As advances in AI continue to worry experts, with the threat of artificial intelligence systems outsmarting humans intensifying due to the rise of a new generation of highly capable AI chatbots such as ChatGPT, some are embracing these new creative tools by using them in their artistic crafts.
One such person is American creative director Micah Daigle, who has adopted synthography (“AI art”) as part of his design workflow.
Daigle trains designers in how to use new tools for AI designs, and uses Midjourney, a generative artificial intelligence program, to create art.
His new collection of AI images imagines a “multiverse with photos of people who died too young in our timeline”.
Touching tributes to stars who burned out fast and bright, or tasteless generated images that risk tainting the memory of lost icons?
You be the judge… And stick around for the final two, which are worth the scroll.
Robin Williams (1951 – 2014)
The beloved actor and comedian was 63 when he died in 2014. He was found dead in his Californian home on 11 August, and the autopsy report concluded that his death was a suicide from “asphyxia due to hanging”. The actor behind classics like Dead Poets Society, Mrs. Doubtfire and Good Will Hunting suffered from depression and anxiety throughout his life. He also had diffuse Lewy body dementia, something Williams’ widow Susan Schneider described as “the terrorist inside my husband’s brain.” Micah Daigle’s impressive AI photo of Williams features his inimitable grin and feels both heartwarming and bittersweet, considering this was a true entertainer who brought so much joy to countless fans and who left us too soon.
John Lennon (1940 – 1980)
The legendary singer of The Beatles was murdered on 8 December 1980. Lennon autographed a copy of 'Double Fantasy' for Mark David Chapman outside of his hotel, before leaving for a recording session with his wife Yoko Ono. After the session, Lennon and Ono returned to their hotel. Chapman then shot Lennon twice in the back and twice in the shoulder at close range. The singer was pronounced dead at Roosevelt Hospital. Nothing to say here about Daigle's work - it's uncanny quite how believable this aging looks.
Princess Diana (1961 – 1997)
Diana, Princess of Wales was 36 when she died on the 31 August in a car crash in the Pont de l'Alma tunnel in Paris while the driver was fleeing the paparazzi. Daigle’s AI creation does manage to recapture some of Diana's aura, and certainly the same hair. Expect rabid fans of the People's Princess to get unnecessarily worked up about any image that may somehow "tarnish" the image of the People's Princess. But this image works.
Freddie Mercury (1946 – 1991)
The famous Queen frontman died of bronchopneumonia as a complication of AIDS on 24 November 1991. Daigle’s work keeps the singer’s famous moustache (here looking more like Poirot’s upper lipholstery) but the photo doesn’t quite feel like Mercury. What do you think?
Aaliyah (1979 – 2001)
American singer and actress Aaliyah was only 22 years old when she died in an airplane accident in the Bahamas, when the overloaded aircraft she was on crashed after take-off, killing all nine people on board. This portrait feels like a fitting and respectful tribute to the singer behind hits like ‘Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number’ and ‘Try Again’.
Kurt Cobain (1967 – 1994)
The Nirvana rocker, poster boy of Generation X and one of the most influential rock musicians of all time, died circa. 5 April at the age of 27 from apparent suicide. Rumours surrounded his death, including persistent accusations that he was murdered and theories that his wife, Courtney Love, had been involved in his death. These theories purport that Cobain died of a heroin overdose before being shot, contrary to the official police report that he died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. This AI portrait is unmistakably Kurt, but doesn’t quite feel like Kurt at 56. It has the singer-songwriter’s trademark grunge style, but just adding some wrinkles under the eyes and a bit more white in his beard doesn't quite cut it.
Elvis Presley (1935 – 1977)
Another legend and one of the best-selling music artists of all time, Elvis Presley died aged 42 after years of prescription drug abuse and unhealthy eating habits. He was found in an unresponsive state on the bathroom floor of his Graceland mansion on 16 August 1977, having suffered a violent heart attack. Daigle’s portrait sees 88-year-old Presley as a more slimmed-down figure, but looks more like the bastard child of Christopher Walken and Johnny Cash than The King.
Whitney Houston (1963 – 2012)
It’s strange to think that it’s been over a decade since celebrated singer died. Houston was only 48 when she was found unconscious in a hotel suite, submerged in the bathtub. The coroner’s office reported that Houston's death was caused by accidental drowning and the effects of atherosclerotic heart disease and drug use. The image of a 60-year-old Houston looks legit, but is once again a little bittersweet, as we lost nothing short of one of the greatest vocalists of all time in 2012.
Jim Morrison (1943 – 1971)
Singer, songwriter, poet, the frontman of The Doors’ legacy as a hippie rebel and counterculture icon has endured. His crippling alcohol dependency led to his unexpected death in Paris at the age of 27, a premature demise often linked with the infamous and some would say problematic (in the way it glorifies “life fast die young”) 27 Club - which also includes others in this article like Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse. As for Daigle’s AI rendering, the aging on show seems accurate, even if it’s somewhat alarming to see Morrison looking like Neil Young. Maybe it’s better not to imagine what some icons would have aged like, for fear of eroding that doomed poet aura. Speaking of which, the next one is equally unnerving…
Marilyn Monroe (1926 – 1962)
This one can't help but feel wrong. Thoughts?
Amy Winehouse (1938 – 2011)
The much-missed British soul and blues singer behind hits like 'Rehab', 'Back to Black' and 'You Know I'm No Good' struggled with substance abuse and addiction throughout her life. Amy Winehouse died on 23 July 2011, aged 27, from alcohol poisoning. This image of a 40-year-old Winehouse does feel accurate and wisely avoids showing the ravages of drugs on the singer's facial morphology.
Heath Ledger (1979 – 2008)
The Oscar-winning Australian actor was one of Hollywood’s most promising talents. He died on 22 January 2008 as a result of an accidental overdose of prescribed medications. As much as we miss him, Ledger's AI rendering doesn't quite work here, as he looks morelike a dishevelled Orlando Bloom. Not sure what to make of the old school kitchen background, for that matter...
Tupac Shakur (1971 – 1996)
The American rapper joins Aaliyah as one of the youngest dead celebrities on this list. He was murdered on 7 September 1996 by an unidentified assailant in a drive-by shooting in LA. Following his murder, Shakur's friend-turned-rival, the Notorious B.I.G., was considered a suspect; he was also murdered in another drive-by shooting six months later. Daigle’s image isn’t a favourite, as Tupac (especially his beard) looks too airbrushed and the face has a bit too much Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson about it for comfort…
Bambi's mom (too soon)
We hate to shatter any mended hearts by telling you that most female white-tailed deer live to a maximum of 8 years of age. 84 years old is perhaps taking it a bit too far...
Mufasa (about 25 minutes into The Lion King)
Suck it, Scar! The King’s back for his rightful throne! As for the age tag, the average lifespan of the African Lion in the wild is about 15 years, and up to 30 in human care. So, it's an older Mufasa who's been cared for with delicious treats. Just as long as he's with us, no one say anything, everything's fine, please don't die again, thank you.
You can find out more about Micah Daigle and his work here.