Have you ever wondered what your favorite memes might look like if they were animated? Well, wonder no longer. Thanks to advancements in artificial intelligence technology, you can now see those static images come to life. And they look like absolute dogshit.

X user Blaine Brown recently shared a long thread of AI-generated videos that use Luma AI, turning previously still images into moving pictures. Brown’s thread utilized some of the most popular memes on the web, including the Distracted Boyfriend, Side-Eye Chloe, and the Success Kid.

But it was the Picard Facepalm meme that really caught our eye. The image comes from the TV show Star Trek: The Next Generation, season three, episode 13. And the video created with Luma takes that screenshot of Captain Picard, played by Patrick Stewart, and moves his hand to reveal a face. But something is very, very wrong.

As Brown tweeted, “Who is this imposter??!” And imposter is right. The new video looks nothing like Patrick Stewart, while the animation features so many of the issues that AI currently struggles with. The hand, for instance, appears to transform into something warped, where some of the fingers are extremely long. And Picard’s thumb suddenly becomes twisted in a way that makes it look like his right thumb somehow jumped onto his left hand. It’s all a mess.

The weirdest thing about choosing to animate this meme, in particular, is that it was taken from a video that already exists. Other memes in the thread come from still photos that weren’t captured from a source video. But we know exactly what Picard actually looks like when his face is revealed.

In the actual 1990 episode of the show, titled “Deja Q,” Picard doesn’t move his hand so much as he looks up, revealing his face with eyes wide open. In the AI-generated version, it obviously looks nothing like the real actor, but it also expresses a completely different emotion.

All of this brings us back to one of the central questions facing users of consumer-facing AI tech: What are we using it for? Some people seem convinced that exercises like this reveal some kind of hidden truth behind the images we’re so familiar with. We saw this reasoning frequently back in late 2022 when AI image generators were first taking off.

As the New York Post put it, “AI now lets you expose unseen secrets of legendary artwork.” But that’s obviously nonsense. We’re not learning anything about the real story behind a classic painting or, in this case, the original TV show. We’re just seeing a computer-driven animated shitpost.

AI video is fun for dicking around on the internet, especially when it produces something horrifyingly wrong. Remember Will Smith eating spaghetti last year? The entire appeal of that video is that it existed as a kind of glitch, both disturbing and inhuman, much like our imposter Picard.

AI Will Smith eating spaghetti pasta (AI footage and audio)

But where does that leave us when the novelty wears off and these tools look much more realistic? Does anyone care to see an AI version of Picard that’s only slightly different from the real TV show and not extremely messed up?

Strangely enough, the rumors coming out of Hollywood suggest studio executives think there’s a future in media tailored to be completely unique to the individual watching it.

It remains to be seen whether anyone really wants media that only represents their most specific desires. Part of the fun in consuming media—whether it’s books, music, movies, or TV shows—is that you’re getting to experience a story that someone with a vision for that story wanted to tell. If everything is customized to meet whatever I’m using to prompt the story, it’s an experience that would logically create more alienation from the rest of society. By trying to create something perfect for yourself, you fail to connect with any other person, creating a media bubble that becomes impregnable.

However, we’d be loathe to predict how AI will be used 10 years from now to create different forms of media online. Who knows? Maybe hyper-customized movies and TV shows will be a profitable path for media executives. Stranger things have certainly happened before. But much like so many of the recent consumer tech innovations of the past 15 years, it seems unlikely they’ll make people feel good about the world.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *