June 24, 2024

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Artificial Intelligence is a big sticking point in the current Hollywood strikes. Author and actor Stephen Fry understands why, as he’s been victimized by an AI version of his voice being used in a documentary without his participation.

Speaking at the CogX Festival in London on Thursday, Fry played a clip of an AI system mimicking his voice to narrate a historical documentary.

“I said not one word of that—it was a machine. Yes, it shocked me,” he said. “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.”

Fry was the narrator on the Harry Potter books in the UK.

“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,” Fry said

“It could therefore have me read anything from a call to storm parliament to hard porn, all without my knowledge and without my permission. And this, what you just heard, was done without my knowledge. So I heard about this, I sent it to my agents on both sides of the Atlantic, and they went ballistic—they had no idea such a thing was possible.”

Fry warned his agents: “You ain’t seen nothing yet.”

“This is audio,” he said he told them. “It won’t be long until full deepfake videos are just as convincing.”

Fry, who has acted in such films as  Gosford Park, V for Vendetta, and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, said the current strikes are an attempt to address that potential problem for actors.

“We have to think about [AI] like the first automobile: impressive but not the finished article,” he said, likening it to when cars were invented and no one envisioned how widespread they are today.

“Tech is not a noun, it is a verb, it is always moving,” he said. “What we have now is not what will be. When it comes to AI 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 f***ing weird time to be alive.”

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