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The Onion’s Take on OpenAI’s Scarlett Johansson Disaster Is Pretty Much Perfect

The Onion’s Take on OpenAI’s Scarlett Johansson Disaster Is Pretty Much Perfect
The Onion's Take on OpenAI's Scarlett Johansson Disaster Is Pretty Much Perfect


Bravo.

Stupid Simulacrum

The accusations that Scarlett Johansson has leveled against OpenAI have launched a storm of controversy, turning the ChatGPT creator into a near-pariah overnight for its alleged copying of the actress’s voice without her permission.

There’s already plenty of good writing out there on how the incident encapsulates the AI industry’s arrogance and its astounding lack of integrity. But leave it to The Onion, of course, to perfectly sum up the ridiculousness of this whole thing in just one satirical headline.

“Jerky, 7-Fingered Scarlett Johansson Appears In Video To Express Full-Fledged Approval Of OpenAI,” it reads.

“‘It is me, Scar Johnson, to express to the internet that everything about OpenAI is a-okay to me, thank you,’ said the shaky, stuttering Johansson,” wrote the satirical publication, “pausing to give several three-foot-long thumbs-ups before explaining that OpenAI has all legal rights over her name, image, and likeness.”

Her Side of the Story

We’ll avoid spoiling the joke by over-explaining it. But here’s some of the circumstances surrounding the accusations.

It all began with OpenAI’s release of a new update to ChatGPT, GPT-4o, that allowed the chatbot to have real-time conversations with users through several AI voices. Almost immediately, onlookers noticed that one of the voices, Sky, sounded strikingly similar to Johansson.

To many, that was no coincidence: one of Johansson’s most memorable roles is as the voice of an AI chatbot in the movie “Her,” which falls in love with the lonely male protagonist, played by Joaquin Phoenix.

Perhaps not realizing they were making their favorite company look bad, many OpenAI fans even joked that the new voice should be called Samantha — the name of ScarJo’s AI in the movie.

But the real blunder came from CEO Sam Altman, who on the day of the update’s release, cheekily tweeted the single word “her” — which is almost certainly a reference to the movie he has publicly professed to being a huge fan of.

Scarlet-Handed

That caused a stir. Days later, OpenAI unexpectedly announced that it was taking down Sky, but claimed that it had used a different actress and had not copied Johansson’s voice.

That guilty-seeming behavior was then cast as even more suspicious when Johansson publicly revealed that OpenAI had in fact approached her to license her voice last year but that she’d turned them down — something that the company had completely failed to mention in its announcement on the decision to remove Sky. So, she alleges, they used a voice that sounded just like hers instead.

“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.

As bad as it looks, it’s not quite an open-and-shut case. The Washington Post reported that OpenAI had cast the actress for Sky months prior to reaching out to Johansson. That certainly doesn’t explain the rest of Altman and his company’s bizarre behavior. Nevertheless, it’s hard to argue that OpenAI hasn’t dug itself into a hole, and many legal experts think that Johansson could have a strong case if she takes them to court.

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The Onion's Take on OpenAI's Scarlett Johansson Disaster Is Pretty Much Perfect

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