OpenAI and Sam Altman Ripped Off Scarlett Johansson’s Voice, Supposedly Using an Unnamed Soundalike Voice Actress

Scarlett Johannson, in a statement released to several media outlets:

Last September, I received an offer from Sam Altman, who wanted to hire me to voice the current ChatGPT 4.0 system. He told me that he felt that by my voicing the system, I could bridge the gap between tech companies and creatives and help consumers to feel comfortable with the seismic shift concerning humans and AI. He said he felt that my voice would be comforting to people.

After much consideration and for personal reasons, I declined the offer. Nine months later, my friends, family and the general public all noted how much the newest system named “Sky” sounded like me.

When I heard the released demo, I was shocked, angered and in disbelief that Mr. Altman would pursue a voice that sounded so eerily similar to mine that my closest friends and news outlets could not tell the difference. Mr. Altman even insinuated that the similarity was intentional, tweeting a single word “her” - a reference to the film in which I voiced a chat system, Samantha, who forms an intimate relationship with a human.

Two days before the ChatGPT 4.0 demo was released, Mr. Altman contacted my agent, asking me to reconsider. Before we could connect, the system was out there.

At 11:30pm PT last night, OpenAI tweeted:

We’ve heard questions about how we chose the voices in ChatGPT, especially Sky. We are working to pause the use of Sky while we address them.

They’ve “heard questions”.

This plays into every bad stereotype about Silicon Valley “tech bros”. I mean, if they had never contacted Johansson and simply hired an actress who sounds like her, to some degree, that’d be one thing. But to negotiate with her to provide her voice officially, and go ahead with a soundalike after she turned down the offer? Some choice: work with them or get ripped off. How in the world did Sam Altman expect to get away with this? One can only presume Altman expected Johannson to roll over, but why would he expect that? She’s the highest-grossing actress in the history of Hollywood, and Hollywood talent isn’t known for rolling over. And Johansson in particular has a reputation for standing up for herself against deep-pocketed companies.

Also, given the mix of arrogance and the tidbit in Johansson’s statement about Altman reaching out again just two days before OpenAI’s demo, does anyone actually believe this “Sky” voice was not trained on recordings of Johansson herself? The best case scenario for OpenAI is that they really did find a soundalike actress, but that whole story has strong “I found a girlfriend this summer but she lives in Canada” vibes.

Monday, 20 May 2024