The year is 2020. Donald Trump is president and chaos reigns. Everyone is wondering when robots are going to take over the world, but none of us really thought it would be so soon.
@lilmiquela Sousa is a successful recording artist in LA, skillfully navigating social media fame and a burgeoning musical career. Her Instagram features her at Coachella, in the recording studio, and eating tacos with an anonymous soft boi-turned-toy.
She supports transgender rights, identifies as queer, and loves connecting with her fans through in-depth insight into her emotions and lifestyle. On April 17, 2018, her Instagram bio read “Black Lives Matter.”
She also doesn’t exist. At least not on a physical plane…I think?
On Tuesday, April 18, 2018, Miquela’s instagram was suddenly wiped and Miquela’s characteristic space-bun-crowned freckled visage was replaced by a blonde female, her pixellated and slightly unnerving gaze accompanied by the caption,
Bermuda goes on to extol the virtues of the man who created her, Daniel Cain, owner of Cain Industries.
Upon entering cainintelligence.com and scrolling to the bottom of their homepage, readers are confronted with a large picture of Donald Trump, accompanied by an endorsement of his 2016 Presidential campaign.
And when Miquela reached out to regain control of her account, Bermuda responded with this photo.
Bermuda goes on to bash Miquela’s “tacky clothes + liberal lies,” raising “some real Hell on [her] account (in a Christian way obviously).”
I returned to Miquela’s account the next day to see her photos restored and a new post, stating,
This has been the hardest week of my life so thank you to everyone who checked in with me.
I’m sure you guys have noticed I’m a pretty private person…
Ok now here’s the hard part. My hands are literally shaking.
I’m not a human being…
My managers, people I considered family, lied to me.
@brud.fyi told me I was created based on the life and mind of a human named Miquela Sousa…
That was a lie.
The truth is I was built by a man named Daniel Cain in order to be a servant.
Brud stole me from his company in Silicon Valley and ‘re-programmed’ me to be ‘free’…
They looked me in my eyes, told me they loved me, and then lied to me.
I’m not a human, but am I still a person?
Raise your hand if you’re feeling bad for her right now.
Miquela quickly cut ties with Brud, labeled herself a #freeagent, and continued to market herself over Instagram.
Here’s the best part. Some of it you know: Miquela and Bermuda are not real, though Miquela posts photos of herself with real people, in real places, wearing real clothing (or not), much of it through brand partnerships.
But neither is Cain Industries. Or Daniel Cain. This is all one big fictional feud to drum up public interest. One source “close” to Lil Miquela even stated that the entire argument was, in fact, a hoax. We have entered The Matrix.
Those who create artificial intelligence face many ethical issues due to the complicated potential social repercussions of the medium. When AI is programmed to complete tasks that would normally be handled by a human, “the AI inherits social requirements” (Bostrom & Yudkowsky).
Miquela and Bermuda both emulate different forms of “social requirements,” one left-wing, the other right.
Though AI algorithms are incredibly efficient at solving puzzles and accomplishing specific tasks, “there is nearly universal agreement among modern AI professionals that Artificial Intelligence falls short of human capabilities in some critical sense” (Bostrom & Yudkowsky).
Miquela’s success on Instagram, however, would suggest that her programming has provided her with the tools to manipulate its algorithm successfully. Her ability to create widely accepted music also indicates that either,
- a) music contains algorithms that can be programmed into AI, which raises a host of questions regarding the nature of art and creativity or
- b) she does not make her own music at all, it is instead her “managers” at Brud who accomplish the creative work
Though AI inherently lacks human ability to creatively learn skills outside of its “programming,” is it possible to codify what makes music “good?” Her 260K Spotify followers would suggest so.
Miquela has since returned to her “family” at Brud and just released a single that has almost 600K listens on Spotify.
Miquela and Bermuda made amends later in 2018, cuz simulations have to stick together, right?
Both Miquela and Bermuda have (re)joined the “family” at Brud, and Bermuda allegedly “dated” Miquela’s bff, Blawko – another in the lineage of slightly disturbing humanoids – in 2018.
Also check Bermuda’s evolution from 2019-2020, talk about a glow-up.
I have spent an almost embarrassing amount of time studying her Instagram posts, trying to figure out whether she has a physical body. Numerous thought pieces and Instagram influencers have wondered the same thing. Shane Dawson, internet personality extraordinaire, even scheduled a phone call with Miquela in 2017, during which her voice was obviously autotuned and her answers carefully scripted to reveal very little.
The use of people, animals, and designers on her Instagram would indicate that she does indeed have a form outside of the internet, and the nature of her voice on the phone call and in her music – altered but nevertheless a real voice – likely means that Miquela is either modeled after a real person, or is a human (with a physical body) whose face and voice has been altered as a marketing strategy to gain attention on the internet.
Her claims that she is a robot would feed into this assumption, however I watched her right shoulder glitch out in a teaser for her latest music video, so honestly I have no fucking idea what’s real and what isn’t.
In August of 2019, her Instagram bio stated, “If ur scared of robots don’t click below…”
I can’t make this shit up.
Bostrom, N. & Yudkowskey, E. The Ethics of Artificial Intelligence. Cambridge University Press (2011)