MUZI KUZWAYO: The only certainty is our future’s uncertainty

Muzi Kuzwayo
Muzi Kuzwayo

She has the complexion of the people in the tropics, dark and inexpressibly beautiful.

Her hair is somewhat fluffy, somewhat straight-ish, but definitely delicate and if you were to compare it with other shades of black, hers would be the darkest.

In other words, there is nothing blacker.

Not even the night.

Her face is defined by her protruding cheeks, with her right one slightly pronounced.

The pupils of her eyes are blackish-brown and through my glasses they seem to have a tinge of green.

One of the most political features on a black face is the nose. Remember the backlash of Michael Jackson’s nose job?

Her luscious lips are unmarked by any foodstuff, not even a grape, and her lips have never been kissed.

Shudu Gram is her name and she is a black computer-generated supermodel created by Cameron-James Wilson, a white fashion photographer.

She already boasts 138 000 followers on Instagram.

Some say Shudu is South African and that her name is short for Mashudu.

The photographer has said that he will not use her commercially and some commentators think that is because of the backlash he received when he first created her. Wilson has been accused of cultural appropriation.

But Shudu is not the first non-living supermodel.

Can you tell human from robot?

Lil Miquela posted her first selfie back in 2016 and she now has more than 1.3 million followers on Instagram. She supports causes such as Black Lives Matter. Miquela’s full name is Miquela Sousa and she claims to be from Downey, Los Angeles in the US. Some accuse Miquela of having no soul, but she has certainly collaborated with some big fashion brands.

You will not see Shudu or Miquela walking down the catwalk soon, as they both live in the screen, but it is only a question of time before you see robots strutting their machine-perfect walk, adorned with the creations of some of the best fashion designers in the world.

If the fact that computers are taking over the jobs of people is not scary enough, imagine when robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) meet genetic engineering. Imagine a world where human beings are cloned and imbued with intelligence that is superior to the original humans.

You will meet someone at a reception and will be unable to tell whether they are a human being or a robot. They will always smile. For the corporate owners, the good thing is that they will never ask for a raise or complain about the long hours of work. At night they will even plug themselves into the charger or better still their chair will be the charger.

Purchasing a genetically engineered being or a robot endowed with AI to sit at reception all day may be an expensive exercise, especially in these days of cellphones when you can simply text your host to make them aware that you are at the door.

There are many functions that will die out, but there is also a great deal of uncertainty. AI sex dolls are already a booming business, but whether or not they will one day replace sex workers is anyone’s guess.

The good news about machine learning is that AI will never thwart real intelligence because machines cannot do efficiently more than what they were designed to perform in the first place. The human beings who build skyscrapers are likely to have the nimbleness to put cotton through the eye of a needle, but cranes cannot even handle a needle.

So there is still a future for human beings, but, one thing is certain, that future is uncertain.

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