I Accidentally Crushed on a Rocket Scientist Lingerie Model Who Was Actually AI-Generated

I have this problem with Insta where my recommendations are stacked with smart, beautiful women. My girlfriend Lucy said it has to do with an ‘algorithm’ and ‘all the stuff you interact with.’ Anyway, what could it all mean? The world wonders.

But you’re not here for my like-and-share habits. Oh no. You’re here for the story of misfortune and betrayal insinuated in the headline. And I’m here to deliver.

That damned smile.

I hunger for the exploits of smart, beautiful women, and Instagram is happy to feed me. So when she was recommended to me, I foolishly took the profile at face value. She billed herself as an aerospace engineer lingerie model who’s trying to make the world a better place with her advocacy work. There was even a jet in the photo. I headbutted that ‘Follow’ button with the fury of Sappho herself. I mean, whoa. I was distracted and didn’t notice the clown shoes I was wearing when I pressed ‘Follow.’

a woman with red hair has a braid and an oatmeal colored sweater

I’ve spent too much time on social media. I thought that would inoculate me against fresh horrors from the share-o-sphere. But I was foolish. I didn’t notice the identical lighting setup in every photo — even outdoor ones. I didn’t see anything weird in her wide-eyed stare. Even the absence of Reels flew right past me. I was fooled into thinking it was a tightly curated social media presence. You know, the kind that smoking hot lingerie model rocket scientist world travelers have.

One day, this magical being is hitting some exotic ski slopes. Then it’s off to Lake Como, Italy. Except her only photo with that location tag was taken indoors. Which is odd, since Lake Como is a striking place to be. She was soon in Paris, but there were no photos of streets or landmarks. Just her and another very symmetrical friend taking selfies in a walk-in closet. The geotag allegedly pointed to Paris. She’s an influencer, but I never saw a product being promoted. Or even a logo.

Tires screech, jazz music stops.

This parasocial fantasy carried on for a month until one day, I saw this image.

a group of AI models

You could hear a pin drop in my skull. In fairness, that’s pretty normal due to a severe brain cell shortage. But it was loud that day.

That photo was supposedly from some European modeling capital where she and her ‘friends’ were congregating for a show. I wasn’t the only one whose illusion cracked that day. For the first time, the men in her comments were exclaiming in surprise rather than unveiled horniness.

There were still a few comments from horny men who thought it was real. They kept up the usual “😍🌹😍” and “so beautiful 🤗.” That wounded me more than the photo itself.

I took a screenshot before the post was taken down.

My reverie was destroyed, but I can’t let go of things like a mature person. This wasn’t just parasocial heartbreak to me. This was an affront — and a challenge. I delved back into her profile with fresh eyes and began investigating.

The first one I spotted was a ‘modeling event’ in ‘Milan’ where ‘she’ (IF THAT IS EVEN YOUR REAL PRONOUN, YOU CLANKING, SOULLESS CHARLATAN) took to the catwalk. A very well-formed photo for generative AI.

an AI model on a runway

But upon closer inspection, her nails are really fucked up for a model hitting the catwalk. Some of them are hanging with craft glue.

a zoom in on the AI model's nails reveals some are hanging off by glue

Her bone structure changes in some of the older pictures. The signs of imperfect editing and a team refining their generation model over several months.

an AI model jogging

The backgrounds also had hints. I’m dating a horse girl, so when I showed her the next photo, she made a puzzled noise. The horse on the left doesn’t have enough ‘chest’ and is…stumpy. The one on the right has the correct amount of chest, but no back. And our model? Her high-contrast self sticks out because she’s lit by artificial studio lighting, but the horses are lit like an overcast day. She was pasted over the horse image by the editors.

an AI model standing between two AI generated horses

I’m a meatbag girl in an AI world.

Maybe you saw the uncanniness in her first photo when you first laid eyes on it. You might have noticed the odd way her hair spills out behind the ponytail. But you were primed and ready. You had the benefit of a headline telling you about the imposter. Would you have spotted it on a casual social media scroll on a little phone screen? I didn’t. I play with generative AI all the time, and I didn’t figure it out. I thought I was smarter than this.

I’m not even going to talk about the fact that this entity and others like it have links to pay-sites like Fanvue where they post nudes. I’m not fond of the horny men who tail women on social media, but even they don’t deserve to be defrauded.

It made sense in hindsight. An influencer who never shows any logos or tags any brands. An aeronautical engineer who writes captions reminiscent of a child discussing their dreams of a better world. Location tags without evidence of actually being there. Seeing her hair go through grow-and-cut cycles that should take years, but over a few weeks. The conspicuous absence of busy backgrounds, in-focus crowds, and text. All of the things AI isn’t good at making…yet.

Despite the shortcomings of generative AI, I still fell for the ruse. I’m not forever searching for deceit. I’m there for entertainment, I don’t want to be on guard. The occasional undisclosed sponsorship slips my notice, but I don’t have the energy to presume that the people themselves are fictitious. Fictitious people masquerading as complex humans with lives and adventures. Wild.

The need to screen out fictitious people is only going to raise the mental burden of using social media. Attentive users will need to be more vigilant to dodge misinformation. Parasocial relationships are already manipulative, but the implications of introducing AI-generated characters are downright disturbing. The foundation of social media selling has always been the rapport between creators and users. I strongly suspect that fashioning life-like creators to sell products without adequate disclosure is the next step.

In the time it took to develop this article, there’ve been enough callouts for the profile to add “#engineeredart #aimodel” to its bio. But it’s cleverly concealed to mobile users — you know, the majority of users. The two disclosure hashtags are tucked under the “…more” button on mobile. Very easily missed. Because we can’t have an honest, responsible social media environment. We never could, and things just got more complicated.

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Summer Tao

Summer Tao is a South Africa based writer. She has a fondness for queer relationships, sexuality and news. Her love for plush cats, and video games is only exceeded by the joy of being her bright, transgender self

Summer has written 40 articles for us.

4 Comments

  1. As someone with a PhD in machine learning and AI who has collaborated with astrophysicists, the first red flag, other than the fact that in my opinion, she does not look real, should have been the clue that it would never be possible to work as a lingerie model and in astrophysics. It wouldn’t matter how intelligent someone is, you would never be taken seriously.

  2. Only tangentially related, but now I’m wondering what happened to a friend of mine at university who quit studying astrophysics to go be a model.

    More to the subject, I really dislike these deep fakes. AI is a segment of an industry that desperately needs strong regulation (okay, that’s every segment of every industry; no more of this unrestrained pursuit of profit crap, but I need to get off this soapbox before this comment risks becoming novel-length). Partly because of the possibility of deep fakes in politics, but also because it’s already being used in scams. A month or two ago, a company in Hong Kong was scammed out of millions of dollars (I can’t remember if they were HKD or USD) because of deep fakes in a video call.

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