Scarlett Johansson denied OpenAI the right to use her voice. They used it anyway.

Scarlett Johansson is famed for many roles, among them her disquieting performance in Her, a movie about the relationship between a man and an AI chatbot. When OpenAI boss Sam Altman contacted Johansson to ask to use her voice for his company's forthcoming real-life AI chatbot, you can well imagine why1 she said no. But in typical Silicon Valley style, they weren't asking for permission, just approval, and they used it anyway.

At first, they denied it—"OpenAI chief technology officer Mira Murati said the company did not pattern any ChatGPT voices on Johansson's sultry computer voice in the movie," but Altman and other OpenAI guys had let the cat out the bag on Twitter.

Johansson, clearly livid, ultimately issued a public statement and a legal letter before the clone was removed.

"I was shocked, angered and in disbelief that Mr. Altman would pursue a voice that sounded so eerily similar to mine that my closest friends and news outlets could not tell the difference," she said, … "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 in a statement to NPR.

OpenAI's Mira Murati had the charm to say, more or less, that she doesn't know who this person is.

"It says more about our imagination, our storytelling as a society than about the technology itself," Murati said. "The way we developed this technology is not based on the movie or a sci-fi story. … "I don't know about the voice. I actually had to go and listen to Scarlett Johansson's voice," she said.

But Johansson's public statement describes how they tried to shmooze her: they approached her last fall and were given the FO, contacted her agent two days before launch to ask for reconsideration, launched it before they got a response, then yanked it when her lawyers asked them how they made the voice.

Everyone's pointing out, rightly, that all this shows they believe everything is theirs to take and use irrespective of permission, privacy, property, any of it. But Murati's audacious claim never to have heard the voice of the AI chatbot in her boss's favorite movie is key to understanding something else: they don't just think they're the smartest people in the world, they think that everyone else is stupid.


As a final fun thing today, check out how Google News's AI junk has hallucinated a factually incorrect headline that's the exact opposite of the truth here: