Anthony Bourdain’s Artificial Voice Reads Emails in the Documentary About His Life–And What That Means
Famous chef Anthony Bourdain died about three years ago, which would, of course, make it impossible for him to contribute to Roadrunner, a documentary about the chef’s determination to live his life to the fullest, without apology. The director, however, had other ideas. He’s using a revolutionary concept utilizing artificial intelligence that has the potential to revolutionize the use of voice in many documentaries and movies. However, that solution is building a great deal of controversy within the tech industry and beyond.
The Director’s Challenge
Because of the years, he spent with a heavy TV presence, Anthony Bourdain had provided a wide variety of footage that the movie’s director could use as part of the documentary. There was one element, however, that the director wanted to be able to highlight but couldn’t access because it didn’t exist: Anthony reading out emails that he had sent out to people over the years. That footage, of course, didn’t already exist–and there was no way to get Anthony to do it in person since he had already died.
The director went looking for another solution–and he arrived at artificial intelligence technology that could duplicate Anthony’s voice as clearly as if the chef was reading the content for himself. Watchers say that if you didn’t know the AI technology was in use throughout the production, you would never even notice it–and it’s difficult to pick out the false voice from Anthony’s at all. While this technology has certainly created a highly effective documentary and improved the overall quality of the film, it has also raised a number of questions about how it will be used in the future–and where that line needs to be drawn in order to maintain integrity.
The Ethical Line
With this technology, you can now create content that never actually existed, including producing audio content of things that people never said. When paired with images of things that people have never done–much of which is very natural, computer-generated imagery that looks much like the real thing–it is possible to create video and audio evidence of things that never occurred. It’s much more realistic than past technology, including animatronics that are clearly artificial.
The line between what is recognizably artificial and what is real is starting to raise ethical concerns for many people. They feel that it creates a Pandora’s box: a chance that content creators will design things that should not exist. Once you open the door to creating that type of content, where are the limits? Popular figures, including television stars and public figures, could find their likenesses used for a variety of purposes, including things they would never have consented to in real life. It feels very uncomfortable for many people.
Unfortunately, many people won’t allow their better judgment to guide them as they determine how they’re going to use this steadily advancing technology. Often, it will be driven by monetary and artistic desires–and in many cases, that may drive users to create content that is entirely objectionable. Where is the line–and how will it be overseen? Unfortunately, those are questions that are still on the table as technology continues to grow and more people have access to it. One thing is clear, however: with this new, more realistic technology, it will be possible to create entirely lifelike images and voiceovers that could change the way people consume media.
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