Home Tech If Scarlett Johansson can’t control AI companies, what hope is there for the rest of us? | John Naughton

If Scarlett Johansson can’t control AI companies, what hope is there for the rest of us? | John Naughton

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 If Scarlett Johansson can't control AI companies, what hope is there for the rest of us? | John Naughton

ohOn Monday, May 13, OpenAI livestreamed an event launch a fancy new product: a large language model (LLM) called GPT-4o, which the company’s chief technology officer, Mira Murati, claimed was easier to use and faster than the boring old ChatGPT. It was also more versatile and multimodal, which in technical terms means being able to interact with voice, text and vision. We were told that the key features of the new model were that you could interrupt it mid-sentence, that it had very low latency (response delay) and that it was sensitive to the user’s emotions.

Then, viewers enjoyed the usual “Mark and Barret” show, a pair of technicians straight from central casting, interacting with the machine. First, Mark confessed to being nervous, so the machine helped him do some breathing exercises to calm his nerves. Barret then wrote a simple equation on a piece of paper and the machine showed him how to find the value of

So far, everything is predictable. But there was something strangely familiar about the machine’s voice, as if she were a sensual woman, named “Sky,” whose conversational repertoire encompassed empathy, optimism, encouragement, and perhaps even some flirtatious undertones. She was reminiscent of someone. But who?

It turned out that she reminded many viewers of Scarlett Johansson, the celebrated Hollywood star who provided the female voice in Spike Jonze’s 2013 film. His, which is about a boy who falls in love with his computer’s operating system. This, apparently, is OpenAI CEO Sam Altman’s favorite movie, who declared at an event in San Francisco in 2023 that the film had resonated with him more than other science fiction films about AI.

However, the person most surprised by GPT-4o’s voice was Johansson herself. It turns out that Altman had approached her last September, looking to hire her as the voice of the chatbot. “He told me,” he said in a statement, “that he felt that by expressing the system, he could bridge the gap between technology companies and creatives, and help consumers get comfortable with the seismic change affecting humans and the AI. She said my voice would comfort people.”

She declined the offer, but after the demo was livestreamed, she found herself besieged by “friends, family, and the general public” telling her how much GPT-4o was like her. And she was even angrier to discover that Altman had tweeted the single word “Her” in X, which she took as a hint that the similarity between the machine’s voice and her own was intentional.

Needless to say, OpenAI vehemently denied any stinging practices. “Sky’s voice is not Scarlett Johansson’s and was never intended to sound like hers,” an OpenAI spokesperson said. said in a statement which the company attributed to Altman. “We cast the voice actor behind Sky’s voice before contacting Ms. Johansson.”

However, the statement continues: “Out of respect for Ms Johansson, we have stopped using Sky’s voice in our products. We are sorry, Ms. Johansson, that we have not communicated better.” Ouch dammit.

In Her, Joaquin Phoenix plays Theodore, a man who falls in love with an operating system voiced by Scarlett Johansson. Photography: Warner Bros.

Now, on some level, of course, you could say that this is a storm in a champagne glass. OpenAI’s new “respect” for Johansson may have nothing to do with the fact that she is famous and has expensive lawyers. It’s also conceivable that Altman wasn’t trolling her by tweeting “Her” when he did. Likewise, pigs can fly in close formation.

However, on a broader level, this small fight, as technology writer Charlie Warzel says put it inside The Atlantic, sheds useful light on the dark heart of generative AI, a technology that: relies on theft; rationalized by three layers of overriding legalistic positions on “fair use”; and justified by a worldview that says the hypothetical “superintelligence” that tech companies are building is too big, too world-transformative, too important for mundane concerns like copyright and attribution. Warzel is right when he says that “the Johansson scandal is simply a reminder of AI’s manifest destiny philosophy: This is happening whether you like it or not.”. To which the appropriate answer is: it is, and most of us don’t do it.

what i have been reading

liberal ideal
a loving new statesman profile of the formidable political reformer Roy Jenkins by Simon Jenkins (no relation).

Notes for notes
Technology expert Om Malik explains how he writes on a interesting interview on the People and Blogs website.

Cyber ​​insecurity
There is a good reflective piece in the Record about how the British Library’s communications strategy had to change after a ransomware attack.

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