The strange world of AI voice clones

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This is the place Atlantic Ocean Intelligence, a limited-run series in which our writers help you wrap your mind around artificial intelligence and a new machine age. Sign up here.

It's a good bet that the generative-AI era will be stranger than anyone expects. In a new feature for Atlantic Oceanmy colleague Charlie Warzel profiled ElevenLabs, an AI company that specializes in mimicking voices.

“It's easy, as you play with ElevenLabs software, to imagine a world in which you can listen to all the text on the Internet in sounds as rich as any audiobook,” Charlie writes. “But the potential carnage is just as easy to imagine: scammers targeting parents using their children's voices to ask for money, an unholy October surprise from a dirty political manipulator. Tested the tool to see how faithfully it could replicate my voice saying outrageous things. Soon, I had high-quality audio of my voice clone appealing to people not to vote , which blamed 'Globalist' for COVID, and admitted to all sorts of journalistic malpractice. It was enough to make me check with my bank to make sure the voice authentication features has been disabled.

You may already be exposed to ElevenLabs technology without realizing it. Atlantic Ocean And The Washington Post Use software to create audio versions of some stories. Nike cloned NBA star Luka Dončić's voice with software for a recent marketing campaign. New York City Mayor Eric Adams' office used it to mimic a politician's voice for multilingual robocalls. And a gun control nonprofit used it to recreate the voices of children killed in the Parkland school shooting.

The company has established security measures in an effort to prevent malicious use, but it's fair to expect surprises. As Charlie writes, “Highly motivated people are constantly finding ways to use these tools in strange, unexpected, even dangerous ways.”

– Damon Barris, Senior Editor

Daniel Steer for The Atlantic

ElevenLabs is building an army of voice clones.

By Charlie Warzel

My voice was ready. I waited, compulsively checking my inbox. I opened the email and scrolled until I saw a button that clearly said, “Use Voice.” I considered saying something out loud for the occasion, but it felt wrong. The computer will now speak for me.

I thought it would be fun, and unusual, to clone my own voice. I found AI startup ElevenLabs, paid $22 for a “creator” account, and uploaded some of my recordings. A few hours later, I typed a few words into the text box, hit “Enter,” and there I was: all the nasal lilts, hesitations, pauses, and those mid-Atlantic Ohio tones that make up my voice. mine

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Apple took a lot of flak this week for a new iPad commercial that to many viewers seemed like an uncomfortable reminder of the dangers of AI overpowering human creativity: It showed A variety of artistic materials are crushed in a hydraulic press, resulting in a new tablet. Back “Apple wants to show you that much of human ingenuity and history can be compressed into an iPad, and in doing so you want to believe that this device is a desirable entry point into both the consumption of culture and the creation of it.” The point is … but good lord, Apple, read the room,” I wrote with Charlie this week. (The company apologized for the ad yesterday.)

– Damon

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