Scarlett Johansson Is “Shocked, Angered, and in Disbelief” Over ChatGPT Scandal

los angeles, california january 19 scarlett johansson attends 26th annual screen actors guild awards at the shrine auditorium on january 19, 2020 in los angeles, california photo by leon bennettgetty images
Scarlett Johansson Reacts to ChatGPT Voice ScandalLeon Bennett - Getty Images
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Scarlett Johansson is taking action after OpenAI debuted a personal-assistant voice that sounds hauntingly similar to her own.

The technology research firm presented the voice for the AI assistant, “Sky,” in a live demonstration last week, after which many people noted that it sounded almost identical to Johansson’s voice in Spike Jonze’s Her. In the 2013 sci-fi film, a man played by Joaquin Phoenix falls madly in love with a bodiless artificial intelligence voiced by Johansson.

In a statement released Monday to NPR, Johansson explained that OpenAI CEO Sam Altman came to her to ask that she become the voice of the latest version of the company’s ChatGPT personal-assistant software. She said Altman—who has admitted to being inspired by Her—told her he thought her voice would be “comforting to people” who are uneasy with AI technology. But, the actor said, “[a]fter much consideration and for personal reasons, I declined the offer.”

Just two days before the new ChatGPT was unveiled, however, Altman reached out to Johansson’s team again, urging her to reconsider. Before they could connect, though, he released the product—and with it, the voice of Sky.

“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,” Johansson said.

She also finds it extremely alarming, she said, that at a moment in history when the internet is filled with disinformation, a massive technology company with so much influence would do something like this.

“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,” she continued. “I look forward to resolution in the form of transparency and the passage of appropriate legislation to help ensure that individual rights are protected.”

Johansson’s attorneys sent the technology company two letters asking it to detail how Sky’s voice was developed, they told NPR. Meanwhile, Altman and other OpenAI executives have denied there’s any connection between Johansson and Sky—Altman says the AI’s voice is actually based on that of another “professional actress”—but they have also stopped using the voice for now.

In a post on X (formerly Twitter) on Sunday, OpenAI said Sky’s voice would be “paused” as it addresses “questions about how we chose the voices in ChatGPT.”

“We cast the voice actor behind Sky’s voice before any outreach to Ms. Johansson. Out of respect for Ms. Johansson, we have paused using Sky’s voice in our products. We are sorry to Ms. Johansson that we didn’t communicate better,” Altman wrote in a statement to NPR.

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