Over the last few days, our social media feeds have been filled with vibrant photos that show our friends and families as otherworldly, mythical beings. Everyday people are tapping into the world of artificial intelligence (AI) to reimagine futuristic (or past) versions of themselves. But this technology isn't new. In fact, artists, techies and creatives around the globe have been using various forms of AI software for years, especially Black artists like Shaun Harrison of Super Nerd.

Harrison, a well-known art director based out of NYC, starting utilizing similar software and apps when he couldn't find gorgeous stock imagery of Black and Brown people to fit his projects.

AI imagery created by Shaun Harrison. Image: courtesy of Shaun Harrison.

"Stock image sites have all too often missed the mark in covering the full diversity that comes with us, and so much time is wasted combing through thousands of images to try and find exactly what's needed to sell a visual direction," says Harrison. "AI has allowed me to level that playing field in such an amazing way. I have been able to forgo those barriers with AI and create the exact imagery I need for visions or selling a direction, and it's been life-changing and a breath of fresh air. That's one reason AI is important—we are able to put out into the world, visions of us as we know and see ourselves in areas we have been denied from for generations."

Everyone from Chance the Rapper to Pose's MJ Rodriguez have been seen posting the avatar-like portraits on their feeds using a new feature created by Lensa called magic avatar, which launched Nov. 21. Harrison went viral prior to the release with a series of images he designed for an idea he had for a new Marvel TV show called Bashenga: The First Black Panther

Image: courtesy of Shaun Harrison.

"The world of fantasy and sci-fi—where we usually aren't seen—has people crafting amazing adventures and visions of us existing as ogres, elves, mages, royal beings and more. I think many have AI completely wrong, though. They think it would be a job killer, when it will actually enhance jobs. I call what AI is doing "The Age of the Idea," where the focus isn't solely on execution, but on those who have the vision and the brilliant ideas. Most people are currently using Lensa which is incredibly user-friendly, but I use Dreambooth and Astria to create images of people I know. Also, the world of AI has gone far beyond just visuals. GPT Chat is an amazing tool to learn things conversationally or help you craft ideas out."

Harrison also shares that there are social media groups out there for Black people who are into AI or those who want to learn more about the tech software.

"AI is an amazing tool Black people should absolutely jump into," he shares. "On Facebook, we have a group ran by Otis Toussaint and Shauna Jones called Black A.I. Art Universe that’s a safe space for us working in AI while also putting images of ourselves out into the world. Come join us!"