If there’s one thing that’s dominating news headlines today, it’s the interference of AI in the creative sector. The growth of AI has fast become a source of controversy as we see more software programs like ChatGPT seeping into our personal lives. But, Nigerian filmmaker and AI artist Malik Afegbua is not threatened by this AI invasion, and instead sees this as an opportunity to excel.

Caption: BBC News

There is no doubt that AI plays a huge role in shaping every minuscule thing around us. In fact, its increased use in the education sector, leading to credibility and plagiarism claims has really put a big question mark on its legitimacy. However, Afegbua seems to have found common ground in relation to incorporating AI in his passion areas.

In a conversation with BBC News, Afegbua calmly said that “When it comes to AI, there are a lot of ethical issues in terms of it stealing other people’s work to create lots of different things.”

“It’s a tool – and every tool can be used in an unethical way.”

And Afegbua set an example by showing how AI can be programmed to listen to your commands, and be attuned to work in collaboration rather than overstepping boundaries. As a way to respond to the heavy backlash of AI in the creative industry, Afegbua gave birth to this unique fashion show the “Elder Series“, featuring some of the best-looking bunch of older-looking, African models generated through AI software.

And the models? They aren’t even real people!

Training the AI to see its Shortcomings

For AI software to work, all you need to do is type in the right words and you get an AI-generated image that aligns with your description.

But what if AI software has never been trained to carry on a specific command? Say, for example, portraying a Black person?

Nigerian visual artist Malik Afegbua/SlickCity trending on social media after posting images of seniors looking stylish on a fashion runway | Credit: Instagram

Afegbua’s work spread like wildfire on social media; with people showering love and acceptance for his one-of-a-kind idea and execution. However, his intention was clear from day one – improving the representation of Black people.

In a conversation with CNN, Afegbua opens up about a time when his mother had suffered a severe stroke, which stirred a lot of emotions and fear at the thought of losing her. As a way to cope with this unsettling feeling, he wanted to envision his elderly mother on the runway, and thus began the experimentation of Black people on AI platforms.

Credit: Amplify Africa

What he noticed was an obvious gap in the AI’s algorithm in relation to representing the Black population in comparison to the light-skinned portrayal. He felt that Black people looked less dapper and were always shown in less nice environments.

He took the onus upon himself to train the AI to improve the representation of Black people on the software so that in the future, no one ever had to go to great lengths to produce an accurately looking Black person.

In fact, this was his closest solution to solving facial recognition technology that has had less accuracy in representing Black people, and simultaneously gave audience the pleasure of appreciating elderly people on the fashion runway for the first time.

Credit: Amplify Africa | Original image courtesy: Techntext
Afegbua is proud of his work and the contributions he made to the AI platform as anyone can ask AI to visualize a black man in a fashion show and they wouldn’t be disappointed because, “I’ve done it, the system now has that data,” he says.

“The Role of a Human Creator is Still Key”

As you may have gauged by now, Afegbua is not insecure with the rise of AI. He strongly believes that AI is here to stay and it’s never going to perish. In fact, its purpose is to evolve with time.

So, why repel it?

Afro-futuristic man on vehicle
Credit: Instagram | SilkcityCEO

There’s an ongoing debate that AI may become a human being’s right hand. There’s also the side to the coin that believes that a software program can never replace the human touch. Afegbua argues that,

“AI is not all. It can’t think by itself, there is always a human being behind it regardless – to put things in motion.”

AI in fashion and art can be the reason for breaking the ice on many undebated conversations. For starters, the ongoing controversy around culture and racial bias exists in the AI world. Afegbua believes this AI project is one step closer to feeding technology; with the right kind of information and taking the filth around prejudices out the front door.

How much is too much AI in Fashion?

While the use of AI in Art and other creative sectors is taking the world by storm and has reached an interrogation point, one cannot neglect the solutions offered by offers and its propensity to factor in new information and ease the workload, particularly in a fast-growing Fashion industry.

From apparel designing, and virtual merchandising to trend forecasting, AI software is changing the Fashion landscape to a great extent. It really comes down to utilizing its enormous potential in the most desirable way.

Immerse yourself in “The Elder Series”

Taking a walk by the beach has never looked so glamorous

Credit: Instagram | Courtesy of SilkcityCEO

Nailing the look of fierceness

Malik Afegbua (@slickcityceo) / Twitter
Credit: Instagram | Courtesy of SilkcityCEO

There is strength in sisterhood

How Malik Afegbua is reimagining African storytelling with AI-generated art - Black Wall St Media
Credit: Instagram | Courtesy of SilkcityCEO

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