Amazon has a tendency to make things that are simultaneously the neat hallmarks of a technological future and features of cyberpunk dystopia. Their digital assistants are a great example; they can connect all your devices so they work together like never before, but they might also try to electrocute your ten-year-old. Oh, and they’re probably spying on you.
Gizmodo reports Amazon is apparently working on a feature that can synthesize short audio clips of a person’s voice, and reprogram it as longer speech. In other words, it will analyze the pattern of your voice and combine those patterns into new words and sounds.
Amazon debuted this new technology at re:MARS (machine learning, automation, robots, and space) conference in Las Vegas, which focuses on the company’s ventures in ambient computing. Amazon’s Senior Vice President and Head Scientist for Alexa, Rohit Prasad, framed the new technology as a way for a deceased grandmother to read new bedtime stories to her grandchildren. The executive was clearly thrilled at the possibilities, remarking that “we are unquestionably living in the golden era of AI, where our dreams and science fictions are becoming a reality.”
But…we’re not so sure. The ability to digitally alter videos (aka deepfaking) is already a subject of controversy. Yes, you can have a young Paul McCartney appear in your music video, but you also run the risk of being framed by a jealous parent. Now that your voice can also be recreated in only a few short words, the dangers seem even more apparent. This also has nasty implications for those trying to avoid phone scams as recreations will sound more and more like a real person. It’s concerning to consider what happens when technology gets smooth enough and viewers feel they cannot trust anything they see or hear online. Maybe the next season of “Black Mirror” will touch on it. For now, check out some of these tips about how to preserve your privacy.