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The Scarlett Johansson Debacle: Why Sam Altman Fumbled This So Badly

OpenAIFantastic piece published by Platformer today that gives an in-depth look at OpenAI, centered around its recently released ChatGPT voices.

One of them sounds eerily like Scarlett Johansson.

And she didn’t give her permission.

Turns out that Her is Sam Altman’s favorite movie.  In the film, a man falls in love with a romantic AI bot (or so I’ve read – it sounds like an incredibly boring story to me, so I skipped it).

As Altman was imagining how ChatGPT’s voice would sound, he naturally though of Scarlett Jo.  So far, no problem – art often imitates life.

But he was specifically thinking of Johansson, not just “Johansson-like”.  OpenAI attempted to negotiate with Johansson and the actress declined.  They tried again but she was still considering when suddenly ChatGPT launched its voices and she heard herself saying things she’d never said.

That is a bad look, and OpenAI had to retract that voice.  Sam Altman’s movie fantasy was canned.  She might still sue them.  Her attorneys asked for information on how the voice was trained.

All of this is touching a red-hot nerve in Hollywood, as creatives are very on-edge concerning the intrusion of AI into what had been exclusively human-dominated realms.  Ignoring an artist and using her voice anyway is exactly what artists fear.

There’s more to the story, and a lot of it centers around the tension between being safe with AI and the next shiny thing.  There is tremendous pressure to focus on the latter, while playing lip service to the former, and that’s what’s played out at OpenAI so far.  Even though it’s a nonprofit for responsible use, it acts more like a 10-year-old given the keys to a Harley-Davidson.


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