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Stephen Fry’s ‘Harry Potter’ AI Discovery Is a Warning for Hollywood

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AI-generated voices

In the realm of astonishing revelations, Stephen Fry, the beloved British actor, and literary luminary, has recently unveiled a startling discovery that sent shockwaves through the entertainment industry. It all started when Fry stumbled upon an AI-generated recording of his own voice, which had the uncanny ability to deceive listeners into believing that it was him, earnestly reciting passages from the cherished Harry Potter book series. This revelation has since sparked considerable concern about the future of voice actors in Hollywood and beyond.

The iconic figure, celebrated for his multifaceted talents encompassing acting, comedy, and literary prowess, found himself at the center of a technological whirlwind. This AI, armed with a “flexible artificial voice,” had the audacious potential to disrupt not only Stephen Fry’s career but also posed a looming threat to the livelihoods of countless voice actors worldwide. It’s akin to a magician’s trick, but in this case, the magician is artificial intelligence, and the illusion is dangerously convincing.

In a candid interview with Fortune, Fry shared his astonishment and dismay at the AI’s prowess. “I said not one word of that — it was a machine,” Fry exclaimed. “Yes, it shocked me. They used my reading of the seven volumes of the ‘Harry Potter’ books, and from that dataset, an AI of my voice was created and it made that new narration. What you heard was not the result of a mash-up. This is from a flexible artificial voice, where the words are modulated to fit the meaning of each sentence. It could, therefore, have me read anything from a call to storm Parliament to hard-core content, all without my knowledge and without my permission. And this, what you just heard, was done without my knowledge.”

Fry went on to reveal that upon discovering this startling feat, he promptly shared the AI-generated clip with his agents, who, to put it mildly, were less than thrilled. “They had gone ballistic,” Fry quipped. This revelation highlights the potent and rapidly evolving landscape of technology, where boundaries are constantly pushed and the line between reality and artificiality becomes increasingly blurred. As Fry aptly put it, “Tech is not a noun, it is a verb, it is always moving. What we have now is not what will be. When it comes to artificial intelligence models, what we have now will advance at a faster rate than any technology we have ever seen. One thing we can all agree on: It’s a fascinating and perplexing time to be alive.”

Now, let’s shift the spotlight to Hollywood, where discussions about the role of artificial intelligence have taken center stage. With ongoing strikes within both the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), the integration of AI, including the likes of ChatGPT, into writers’ rooms, and the replication of actors’ appearances are hotly debated topics.

Even the venerable Tom Hanks, a stalwart in the world of cinema, has weighed in on this burning issue. Hanks articulated the concerns resonating within the industry, stating, “I can tell you that there [are] discussions going on in all of the guilds, all of the agencies, and all of the legal firms in order to come up with the legal ramifications of my face and my voice — and everybody else’s — being our intellectual property.”

Hanks further underscored the profound implications of AI-generated performances, emphasizing that these lifelike creations could potentially outlive the human actors who bring them to life. “I could be hit by a bus tomorrow, and that’s it,” Hanks mused, “but my performances can go on and on and on. Outside of the understanding that it’s been done by A.I. or deep fake, there’ll be nothing to tell you that it’s not me and me alone, and it’s going to have some degree of lifelike quality.”

In this era of rapidly advancing technology, the boundaries between human creativity and artificial ingenuity are becoming increasingly porous. The tale of Stephen Fry’s AI discovery serves as a stark reminder of the ever-expanding capabilities of artificial intelligence, leaving us to ponder the profound questions it raises about the future of entertainment, intellectual property, and the very essence of what it means to be a performer in the digital age. As we navigate these uncharted waters, one thing remains certain: the world of entertainment is undergoing a seismic shift, and the repercussions will be felt for generations to come.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about AI-generated voices

What did Stephen Fry discover about AI-generated voices?

Stephen Fry discovered that an AI-generated recording of his voice could convincingly mimic him reading the Harry Potter books, raising concerns about the future of voice actors and the potential threat posed by this technology.

How did Stephen Fry’s agents react to the AI-generated recording?

Stephen Fry’s agents were extremely upset when they heard the AI-generated recording of his voice, highlighting the potential threat this technology poses to the job prospects of voice actors, including Fry himself.

What was notable about the AI-generated voice in question?

The AI-generated voice was created from a dataset of Stephen Fry reading all seven volumes of the Harry Potter books. It was not a simple mash-up but a flexible artificial voice that could modulate words to fit the meaning of each sentence, making it incredibly convincing.

Why is Tom Hanks involved in discussions about AI in Hollywood?

Tom Hanks and industry professionals are discussing the legal ramifications of AI replicating actors’ appearances and voices. They emphasize the need to protect their intellectual property and address the lifelike quality of AI-generated performances, which could potentially outlive the actors themselves.

What broader implications does Stephen Fry’s discovery have for the entertainment industry?

Stephen Fry’s AI voice discovery highlights the growing capabilities of artificial intelligence in entertainment. It raises questions about the future of voice actors, intellectual property rights, and the impact of AI on the very essence of performance in the digital age.

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