13 April 2023 |

Role Model Behavior With Futurist Sinead Bovell


Artificial intelligence is changing the face of our world, but in some cases more literally than others.

2023 so far has been a defining year for artificial intelligence, the year the world was introduced to generative AI. This advancement has taken us one step closer to achieving the ultimate goal of self-awareness.

A study by McKinsey Global Institute found that AI has the potential to deliver between $3.5 trillion and $5.8 trillion in value annually across nine business functions in 19 industries. This value comes from increased productivity, improved product and service quality, and enhanced customer experiences.

Yet, as AI’s power and prominence continue to increase, we are left with critical questions: are we prepared for this technology? What are the consequences of releasing such a powerful tool? 

When it comes to modeling, generative AI is raising some even bigger questions.

And Sinead Bovell, the “model who talks tech” is here to answer them.

Sinead is a Black Canadian model, futurist, and founder on a mission to educate young entrepreneurs and models about the future that is coming, and how to be successful in it.

But her path to becoming a model and entrepreneur was anything but linear.

Sinead had never dreamed of being a model, she wasn’t even allowed to read magazines until she was 18 years old. 

Until she attended a business event while working at a management consultant job that she *thought* was her dream job and was scouted by a modeling agency. 

She says she saw the modeling opportunity as “a platform to build something different for myself and do it from scratch.” 

So she eventually quit her consulting job and moved from Canada to New York to pursue a career in fashion. 

The transition into that world showed Sinead how disconnected many models and creatives were from the understanding of how technology and artificial intelligence would impact their work in the near future. 

Being a futurist with MBA and B.B.A in Finance, she was the perfect person to be situated in between these two worlds.

Eager to connect the dots and empower people with her knowledge, Sinead created Weekly Advice For Young Entrepreneurs (WAYE) to teach young people and women who looked like her about “the intersection of business, technology, and the future.”

Sinead has educated 10,000+ young entrepreneurs since founding WAYE and WAYE Talks. 

She’s also spoken at the United Nations, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and at schools like Cornell on technology and the future. 

(Basically, she’s a fucking genius.)

One of the things that makes Sinead a dream speaker at these prestigious venues is her incredible breadth of knowledge when it comes to AI, and how it will impact modeling and fashion.

And her premonitions were spot on.

Long before companies like the Dutch startup Deep Agency were giving users the ability to hire models generated by AI on a subscription basis, Sinead was telling the world that she knew she was going to be replaced by artificial intelligence, most notably via a viral piece she wrote for Vogue in 2020 titled: 

“I Am a Model and I Know That Artificial Intelligence Will Eventually Take My Job”

In the piece and in countless more recent interviews, Sinead touches on some of the very real and *very pressing* concerns this advancement in technology presents when it comes to diversity and inclusion. 

And her words are absolutely worth amplifying, let’s dive in. 

  1. Identity Crisis

In her words, “A point of tension that is emerging with CGI models is that their creators aren’t just designing them as avatars, but also giving them entire backstories, personalities, and causes to champion.” 

“If the creators can’t actually identify with the experiences and groups that these models claim to belong to (i.e., person of color, LGBTQ, etc.), then do they have the right to actually speak on those issues? 

Or is this a new form of robot cultural appropriation, one in which digital creators are dressing up in experiences that aren’t theirs?”

For example, Shudu Gram.

Shudu is a Black CGI model, however she was created by a white British fashion photographer. 

So, Sinead poses the (very valid) question: “In a world where we can generate and control identities, some of which may not be in any way similar to our own, it raises the question of who gets to profit and control the identities of experiences they may have not had to go through.” 

  1. Ownership 

“Many people don’t realize that models don’t own their own images,” she says. 

“So if you head to a photo shoot, all of the work you create, you have no control over what happens to that. 

You have no ownership over those rights. And so, in a world where you might be created in an AI sense, there’s even more data pertaining to you available. That becomes a little bit of a red flag.” 

  1. Inclusivity Reckoning 

“Fashion has gone through an inclusivity reckoning over these last couple of years.”

“A lot of models have put their entire careers on the line to advocate for a more inclusive world. 

Are those gains just going to go to a coder somewhere in Silicon Valley? 

We need to make sure that doesn’t happen.” 

  1. Inability to Unionize

In some countries, including the United States, models aren’t able to unionize, making it more difficult for them to advocate for their rights as a collective. 

Sinead emphasizes, “We need to make sure models are protected.  

In a world where everybody has to prepare for the future of work, we [need to] give the right tools and systems of support for fashion models going forward.” 

  1. Sustainable Silver Lining

Though she certainly has questions, Sinead is optimistic about the future of AI at her core. 

One potentially incredible bright side to AI modeling options is that they drastically reduce the environmental impact associated with photo shoots. 

“It’s not uncommon for a model to shoot more than 50 outfits in a single day for an e-commerce shoot, and many of those samples end up in the landfills. 

Using 3D models would eliminate all of that.”

Mind. Blown.

We can all learn from Sinead as we enter the uncharted waters of generative AI and its potential impacts on every industry from fashion to fintech.

A final word of wisdom from our girl as we look ahead, 

“The best thing we can do about the future is prepare for it.”