OpenAI question: Should you trust a thief with receipts?

OpenAI says it has proof that it didn’t steal Scarlett Johansson’s voice. Does that make it an honest company?

OpenAI defends its actions

Scarlett Johansson claimed OpenAI solicited her to train its latest AI, then released a voice called “Sky” that sounded just like her. Open AI says no, they didn’t use her voice, and they have proof. Now there’s an article in the Washington Post explaining the evidence that OpenAI trained Sky on the voice of another actress (gift link):

  • Internal OpenAI documents show a casting call for a woman 25 to 45 with an engaging, charismatic voice, not a Scarlett Johansson clone.
  • While the identity of the actress they hired remains secret, recordings show that her voice sounds just like Sky.
  • In a statement, the anonymous actress said this episode “feels personal being that it’s just my natural voice and I’ve never been compared to [Johansson] by the people who do know me closely.”

The problem with being a known thief is that people don’t believe you

OpenAI has scraped millions of web pages, including vast amounts of copyrighted content, to train its AI.

OpenAI has consumed millions of images, including vast amounts of copyright content, to train its drawing engine.

None of this is in dispute.

OpenAI behaves as if its technology is the inevitable future of mankind. If you believed this, would you trouble over trifles like copyright and name and image ownership?

From Adrienne LaFrance’s article in The Atlantic (gift link):

To worship at the altar of mega-scale and to convince yourself that you should be the one making world-historic decisions on behalf of a global citizenry that did not elect you and may not share your values or lack thereof, you have to dispense with numerous inconveniences—humility and nuance among them. Many titans of Silicon Valley have made these trade-offs repeatedly. YouTube (owned by Google), Instagram (owned by Meta), and Twitter (which Elon Musk insists on calling X) have been as damaging to individual rights, civil society, and global democracy as Facebook was and is. Considering the way that generative AI is now being developed throughout Silicon Valley, we should brace for that damage to be multiplied many times over in the years ahead.

And here’s some of Marc Andreessen’s Techno-Optimist Manifesto:

The techno-capital machine makes natural selection work for us in the realm of ideas. The best and most productive ideas win, and are combined and generate even better ideas. Those ideas materialize in the real world as technologically enabled goods and services that never would have emerged de novo.

Ray Kurzweil defines his Law of Accelerating Returns: Technological advances tend to feed on themselves, increasing the rate of further advance.

We believe in accelerationism – the conscious and deliberate propulsion of technological development – to ensure the fulfillment of the Law of Accelerating Returns. To ensure the techno-capital upward spiral continues forever. . . .

We believe Artificial Intelligence is best thought of as a universal problem solver. And we have a lot of problems to solve.

We believe Artificial Intelligence can save lives – if we let it. Medicine, among many other fields, is in the stone age compared to what we can achieve with joined human and machine intelligence working on new cures. There are scores of common causes of death that can be fixed with AI, from car crashes to pandemics to wartime friendly fire.

We believe any deceleration of AI will cost lives. Deaths that were preventable by the AI that was prevented from existing is a form of murder.

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman tweeted one word, “her,” a few weeks ago. Why?

Here’s the problem. You are a thief with a history of taking things without permission, you made a provocative tweet, you believe AI is inevitable and will save the world. You also hired an actress that is not Scarlett Johansson. Still, who knows what’s happening inside the neural networks that power OpenAI?

A thief stands surrounded by the haul of purloined goodies he clearly stole from people’s houses. Amid that haul is a diamond ring that looks like a ring you lost. You ask about the ring. He shows you the receipts, indicating that he bought it from a jeweler.

Is he still a thief?

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  1. That last quote by Andreessen sent a chill… Good post. Just listened to an Ezra Klein podcast interview with Holly Herndon (Spawning).