People have worried for a long time that AI will take away jobs by doing simple tasks that humans used to do. The rising popularity of generative artificial intelligence (A.I.) tools that can generate content like essays, images, and music in response to a text prompt has only fueled these worries. The most prominent example is OpenAI’s ChatGPT, a popular chatbot released just recently.
Worker layoffs due to these technologies have not occurred en masse thus far. But a lot of people worry that the time is coming soon. Voice actors will tell you. AI tools already exist that make it sound like a famous person is saying any text with little to no input from the user. Scientists at Microsoft made a text-to-speech AI tool last month that can imitate any human voice after hearing only three seconds of it.
A nonprofit publication that focuses on technology “beyond the Western bubble” reported this week that A.I. dubbing companies are recruiting voice actors in Latin America to train their algorithms in preparation for one day replacing human voice actors in media such as commercials, cartoons, movies, news segments, and so on.
However, this time the job losses aren’t hypothetical. It’s happening, as reported by the rest of the world. The article features an interview with Argentine voice actor Alejandro Graue, who found out last month that his voice had been replaced by an artificially intelligent one in a video for a YouTube channel dedicated to personal development.
A technician at the channel told Graue that the A.I. voice is more cost-effective than hiring him. Graue tweeted an insult not at artificial intelligence per se, but rather at the actors and actresses whose voices were being used to train AI: “Thanks to all the actors and actresses who are lending their voices to create this shit that will eventually render all of us obsolete.”
In an interview with Rest of the World, one voice actor (who requested anonymity) discussed the “marathon” recording sessions he had been a part of. “They make us record a bunch of words and freestyle letters in a variety of accents and styles for hours.” One employee said they were asked to sign an agreement that would prevent them from ever reclaiming the company’s “voicebank,” which is the company’s collection of recorded employee voices.
Graue told the publication that he, too, had begun receiving offers to work in Buenos Aires, Argentina, training the algorithms within the past few months. They offered me the job and said I would be paid 10,000 pesos (approximately $52 at the official exchange rate) for recording 10,000 words.
According to Rest of the World, two companies, Deepdub of Tel Aviv (which focuses on film and television) and Papercup of London (which focuses on nonfiction content like BBC news), offer Spanish automatic dubbing services.
But voice actors aren’t the only workers who have to adapt to the challenges posed by artificial intelligence.
When the editors of the American science fiction magazine Clarkesworld found out that many of the stories being sent in by writers were actually made by A.I., they temporarily stopped asking for submissions. While some educators have banned ChatGPT in the name of academic integrity, others are mandating its use because they see proficiency with artificial intelligence as a vital skill. For its part, JPMorgan recently informed staff that ChatGPT use was prohibited.
While other voice actors collaborate with A.I. dubbing companies, jeopardizing their future work, the case of Latin American voice actors stands out for how directly workers are affected.