The Miss AI Pageant Is A Dystopian Farce Masquerading As Progress And Innovation

3 min read

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Beauty pageants are a weird relic that should’ve been left in the ‘80s. And yet they persist. And now, in the world of tomorrow (2024), they are no longer restricted to real humans. That’s right, Miss AI is a thing

What’s Miss AI, you ask? Well, it’s a competition for AI models and influencers that don’t actually exist, obviously. 

We’ve reached the point where we’re judging the attractiveness of algorithms and lines of code. Very cool.

Organised by FanVue, a platform that’s betting on AI influencers being The Next Big Thing, Miss AI has managed to attract over 1,500 entries from around the world. The top 10 finalists have just been announced, and their creators are vying for a US$20,000 prize pool, and the honour of being responsible for the most aesthetically pleasing bunch of pixels on the internet.

These digital soulless manifestations of a failed society will be judged by how realistic they appear, the technical skill shown by the freaks who created them, and social media engagement. 

Some of the finalists have quite the following online. Kenza Layli, a Moroccan entry (Kenza has the Moroccan flag in her bio) with over 190,000 Instagram followers, claims to empower women in the Middle East. Aiyana Rainbow has the Pride flag in her bio, and describes herself as an advocate for the LGBTQ+ community. She’s also a DJ at night, apparently.

Asena Ilik has almost 30,000 followers on Instagram and posts photos from the International Space Station and Jose Mourinho. Yes, really.

Every finalist mentions inclusivity, or positivity, or [insert brand safe social cause here], which just makes them feel even more soulless and artificial. 

The organisers of Miss AI claim the pageant highlights the growing role of AI in marketing and influencer culture. Which is a truly depressing sentence to write.

At its core, the Miss AI pageant is a fundamentally dumb idea. Beauty pageants in general are a dumb idea. They reduce people (or weird, soulless digital representations of people) to nothing more than surface deep faces and bodies, reinforcing stereotypes and narrow beauty standards. Any beauty pageant held in 2024, human or AI, is a step backwards as a society.

And yet, and yet, and yet… 

As I write this, a thought starts to gnaw at the back of my mind. Maybe dumb is the point. Maybe I’m just giving it the marketing it desires. The Miss AI pageant, little more than a shallow spectacle designed to generate attention and controversy — and I took the bait.

Or maybe that’s giving the whole thing too much credit. Or maybe it is just a sad reflection of a culture obsessed with superficiality and online attention. 

Whatever it claims to be, the Miss AI pageant is an insult to women everywhere. It reduces the very concept of beauty to a hollow collection of pixels and data points designed to fit a narrow mould and satisfy the lowest common denominator’s tastes and wants. 

It reinforces the toxic notion that someone’s worth is tied to their physical appearance, and that beauty is something that can be quantified, optimised and mass-produced by The Machines.

But even more importantly, the rise of AI influencers is just weird! Who is following these accounts? And what happens to a society that is beginning to place more and more value on the ‘opinions’ and endorsements of digital beings than real humans? (Imagine trying to describe AI influencers to someone in the 2000s.)

What does it say about our species when we start to idolise (or at the very least chuck an IG follow in the direction of) false manifestations of humanity, pretending they’re not the very machines we’ve created? 

I know I’m giving this way more attention than it deserves, and you might say chill bro it’s not that deep, and you may be right. 

So, I’ll end with this — the Miss AI pageant is a grotesque carnival of vanity and delusion, a dystopian farce masquerading as progress and innovation. 

We are all worse off for its existence.

Main image: Miss AI/ Fanvue