Eyeballs on the clash of the real and the virtual this week with the news that a new Bourdain documentary features an AI-generated version of the man’s voice reading out emails he sent people (notably, I think, the audio appears to have been used in the trailer.) This NYer piece, featuring my colleague Karen Hao in quotable form, goes through some of the issues.
Creating a synthetic Bourdain voice-over seemed to me far less crass than, say, a C.G.I. Fred Astaire put to work selling vacuum cleaners in a Dirt Devil commercial, or a holographic Tupac Shakur performing alongside Snoop Dogg at Coachella, and far more trivial than the intentional blending of fiction and nonfiction in, for instance, Errol Morris’s “Thin Blue Line.”
At the same time, “deepfakes” and other computer-generated synthetic media have certain troubling connotations—political machinations, fake news, lies wearing the HD-rendered face of truth—and it is natural for viewers, and filmmakers, to question the boundaries of its responsible use. Neville’s offhand comment, in his interview with me, that “we can have a documentary-ethics panel about it later,” did not help assure people that he took these matters seriously.Helen Rosner, The ethics of a deepfake Anthony Bourdain voice, The New Yorker