AI-Generated Portraits Challenge the Impact of Historical Figures in the Smartphone Era

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Would Einstein Have Discovered Relativity if he Were Doom Scrolling?

In a thought-provoking series created with artificial intelligence (AI), Australian artist Alex Wadelton transports history’s most influential figures into the modern digital age, prompting us to consider how smartphones may have altered the course of humanity. Using AI program DALL·E, Wadelton’s series, titled “What Could Have Been,” depicts iconic personalities such as Albert Einstein, Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Theresa, and even Jesus, fixated on their glowing screens late at night. Through these surreal visual narratives, Wadelton poses the question of whether these renowned figures would have accomplished their extraordinary feats if they too were captivated by smartphones.

At the heart of Wadelton’s series is a contemplation on the pervasive role smartphones play in our lives. Australians spend an average of 5.5 hours per day on their phones, while globally, we dedicate almost 4 hours each day to staring at these screens. With such a significant portion of our waking lives absorbed by digital devices, Wadelton urges us to consider the potential alternative uses for this time. Would the likes of Einstein and Mother Theresa have achieved their remarkable accomplishments if they were consumed by the digital glow? Alternatively, Wadelton wonders whether unlimited access to the internet’s vast information actually propels us forward.

The images in “What Could Have Been” capture these historical figures in moments of introspection or distraction influenced by modern smartphone habits. For example, Claude Monet, the renowned painter, questions his artistic abilities while scrolling through an endless feed of filtered images. Meanwhile, Shakespeare takes to Twitter, using it as a platform for his musings instead of the stage. Wadelton prompts us to reflect on how much of our lives are spent fixated on a small black rectangle and how this time could be better spent.

By juxtaposing the influential figures of the past with the modern-day allure of smartphones, Wadelton raises intriguing questions about the impact of constant screen engagement on our daily existence. Through his AI-generated series, he challenges us to consider the potential alternate paths humanity might have taken if these figures had been tethered to their smartphones. Perhaps the smartphone-induced distractions and temptations of today have diverted us from realizing our full potential. Wadelton’s work encourages us to pause and reflect on how we allocate our time and whether we can reclaim it from the grasp of our digital devices.

“What Could Have Been” serves as a reminder to break free from the transfixing hold of smartphones, urging us to prioritize human connection, intellectual pursuit, and creative expression over endless scrolling. As we immerse ourselves in this visually stunning series, Wadelton’s message resonates: it’s time to question our relationship with smartphones, reclaim our time, and ensure that the course of human history is not compromised by the mesmerizing glow of our screens.

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