No Ones Dies in AI – Voice Cloning Can Bring Back the Dead

Voice cloning technology is here, and it’s good. You’ve heard about celebrities like Scarlett Johansson who have had their voices cloned and used without permission. All you need is 30 seconds of anyone’s voice, and AI gives you a lifetime of conversation. I mean having a Delco accent chatbot telling you to geh head yoos and answer the fewn can be done already.

The thing I’ve been thinking about and what’s been left out of the conversation is we have the tech to clone any voice, including a loved one who has passed as long as you have at least 30 seconds of recordings.  Imagine hearing the voice of a loved one who died, guiding you, offering advice, or simply asking  “How was your day?”  We are living in the Black Mirror.

There’s nothing more intimate than hearing the voice of someone you love, especially someone who has passed. Some like myself listened to a voicemail greeting of someone who has recently passed’s voice. The voicemail is gone now. But I have recordings, lots of home movies of my fat. I can clone his voice and create a chatbot. I can have the chatbot read stories to the grandsons he never met. I think we’re close to even training that voice to share the same knowledge and passions they had when living; next throw in some expressions and unique mannerisms and it’s going to be a near-perfect imitation of the actual person.

Would you create a chatbot with someone who has passed? Or someone you never knew? Some never get closure after death, and this is the next best thing. I think many would leap at the chance; all you need to do is load a few recordings into Eleven Lab’s incredible engine.

But let’s step back and consider the implications. When we use voice cloning to recreate the voices of those who can no longer consent, are we honoring their memory or creating an alternate version that will water down their essence?

I have memories of my dad and my grandparents, but the memory of their voices in those memories is vague. My mind can hardly imitate what they sounded like without a recording.

The magic of voice cloning is its ability to evoke strong emotions and intimate connections.  A child hearing their mother’s voice in a lullaby feels comfort and love even if she’s not there to sing it herself. These bonds are powerful, and they highlight the potential of this technology to enrich our lives, but like I’ve said before in regards to AI, it’s not authentic.

AI can’t be authentic. It’s trickery. It’s like the comfort of a successful séance. When an AI-generated voice mimics the unique cadence, tone, and personality of a loved one, it becomes more than just a collection of sounds; it is a shadow. I can’t say I wouldn’t fall for it.

It feels real to the senses. Talking to your grandma will make you emotional. It becomes a presence, a shadow of the person it represents. Is it any less real than a human voice?  Of course, it is. As good as it is now, it’ll only get better. We’ll have better sound and better video. Meta or a similar tech company can create family reunions with dozens of ancestors in the near future, it’ll akin to visiting the Hall of Presidents at Disneyworld.

Would you like to talk to the younger versions of your kids again? I’m sure you have hours of audio on your phone. Heck, I got my 8-year-old to talk about Kendrick Lamar in French. Here’s the thing: it’s a language and subject he doesn’t know very well, plus he’s 12 now. It sounds like he did, but I’m happy to share since it’s not actually him. It’s not even his essence.

Voice cloning can bring those voices back, but is it really them? The essence of a person is more than just the sound of their voice; it’s the context, the emotions, the shared experiences.

Try this, clone your own voice (Eleven Labs) it takes only a minute.  Then you can type in or paste anything you want, even your most intimate feelings and emotions.  It will sound pretty much like you but everything else will feel wrong. That’s the same with listening to others. It’s only a good imitation. The tech will only get better but as good as it is, it can’t ever bridge the gap to attain the essence.

By relying on AI-generated imitations are we preserving their memory, or are we reducing them to mere facsimiles, stripped of their true essence?  Technology is seductive, AI is more than just seductive it’s manipulative.  Are we crossing a line that should remain uncrossed?  Before we include video in this debate we really need to work out if there are emotions and desires, like grief better left alone.  For now

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