‘It could have me read porn’: Stephen Fry shocked by AI cloning of his voice in documentary

Stephen Fry has issued a warning about the potential dangers of AI, after claiming that a history documentary faked his voice without his knowledge. Speaking at the tech-based CogX festival in London, the star played a clip of a programme seemingly narrated by him, before saying that it was the result of digital cloning.

“I said not one word of that – it was a machine,” Fry told attenders. “Yes, it shocked me. They used my reading of the seven volumes of the Harry Potter books, and from that dataset an AI of my voice was created and it made that new narration.”

“It could … have me read anything from a call to storm parliament to hard porn, all without my knowledge and without my permission. And this, what you just heard, was done without my knowledge,” said the actor and presenter, according to the business publication Fortune.

“I heard about this, I sent it to my agents on both sides of the Atlantic, and they went ballistic – they had no idea such a thing was possible.”

Fry’s accusation that his voice was copied without consent is particularly problematic given the ongoing writers’ strike. As a self-described “proud member” of the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists union, he is not taking part in new projects. The AI generation of content is one of the issues that has prompted the industrial action.

“You ain’t seen nothing yet,” Fry says he told his agents in response to their anger. “This is audio … it won’t be long until full deepfake videos are just as convincing.”

Deepfake technology, which can manipulate footage or images to create photos or videos of people not based on reality was recently described by Microsoft’s president, Brad Smith, as his biggest concern about AI. A doctored photo of Rishi Sunak pulling a bad pint on a press opportunity saw experts refer to it as a “threat to democracy”.

For Fry, the particularly problematic issue is how sophisticated it could become.

“We have to think about [AI] like the first automobile: impressive but not the finished article,” he said. “Tech is not a noun, it is a verb, it is always moving.

“What we have now is not what will be. When it comes to AI models, what we have now will advance at a faster rate than any technology we have ever seen. One thing we can all agree on: it’s a fucking weird time to be alive.”

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