AI-generated portraits question the influence of historic figures in an era of smartphones

Designboom_ Alex Wadelton’s AI-generated series poses a surreal visual narrative questioning whether history’s most influential figures would have altered the course of humanity if they had been tethered to smartphones. Created with DALL·E, What Could Have Been captures iconic personalities including Albert Einstein, Martin Luther King, Mother Theresa, Jesus, Marilyn Monroe, and others, all transfixed late at night by the glow of their smartphones. As Claude Monet doubts his artistic abilities while scrolling through an endless feed of filtered images, and Shakespeare takes his musings to twitter rather than the stage, the artist urges us think about how much of our lives are spent staring at a small black rectangle, and how our time could be better spent.

What Could Have Been prompts contemplation on the pervasive role smartphones play in our lives. Australian artist Alex Wadelton employs AI-created images to depict historical figures staring blankly at their screens, raising queries about the impact of constant screen engagement on our daily existence. Australians, on average, spend 5.5 hours a day on their phones, and globally, we dedicate nearly 4 hours each day to staring at these screens. Considering that a significant portion of our waking lives could be absorbed by these devices, Wadelton invites his audience to reflect on the potential alternative uses for this time. He questions: would the likes of Albert Einstein or Mother Teresa have achieved their remarkable feats if they, too, were captivated by the digital glow? Alternatively, he ponders, does unlimited access to all of the information of the internet actually power us forward?