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  • robertfarago1

Scarlett Johansson Vs. My Father's Voice

"Actor Scarlett Johansson turned down OpenAI‘s request to lend her voice to a conversational ChatGPT system," reports, "She was 'shocked' and 'angered' that the company went ahead and used a voice that sounded very similar to hers."

The operative word is "lend." Ms, Johansson doesn't "lend" her voice to anyone. She sells it. Just as she sells her acting talents and physical appearance for cash, movie revenue percentage points, access to powerful/famous people, Oscar goodie bags and "free" merchandise.

With AI replication, Ms. Johansson has a new and immensely profitable opportunity to extend her career into, well, perpetuity. Voice, acting and sex appeal. Hence her "shock and awe" official statement rather than a lawyer's letter.

For its part, OpenAI removed the Scarlettian AI voice from its latest release and issued the following statement:

We support the creative community and worked closely with the voice acting industry to ensure we took the right steps to cast ChatGPT’s voices. Each actor receives compensation above top-of-market rates, and this will continue for as long as their voices are used in our products.

Money Honey

As of November 2023, Scarlett Johansson's net worth was around $165m, including $35m for portraying a non-arachnid Black Widow in Avengers: Endgame.

Top voice actors are worth tens of millions. The average voice actor earns $50 an hour. So how much is Ms. Johansson AI voice worth? Whatever someone will pay for it. Let's run some numbers...

ChatGPT has some 100m active users, and growing. As of December 2023, OpenAI's annual ChatGPT revenue was over $2b, estimated to reach $5b in 2024.

Given that a compelling chatbot voice will create the most persistent and adhesive brand loyalty known to man, Ms. Johansson's agent could reasonably ask for a Hollywood-standard five percent of gross. Say $100m per year.

No wonder, then, that Ms, Johansson's agent was in negotiations with OpenAI when the AI giant decided to "go another way."

Open AI's decision to kick Ms. Johansson to the curb in favor of a simulation was a mistake. It opened-up the AI giant to [even more] lawsuits for plagiarism.

Despite PR assurances to the contrary, the move highlighted the company's disdain for the creative community's quid pro quo status quo.

They Call Me The Breeze

As OpenAI's statement announces, they responded to public outcry by removing the Scarlet-alike voice known as "Sky" – leaving users with unknown talents' voices, paid an unknown amount, for AI chatbot voices dubbed Breeze, Cove, Ember and Juniper.

I'm not sure why OpenAI offers such a limited selection of AI voices. With the the proper paperwork in place and a small voice sample, OpenAI could offer hundreds of options. If that's too much choice, AI could choose based on a quick [non-Scientology] personality test.

Aside from the cost of verifying a copyright waiver, why not encourage users to upload the voice of someone in their life that they know, love and respect? You'd have the perfect AI bot! Only...

The Free Market Need Not Apply

OpenAI would own your AI "friend." Which would say whatever OpenAI's programmers want it to say.

What OpenAI wants "your" chatbot to say is... something that makes Open AI money and protects it from its rivals and critics. If that means guiding you to a particular purchase or political perspective, what's to stop it?

OpenAI and the other tech giants own the AI market, which requires an enormous capital investment. At the same time, the AI Industrial Complex is working with Uncle Sam to develop "safety" regulations that will make it difficult for newbies to get a toehold in the market.

And Yet...

I want it. I want to hear my father's voice again. I can't tell you how much I miss that Hungarian accent offering me sage advice and wise counsel. Puns! Sarcasm. Jewish jokes. Anecdotes.

Yes, a Peter Farago-voiced AI chatbot raises all sorts of uncomfortable questions about mortality, money and me.

But if we accept the computer nerds' contention that you can't stop the signal, it's only a matter of time before we all face the possibility of AI ancestor worship. What happens after that is anybody's guess.

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