Who wants Scarlett Johansson to whisper in their ear?

OpenAI has equipped its new voice assistant with a voice very close to that of Scarlett Johansson (despite the article’s refusal to be the voice of the software). Who would really benefit from a future like the movie? Her ? This is the theme of the Rule 30 newsletter this week.

Last week, OpenAI demonstrated a synthetic voice mode for GPT-4o, its new language model. This option is not yet available to the general public (there is already a voice mode for ChatGPT, it is a more elaborate version). For the moment, we must therefore rely on the videos shared by the company, where we hear the software singing, laughing, sighing, whispering, imitating our irony and humor.

It is unknown whether these dialogues took place in real time, or whether they required rehearsals. They still prompted many enthusiastic comments. “ AI has entered the world of Her“, writes for example an editorialist from New York Timesin reference to the film by Spike Jonze which depicts the romantic relationship between a man and intelligent speech synthesis software, embodied by the voice of Scarlett Johansson.

This editorial is taken from the Règle 30 newsletter by Lucie Ronfaut, sent every Wednesday at 11 a.m. To subscribe:

This reference is not accidental. A few days ago, it was still assumed by Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI. She nevertheless turned against the company. Monday evening, we learned that the American entrepreneur had tried to convince Scarlett Johansson to lend her voice to ChatGPT for months. Faced with his refusal, the software was equipped with another voice (called “ sky“), very similar to that of the actress. The latter is now demanding explanations from the company, via its lawyers. OpenAI denies any link between the star and his product, but has still suspended the use of Sky (four other votes are still available).

A tweet from Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, shared at the time of the presentation of GPT-4o.
A tweet from Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, shared at the time of the presentation of GPT-4o.

Dystopias useful to entrepreneurs

If confirmed, this situation is symptomatic of an industry that takes without asking permission, and of the eternal association of helpful bots with women (flesh-and-blood women can say no, the proof). It also sheds light on why Sam Altman, and others before him, are openly infatuated with science fiction works that depict technologies in a negative light. In Her, the hero gets lost in his relationship with his AI, which ends up leaving him to become independent with other software. Having no other choice but to confront his loneliness, he finally decides to take control of his life.

These dystopias are useful to entrepreneurs“, writes techno-critical author Brian Merchant in his newsletter Blood in the machine. “ Whether it’s Elon Musk’s obsession with Blade Runner with his cybertruck, or Mark Zuckerberg’s fascination with the metaverse, the idea is to be the main character in the story, provided you buy their products. » The new technology industry has always sold us a form of fiction, the fact of being part of the future. Initially focused on men, its marketing has diversified to show advertisements supposed to be more like us. Their devices and software were to bring us closer together.

Today, it is more difficult to promote current innovations. The pretty advertisements are still there, but it is clear that these products are not all designed for a wide audience. They isolate more than they bring together. They reflect a particular vision of the world. Who wants to explore the metaverse, put on a virtual reality headset to take photos of their daughter’s birthday, and have an imitation of Scarlett Johansson whisper in their ear? We still think of men, or at least a certain category of men, rich, dominant, not threatened by this future that they are shaping almost alone. Who else has the financial, political, media means to be the hero who shakes up the reality of us all? And who are we in these fantasies, if not secondary characters?

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