Empathetic, intuitive, imperfect.

Is AI coming after my job? (I’ll get my coat – but I’ll just say this first).

This is Zoom – a robot created by Eureka Children’s Museum, Halifax in 2013 and one of my earliest notable voiceover jobs. It was a wonderful opportunity (from Limehouse films) and I love how the work has endured, greeting thousands of children everyday. 

Ten years on and the robot (admittedly not a big yellow one) has harnessed the power of the human voice in previously unimaginable ways, since the release of a language processing tool late last year. 

A simple web search tells me I can get ‘AI voices with real emotions’ and if that’s not enough to give you the creeps, it’s now possible for a client to clone my voice and use it however they choose. 

Influential bodies such as the Ada Lovelace Institute have sounded the alarm over the lack of ethical and social regulation in AI. Even the tech giants themselves are now calling for AI development to stop, until it can be implemented safely. And by safely, I guess we’re talking about the short term safety of systems but also the future of humanity. No less.

Naturally I’m nervous that my clients might use an AI voice instead of a me. Like any established voiceover artist, I’ve spent years investing in my skills, business and studio. But we should all be worried. 

In replacing deeply human roles such as art, design, teaching, music and vocal communication, AI would delete our ‘raison d’etre’. Work isn’t merely a matter of cold hard efficiency. It’s how our sense of purpose balances with the skills that society needs. Right now there are humans with fantastic creative and practical skills that may not exist in future, if AI tips the balance. 

What the bejeebers can we do? 

As an individual working within an affected role, I’ve been trying to get my head around all this recently, but I appreciate there are folks who have lived and breathed this concept for years. We can all follow, inform and some of us even implement future policy. Right now we need to celebrate our uniquely skilled humans while we still can, and celebrate them precisely because they are deeply human. 

I have always put genuine and friendly communication at the heart of my work. It makes the job better and it makes life better. I value my clients (who are invariably just as friendly!) very highly. And all the things I am in real life, I am also those things behind the mic. Empathetic, intuitive, imperfect. 

There will be choices to make. And it may be that this will be a moment to drive down fees and make some careers untenable. It could also be that we choose to value our genuine human interactions all the more. And celebrate them consciously and deliberately. 

It’s so much to think about and it feels good to share, so thanks!

Go and visit ‘Zoom’ the robot at Eureka this Easter anyway. They allow a big yellow robot to teach, entertain and make friends with our kids. We wouldn’t entrust an actual automaton with that job. Would we??


#ai #vo

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