The revelation that a documentary filmmaker used voice-cloning software to make the late chef Anthony Bourdain say words he never spoke has drawn criticism amid ethical concerns about use of the powerful technology.
- Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain appeared in cinemas on Friday
- The documentary uses AI to “make his words come alive”
- Bourdain’s widow says she did not approve
The movie Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain appeared in cinemas Friday and mostly features real footage of the beloved celebrity chef and globe-trotting television host before he died in 2018.
But its director, Morgan Neville, told The New Yorker that a snippet of dialogue was created using artificial intelligence technology.
That has renewed a debate about the future of voice-cloning technology, not just in the entertainment world but in politics and a fast-growing commercial sector dedicated to transforming text into realistic-sounding human speech.
“Unapproved voice cloning is a slippery slope,” said Andrew Mason, the founder and chief executive of voice generator Descript, in a blog post on Friday.
Before this week, most of the public controversy around such technologies focused on the creation of hard-to-detect deepfakes using simulated audio and/or video and their potential to fuel misinformation and political conflict.
But Mr Mason, who previously founded and led Groupon, said in an interview that Descript has repeatedly rejected requests to bring back a voice, including from “people who have lost someone and are grieving”.
“It’s not even so much that we want to pass judgment,” he said. “We’re just saying you have to have some bright lines in what’s OK and what’s not.”
Neville has not identified what tool he used to recreate Bourdain’s voice but said he used it for a few sentences that Bourdain wrote but never said aloud.
“With the blessing of his estate and literary agent we used AI technology,” Neville said in a written statement.
Neville also told GQ magazine that he got the approval of Bourdain’s widow and literary executor.
The chef’s wife, Ottavia Busia, responded by tweet.
“I certainly was NOT the one who said Tony would have been cool with that,” she wrote.