A new documentary about Anthony Bourdain has sparked a debate over the use of artificial intelligence to stitch together voice quotes from the late celebrity chef and effectively bring his voice back to life.
Roadrunner: A film about Anthony Bourdain, directed by Morgan Neville, takes an intimate look at Bourdain’s life and death, including his global fame, career, and pursuit of happiness.
In a recent interview with the New Yorker, Neville revealed that he used AI to synthetically create a voiceover reading of an email from Bourdain himself.
There were a total of three lines of dialogue that Neville wanted Bourdain to tell, the filmmaker explained in his interview. But because he could not find previous audio, he instead contacted a software company and provided about a dozen hours of recordings, which in turn created an AI model of Bourdain’s voice.
In the film, there is a scene about an email sent by Bourdain to his friend, the artist David Choe. Bourdain writes, and viewers hear his voice read aloud: “My life is a little shit now. You are successful and I am successful and I wonder: Are you happy? “But the voice was actually created by AI.
Neville added, “If you’re watching the movie … you probably do not know what the other lines are that were spoken by AI, and you do not want to know.”
Despite Neville describing his use of AI technology as a “modern storytelling technique,” critics expressed concern on social media about the unannounced use of a “deep false” voice to say sentences that Bourdain never spoke.
Among those upset about the use of AI was Bourdain’s ex-wife Ottavia Bourdain. She challenged Nevilles claims that he had received her blessing for using the artificial technology, tweeting: “It was definitely NOT the one who said Tony would have been cool with it.”
Sean Burns, a film critic for the Boston WBUR, condemned the filmmakers, writing: “When I wrote my review, I was not aware that the filmmakers had used an AI to falsify Bourdain’s voice … I want this to tell you everything you need to know about the ethics of the people behind this project. . “
However, Neville insisted that there was no manipulation, saying, “I did not put words in his mouth. I was just trying to make them come alive. ”
With AI rising, the initiatives used in the new documentary have once again raised questions about narrative ethics. As deepfakes become more advanced, critics worry about a growing slippery slope that surrounds what is real and what is false.
Nevertheless, the criticism does not seem to concern Neville.
“We can have a documentary panel on that later,” he told the New Yorker.