julie Bishop wearing cropped oversized puffer jacket, with high-waisted pants, fashion movie scene, Balenciaga commercial --ar 3:2 --v 5
3. 1990 screengrab of male model Brian Schmidt wearing loose-fitting, distressed hooded jumper with black dress pants, fashion movie scene, Balenciaga commercial --ar 3:2 --v 5
4. 1990 screengrab of female model Julie Bishop wearing grotesque black elegant dress, accessorized with a Canberra bus stop handbag, fashion movie scene, Balenciaga commercial --ar 3:2 --v 5
5. 1990 screengrab of male model Brian Schmidt wearing white inflatable grape costume with tattooed arms, fashion movie scene, Balenciaga commercial --ar 3:2 --v 5
6. 1990 screengrab of female model Julie Bishop wearing black/white leather pontifical vestments with a belted corset, fashion movie scene, Balenciaga commercial --ar 3:2 --v 5
7. 1990 screengrab of ANU Vice-Chancellor Brian Schmidt wearing white oversized coat with rounded lapels and baggy sleeves, fashion movie scene, Balenciaga commercial --ar 3:2 --v 5
8. 1990 screengrab of female model Julie Bishop wearing stunning slim dress bejewelled with sequins and beads, accessorized with a tiny handbag, fashion movie scene, Balenciaga commercial --ar 3:2 --v 5
9. 1990 screengrab of male model Brian Schmidt wearing grotesque sleek black velvet suit with a matching tie, fashion movie scene, Balenciaga commercial --ar 3:2 --v 5
10. 1990 screengrab of female model Julie Bishop wearing oversized, crisp white shirt that says ‘Fly In, Fly Out’, accessorized with a Quokka hat, fashion movie scene, Balenciaga commercial --ar 3:2 --v 5
Audio feeds: Here are the two audio feeds I used to generate Julie and Brian's voices:
Julie Bishop [using a one-minute feed across approx. 3m30s-4m30s]
Brian Schmidt [using a one-minute feed across approx.. 4m30s-5m30s]