Scarlett Johansson’s fight against OpenAI exposes the absolute arrogance of Silicon Valley

opinion, entertainment, artificial intelligence, katy perry, openai, sam altman, scarlett johansson, scarlett johansson’s fight against openai exposes the absolute arrogance of silicon valley

Actress Scarlett Johansson turned down the opportunity to voice OpenAI's new ChatGPT platform, but its voice sounds suspiciously like the actress. SplashNews.com

The arrogance of Silicon Valley’s tech overlords is as wide and endless as the “Sky.”

We’ve seen over and over again that theyare greedy pirates, capable of plundering intellectual property and the unique gifts of creative artists, photographers, musicians and writers.

The material they use to inform AI operating systems is essentially stolen booty, scraped from anyone and everyone.

Last week, OpenAI held a live demonstration to debut the new voices — Breeze, Cove, Ember, Juniper and Sky — of the company’s ChatGPT 4.0 system.

Actress Scarlett Johansson thought Sky sounded familiar. In fact, she said in a statement on Monday, many of her friends and family members noted the similarities to her distinctly husky voice.

It would make sense. After all, Johansson famously voiced a virtual assistant in the 2013 movie “Her.” On the same day Sky was introduced, OpenAI CEO Sam Altman tweeted, simply, “her.”

opinion, entertainment, artificial intelligence, katy perry, openai, sam altman, scarlett johansson, scarlett johansson’s fight against openai exposes the absolute arrogance of silicon valley
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Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI asked Scarlett Johansson to voice his company’s new AI platform so consumers and creatives would feel comfortable with the “seismic shift.” REUTERS

There’s just one problem. Johansson told Altman he couldn’t use her pipes for the project.

“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,” she said in a statement provided to Page Six.

The actress explained that Altman had initially reached out, wanting her to voice it because she “could bridge the gap between tech companies and creatives and help consumers to feel comfortable with the seismic shift concerning humans and Al. He said he felt that my voice would be comforting to people,” Johansson’s statement said.

“After much consideration and for personal reasons, I declined the offer.”

opinion, entertainment, artificial intelligence, katy perry, openai, sam altman, scarlett johansson, scarlett johansson’s fight against openai exposes the absolute arrogance of silicon valley
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In the 2013 movie “Her,” Joaquin Phoenix’s (above) character falls in love with a virtual assistant voiced by Johansson. ©Warner Bros/Courtesy Everett Collection

Told “no,” did Altman throw a Veruca Salt tantrum and take what he wanted anyway? Only he and his cronies know what really happened.

The company has denied that Sky was based on Johansson, claiming it was the work of an actress they were unwilling to name as to “protect [her] privacy.”

“Sky’s voice is not an imitation of Scarlett Johansson but belongs to a different professional actress using her own natural speaking voice,”OpenAI has said in a statement.

But Johansson felt strong enough about it that she was “forced to hire legal counsel.”

opinion, entertainment, artificial intelligence, katy perry, openai, sam altman, scarlett johansson, scarlett johansson’s fight against openai exposes the absolute arrogance of silicon valley
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Scarlett Johansson said she was “forced to hire legal counsel” after hearing the voice of “Sky.” AFP via Getty Images

According to the actress, “OpenAl reluctantly agreed to take down the ‘Sky’ voice” once her legal team asked how the sausage was made.

“In a time when we are all grappling with deepfakes and the protection of our own likeness, our own work, our own identities, I believe these are questions that deserve absolute clarity,” Johansson added of her quest to get an answer on how this happened.

Sure, there are many ways in which AI can be a force for good, including early cancer detection. But we’re seeing the dark side of it — and it doesn’t bode well for national security, objective truth or individuals’ likenesses or creative contributions.

Just ask Katy Perry. She did not attend the Met Gala earlier earlier this month, but you wouldn’t know that if you saw the images of what looked like the singer at the event that circulated on social media.

opinion, entertainment, artificial intelligence, katy perry, openai, sam altman, scarlett johansson, scarlett johansson’s fight against openai exposes the absolute arrogance of silicon valley
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In 2023, it seemed Rapper Drake and The Weeknd released a new song “Heart on My Sleeve” — but it was AI-generated. WireImage

They were AI-generated. To create them, an AI tool, presumably, stole actual images from photographers who have previously snapped Perry and the Met Gala. Stole their work. Essentially, stole money from them.

The fakes were so good, they even duped Perry’s mom.

“Didn’t know you went to the Met,” her mother wrote in an exchange that the singer later shared. “What a gorgeous gown, you look like the Rose Parade, you are your own float lol.”

“Lol mom the AI got you too,” the “Fireworks” singer replied.

opinion, entertainment, artificial intelligence, katy perry, openai, sam altman, scarlett johansson, scarlett johansson’s fight against openai exposes the absolute arrogance of silicon valley
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AI-generated photos of Katy Perry at the Met Gala, like the one above, were so good they fooled her own mother. Katyperry/Instagram

opinion, entertainment, artificial intelligence, katy perry, openai, sam altman, scarlett johansson, scarlett johansson’s fight against openai exposes the absolute arrogance of silicon valley
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Perry’s text conversation with her mother — plus another AI-generated look. Katyperry/Instagram

Don’t forgetthe AI-porn deepfakes of Taylor Swift, released in January, that renewed calls for government regulation.

Then there’s Drake and The Weeknd whose hit “Heart on My Sleeve” went viral in April 2023, garnering millions of plays across TikTok, Spotify and YouTube. The song was eventually removed because, it turns out, it was not made by either of the artists. It was an AI joint.

In a statement at the time, Universal Music Group asked “which side of history all stakeholders in the music ecosystem want to be on: the side of artists, fans and human creative expression, or on the side of deep fakes, fraud and denying artists their due compensation.”

opinion, entertainment, artificial intelligence, katy perry, openai, sam altman, scarlett johansson, scarlett johansson’s fight against openai exposes the absolute arrogance of silicon valley
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OpenAI has pulled the ChatGPT voice that is said to sound like Johansson. AP

It’s not clear that we’ll arrive at any moral clarity where there’s so much money to be made so easily.

But all of this is just a harbinger of things to come. In this brave world of artificial intelligence, where any bizarre sci-fi scenario can be generated by machines,permission doesn’t matter.

Big Tech doesn’t want to pay painters, photographers, fiction writers or journalists. They don’t respect people who create anything. Google is even introducing a new version of its search engine that doesn’t actually link to anyone else’s work. It just summarizes everything. No one profits but Google.

Nothing is sacred. Nothing truly belongs to you anymore. It’s all belongs to the tech vampires if they so desire it.

People like Swift, Johansson and Drake have the muscle and the means to protect themselves. The small fries do not.

To quote Perry’s message to her mother: “BEWARE!”

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