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AI Idols: The Virtual Future or Dehumanisation


With the world rapidly proceeding into a more virtual and with the growth of technology, a variety of new are being developed probably every second. Last year during the epitome of the Korean entertainment takeover and Kpop wave, SM Entertainment, one of the leading Korean entertainment companies launched their new girl group AESPA.

AESPA 4 member girl group from SM entertainment

AESPA during a photoshoot SMtown

At first glance they look like any other girl group out there at the moment, but what makes AESPA unique is not just their music and concept but the fact that every member of the group has their own AI version of themselves. These AI avatars are called æs, and AESPA is basically the first KPOP girl group performing with their own virtual avatars.

The idea of virtual idols recently is not as foreign as it used to be as we see a lot of virtual idols debuting such as K/DA, an AI girl group created for the game League of Legends.

Aespa withtheir virtual avatarsWhat Makes AESPA Unique?

According to Lee Soo Man, the CEO of SM Ent., the thing that makes AESPA different than other virtual idols is that they are independent beings and described them as having “AI brains”.

He also adds that eventually, it will be possible to interact with the members of æ-AESPA (virtual avatars) in real life along with the actual members of AESPA.

SM Ent. also has been creating a hotel where fans would be able to experience staying and communicating with virtual versions of their idols.

Debate about Dehumanisation

Contrary to their immense popularity and praise, their debut has also caused a couple of arguments online debating whether the growing popularity and inclusion of these virtual idols is resulting in some form of dehumanisation. They argue that the widespread popularity of groups such as AESPA is slowly diminishing the original charm of idol groups which was their humanly attributes. Through virtual idols, it is possible to create perfect beings and gets rid of a variety of human restrictions, and potentially could lead to increased profits for the company but at the same creating “perfect” idols loses human nature as well as the imperfect charms of humans which were one of the main attractions of the idols.

Technology is taking over the entire world and virtualising everything is causing dehumanisation and this is the main concern of many of the opposers of these changes.

As technology grows and we move towards a more virtual future, the virtualisation of idols will probably see a greater increase and may even become the new norm for idols but if whether this shift is good or bad only the future can tell.

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