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Joseph Cox, reporting for Motherboard:

Voice actors are increasingly being asked to sign rights to their voices away so clients can use artificial intelligence to generate synthetic versions that could eventually replace them, and sometimes without additional compensation, according to advocacy organizations and actors who spoke to Motherboard.

Which, how could it be otherwise, is already packaged and marketed as the tech industry’s latest shit sandwich. According to ElevenLabs, e.g., voice actors “will no longer be limited by the number of recording sessions they can attend and instead they will be able to license their voices for use in any number of projects simultaneously, securing additional revenue and royalty streams.”

A shit sandwich voice actor Fryda Wolff doesn’t buy:

“[A]ctors don’t want the ability to license or ‘secure additional revenue streams,’ that nonsense jargon gives away the game that ElevenLabs have no idea how voice actors make their living.” Wolff added, “we can just ask musicians how well they’ve been doing since streaming platforms licensing killed ‘additional revenue and royalty streams’ for music artists. ElevenLabs’ verbiage is darkly funny.”

There’s so much stuff LLM technologies could do, like practically every new technology, to benefit almost everyone in almost every industry, humanity as a whole, and even the climate and the planet. Right now, however, we’d better be prepared to being bombarded with shit sandwiches left and right.

Instead of asking what these technologies can do for everyone (e.g., how AI/LLM can assist in smart city-planning or medical diagnostics), the major players are rather asking what they can do for shareholders and billionaires (e.g., “Bain & Company announces services alliance with OpenAI to help enterprise clients identify and realize the full potential and maximum value of AI”). The dominant vector here is relentlessly handing out snake oil to the effect that “A(G)I” will solve all of our problems in an exciting future full of marvels, while in reality the foundations are laid down in the present for rampant exploitation with breathtaking speed.

As Cory Doctorow put it:

Markets value automation primarily because automation allows capitalists to pay workers less. The textile factory owners who purchased automatic looms weren’t interested in giving their workers raises and shorting working days. They wanted to fire their skilled workers and replace them with small children kidnapped out of orphanages and indentured for a decade, starved and beaten and forced to work, even after they were mangled by the machines. Fun fact: Oliver Twist was based on the bestselling memoir of Robert Blincoe, a child who survived his decade of forced labor.

If you think Cory’s example is a purely historical one, you haven’t kept up with current events. In the right hands, LLM technologies can be a terrific addition to our toolbox to help us help ourselves as a species. But LLM technologies as such will solve nothing at best, and make life for large parts of humanity more miserable at worst.