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Scarlett Johansson’s OpenAI Feud Makes Her a Strange Folk Hero

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Scarlett Johansson's OpenAI Feud Makes Her a Strange Folk Hero

There is a distinct moment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe when Black Widow became a hero for all fans. It happens at the beginning of 2012. the Avengers: She is tied to a chair. Agent Coulson calls. A nondescript military leader who has been interrogating her hands her the phone. Coulson explains that SHIELD needs to get her off the field. She kicks his interlocutor in the shinHe breaks the chair she’s tied to, pulls out three guys, grabs her by the heels, and leaves.

the Avengers It earned $1.5 billion worldwide and catapulted almost all of its members to stardom, even the actors who were already famous. Scarlett Johnasson’s Black Widow, the Avenger with no wealth or superpowers beyond Red Room training, was one of the last to have her own movie or show. black widow was released simultaneously in theaters and on Disney+ in the summer of 2021, when the Covid-19 pandemic was still making some people wary of multiplexes. johansson sued Disney for breach of contract, alleging that the streaming release harmed the film’s box office potential.

johansson and disney finally resolved his suit. The terms were not revealed, but the result was that Johansson showed that she was not afraid to defend the value of her work, either against Disney, which had already paid her $20 million for the film she made, or against OpenAI, by that threatened with legal action this week over its new ChatGPT conversational interface. The actor claims that the computer’s voice, called Sky, sounds “so eerily similar to mine that my closest friends and the media couldn’t tell the difference.” OpenAI CEO Sam Altman says Sky was “never intended to look like” Johansson’s voice. Lawyers say she could have a case, if she brought it.

Following Johansson’s call to abandon OpenAI, public opinion has largely been on her side. Or, rather, she seeks to be on the side that is not Altman’s. In X and news reports, pontificators noted that OpenAI stock tipped the hand of the company; that, according to Johansson’s statement, by asking for the actress’ participation and then proceeding with something similar even though she refused, Altman was “showing us who he really is.” Within hours, Johansson became an avatar of the resistance, this generation’s Ned Ludd. Everyone who ever wondered if the AI ​​had read his tweets or watched his videos had a champion.

“In a way, we are all Scarlett Johansson,” Kyle Chayka wrote in The New Yorker“expecting to be confronted with a strange reflection of ourselves that was created without our permission and from which we will derive no benefit.”

Few ironies are more bittersweet than this. The reason Johansson’s voice is desirable for an AI assistant is because she played one in the Spike Jonze film. His. As my colleague Brian Barrett pointed out last week, wanting to replicate that experience shows a poor interpretation of that movie, but the fact is that both tech bosses and those who live according to their whims (i.e., everyone else) have relationships parasocial with Johansson because she has a skill set that AI simply cannot learn. Now, those who have found joy in her work identify with her in a whole new way. because can confront the invasion of AI more publicly than all those lawsuits filed by artists and writers.

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