Scarlett Johansson Rebukes OpenAI Over ‘Eerily Similar’ ChatGPT Voice - Kanebridge News
Share Button

Scarlett Johansson Rebukes OpenAI Over ‘Eerily Similar’ ChatGPT Voice

Actress was ‘shocked, angered and in disbelief’ when she heard AI voice; company says AI voices shouldn’t mimic a celebrity’s

By JOSEPH PISANI, VICTORIA ALBERT
Wed, May 22, 2024 9:36amGrey Clock 2 min

Actress Scarlett Johansson criticised OpenAI over a ChatGPT voice she says is “eerily similar” to her own.

The tech company said Monday it was pausing use of the voice, known as Sky, so it could address questions about how it chose the ChatGPT voices. Many people online have drawn comparisons between Sky and Johansson, who voiced an artificial-intelligence assistant in the 2013 sci-fi romance “Her.” The actress said in a statement her closest friends couldn’t tell the difference.

Johansson said OpenAI Chief Executive Sam Altman wanted to hire her last year to provide her voice for ChatGPT’s current system. She declined. When the actress heard Sky, one of five voices the company offers for its AI tool, she said she was “shocked, angered and in disbelief” that Altman would use a voice so similar to hers.

Johansson said her lawyers asked Altman and OpenAI for more details on how they created Sky.

“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 said.

The voice of Sky was never intended to resemble Johansson, Altman said in a statement Monday evening.

“We cast the voice actor behind Sky’s voice before any outreach to Ms. Johansson,” he said. “Out of respect for Ms. Johansson, we have paused using Sky’s voice in our products.”

In a blog post Sunday, the company said it picked the five voices from more than 400 submissions from actors, looking for voices that sounded timeless and were easy to listen to.

OpenAI said Sky was the natural voice of another actress whom it hired and wasn’t an imitation of Johansson. It wouldn’t name the actress, citing privacy reasons.

The conflict with Johansson adds to the challenges confronting OpenAI, which has been sued by authors, artists and media companies for allegedly using their material without permission or payment. It also serves as a distraction at a time when OpenAI is trying to highlight new products and move beyond its leadership crisis last fall, when the company’s then-board of directors fired Altman for failing to be “consistently candid.” Altman was quickly reinstated as CEO.

OpenAI announced an updated ChatGPT voice feature a week ago. It builds on a product released in September that allows users to talk to its AI tool instead of type and hear responses in five different voices. OpenAI said users can have a more humanlike conversation with the new version, which responds almost instantaneously and can switch quickly between emotional tones.

The updated feature is part of a new AI system , called GPT-4o. It is the company’s latest attempt to attract more users and dominate the market for generative AI technology. The feature will be available to users who pay for ChatGPT-Plus, which costs $20 a month.

At the announcement last week, Altman likened the voice feature to something only seen in movies.

The CEO said in a speech last year that he and other OpenAI executives found inspiration in “Her,” which starred Joaquin Phoenix as a lonely man who falls in love with the voice assistant Samantha, voiced by Johansson. OpenAI employees posted references to the movie on X after the May 13 voice announcement. Altman posted a one-word tweet : “her.”

—Deepa Seetharaman contributed to this article. 



MOST POPULAR

What a quarter-million dollars gets you in the western capital.

Alexandre de Betak and his wife are focusing on their most personal project yet.

Related Stories
Property
I.M. Pei’s Son Speaks of His Father’s Legacy of Creating ‘Places for People’ Ahead of a Retrospective in Hong Kong
By ABBY SCHULTZ 12/06/2024
Lifestyle
EV Trade War Could Spread to Luxury Cars
By STEPHEN WILMOT 12/06/2024
Money
Louis Vuitton Unveils Its Most Extravagant High-Jewellery Collection Ahead of Olympics
By LAURIE KAHLE 09/06/2024
By ABBY SCHULTZ
Wed, Jun 12, 2024 5 min

I.M. Pei was the confident visionary behind such transformative structures as the Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong and the Louvre Pyramid in Paris, but he was also humble, and for years resisted a retrospective of his work.

Pei, a Chinese-American architect who died in 2019 at 102 , would always protest any suggestion of a major exhibition, saying, “why me,” noting, too, that he was still actively at work, recalls his youngest son, Li Chung “Sandi” Pei. A decade ago, when Pei was in his mid-to-late 90s, he relented, finally telling Aric Chen, a curator at the M+ museum in Hong Kong, “all right, if you want to do it, go ahead,” Sandi says.

A sweeping retrospective, “I.M. Pei: Life Is Architecture,” will open June 29 at M+ in the city’s West Kowloon Cultural District. The exhibition of more than 300 objects, including drawings, architectural models, photographs, films, and other archival documents, will feature Pei’s influential structures, but in dialogue with his “social, cultural, and biographical trajectories, showing architecture and life to be inseparable,” the museum said in a news release.

As a Chinese citizen who moved to the U.S. in 1935 to learn architecture, Pei—whose full first name was Ieoh Ming—brought a unique cultural perspective to his work.

“His life is what’s really interesting and separates him from many other architects,” Sandi says. “He brought with him so many sensibilities, cultural connections to China, and yet he was a man of America, the West.”

Facade of the Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong in a photograph commissioned by M+ in 2021.
© South Ho Siu Nam

Pei’s architectural work was significant particularly because of its emphasis on cultural institutions—from the East Building of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., to the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar—“buildings that have a major impact in their communities,” Sandi says. But he also did several urban redevelopment projects, including Kips Bay Towers in Manhattan and Society Hill in Philadelphia.

“These are all places for people,” Sandi says. “He believed in the importance of architecture as a way to bring and celebrate life. Whether it was a housing development or museum or a tall building or whatever—he really felt a responsibility to try to bring something to wherever he was working that would uplift people.”

A critical juncture in Pei’s career was 1948, when he was recruited from the Harvard Graduate School of Design (where he received a master’s degree in architecture) by New York real estate developer William Zeckendorf.

With Zeckendorf, Pei traveled across the country, meeting politicians and other “movers and shakers” from Denver and Los Angeles, to Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Boston, and New York. “He became very adept at working in that environment, where you had to know how to persuade people,” Sandi says.

During the seven-year period Pei worked with Zeckendorf, the developer fostered the growth of his architecture practice, supporting an office that included urban, industrial, graphic, and interior designers, in addition to architects and other specialists, Sandi says.

When Pei started his own practice in 1955, “he had this wealth of a firm that could do anything almost anywhere,” Sandi says. “It was an incredible springboard for what became his own practice, which had no parallel in the profession.”

According to Sandi, Chinese culture, traditions, and art were inherent to his father’s life as he grew up, and “he brought that sensibility when he came into America and it always influenced his work.” This largely showed up in the way he thought of architecture as a “play of solids and voids,” or buildings and landscape.

“He always felt that they worked together in tandem—you can’t separate one from the other—and both of them are influenced by the play of light,” Sandi says.

View of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, on the mesa, in a photograph commissioned by M+ in 2021.
© Naho Kubota

Pei also often said that “architecture follows art,” and was particularly influenced by cubism, an artistic movement exploring time and space that was practiced in the early 20th century by Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, and the sculptor Jacques Lipchitz, among others. This influence is apparent in the laboratory at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., and at the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, N.Y. “Those two buildings, if you look at them, have a play of solid and void, which are very cubistic,” Sandi says.

Yet Sandi argues that his father didn’t have a specific architectural style. Geometry may have been a consistent feature to his work, but his projects always were designed in response to their intended site. The resulting structure emerged as almost inevitable, he says. “It just was the right solution.”

Pei also intended his buildings “not only to be themselves a magnet for life,” but also to influence the area where they existed. “He never felt that a building stood alone,” Sandi says. “Urban design, urban planning, was a very important part of his approach to architecture, always.”

After he closed his own firm to supposedly “retire” in the early 1990s, Pei worked alongside Sandi and his older brother, Chien Chung (Didi) Pei, who died late last year, at PEI Architects, formerly Pei Partnership Architects. Pei would work on his own projects, with their assistance, and would guide his sons, too. The firm had substantial involvement in the Museum of Islamic Art, among other initiatives, for instance, Sandi says.

Working with his father was fun, he says. In starting a project, Pei was often deliberately vague about his intentions. The structure would coalesce “through a process of dialogue and sketches and sometimes just having lunch over a bottle of wine,” Sandi says. “He was able to draw from each of us who was working on the project our best efforts to help to guide [it] to some kind of form.”

The M+ retrospective, which will run through Jan. 5, is divided into six areas of focus, from Pei’s upbringing and education through to his work in real estate and urban redevelopment, art and civic projects, to how he reinterpreted history through design.

Sandi, who will participate in a free public discussion moderated by exhibition co-curator Shirley Surya on the day it opens, is interested “in the opportunity to look at my father anew and to see his work in a different light now that it’s over, his last buildings are complete. You can take a full assessment of his career.”

And, he says, “I’m excited for other people to become familiar with his life.”