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Scarlett Johansson Declines OpenAI Offer Amid Voice Controversy

Scarlett Johansson, the renowned actress, recently revealed that she declined an offer from OpenAI to voice their new ChatGPT 4.0 system, “Sky.” Johansson stated that she believes the AI system’s voice sounds strikingly similar to her own.

In a statement to Page Six, Scarlett Johansson shared that she received the offer from OpenAI CEO Sam Altman in September 2023. Altman suggested that her voice could help bridge the gap between tech companies and creatives and make consumers feel comfortable with the shift towards AI. However, after careful consideration and due to personal reasons, Johansson declined the offer.

Following a live demonstration of the voice by OpenAI, Johansson and others noted the similarity between “Sky” and her own voice. Many even compared “Sky” to her voice in the 2013 film “Her,” where she voiced the AI character “Samantha.” Johansson expressed shock and disbelief at the similarity, and mentioned that Altman had insinuated the similarity was intentional.

Johansson claimed that Altman asked her to reconsider the offer two days prior to the release of the “Sky” demo. The release prompted her to hire legal counsel, who sent letters to Altman and OpenAI asking for details on how they created the “Sky” voice. Following this, OpenAI agreed to take down the “Sky” voice.

Johansson emphasized the importance of transparency and legislation to protect individual rights, especially in a time when deepfakes and the protection of personal identities are major concerns.

OpenAI responded to the controversy by announcing a pause on the use of “Sky” to address questions about how they chose the voices in ChatGPT. They also clarified in a blog post that “Sky’s” voice is not an imitation of Scarlett Johansson but belongs to a different professional actress using her natural speaking voice. The company chose not to reveal the woman’s name to protect her privacy.

This incident highlights the ethical considerations and potential controversies surrounding the use of human-like voices in AI systems. As AI continues to evolve, issues of likeness, consent, and individual rights remain crucial topics of discussion.

Late Sunday night, shortly after Colin Jost joked about it on “Saturday Night Live,” OpenAI announced on X that they are pausing the use of the Sky voice in ChatGPT. They clarified that Sky’s voice is not a mimicry of Scarlett Johansson but is actually from another professional actress, whose name they will keep confidential to protect her privacy.

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