Ethics and ownership of AI-powered identities

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This article was contributed by Neesopians CEO Taesu Kim

With the tremendous advances in how AI / ML technology is being used, the most exciting, controversial and rapidly evolving advances have to do with the human voice. A typical example emerges by incorporating a complex of issues and emotions associated with AI-powered voices.

Last summer, AI technology was used to voice some of the late Anthony Borden’s writings, words that he never spoke or read aloud but still had; Voice cloning technology brought text to life Roadrunner: A film about Anthony BordenWhile some in the audience thought it wasn’t really Borden, others thought the move was a mistake because Borden wasn’t alive enough to allow his voice to be manipulated in this way, while many felt it was just a creative storytelling device.

Borden’s example highlights two key issues that will advance how AI-based voice technology will be used in the future. On the one hand, there are questions about who owns the voice and therefore control over how it can be used now and in the future. The moral issue, on the other hand, is: Is it morally appropriate to allow a person’s voice to be used in the public domain after his or her death when there is no control over how it will be used or what will be said?


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These questions are coming up because AI-based voice technology is really getting started; A lot of time and money has been spent on research and development to make machine-generated sounds “real.” They are now able to express emotions, composition, mood as well as many other distinctive markers characteristic of natural rise and fall and human speech (not to mention song). This is game-changing, as it has become difficult for listeners to distinguish between human and machine speech.

As such, we have reached a critical juncture in technology development where we need to find a basic guide and set the tone, or like many of the earlier technologies, voice technology applications will be used in ways they never intended.

Ownership of digital identity

We’ve become a global society thirsting for rich content experiences – whether it’s through movie, television and streaming services or user-generated media like YouTube and TikTok. And soon Metavers will offer more new ways to engage with content. All of these routes offer ample opportunities for AI-powered voice as well as video. Creating AI-powered voice and video content makes it faster, easier and less expensive, not to mention adapting it to other languages. These technologies are also very accessible through text-to-voice services, so can necessarily take advantage of AI to create content without the need for any studio and many fancy tools, which drives high demand in the entertainment industry.

At the same time, there is a lot of fear surrounding the ownership and monetization of a person’s virtual identity. In a world of deep forgery, misrepresentation and identity theft, it is amazing for individuals to wonder what would happen if someone co-opted their digital identity for their own purposes. Not only will a person lose control of his or her equivalence, as well as any revenue or brand recognition associated with it, but it can also be used inappropriately, illegally – or so the thinking goes.

However, this is highly unlikely. Every human voice તેમજ as well as a face has its own unique footprint, consisting of thousands, millions, of characteristics. With advanced fraud detection and management techniques in development, AI-powered identities can be relatively easily secured. However, the more complex it is, the more it manages digital identity over time. It becomes a series of ethical decisions that are vaguely connected, not just about business.

Ethics of virtual representation and AI-driven identity

Was it appropriate for the director to use Borden’s digitized voice in his movie? The director was allegedly allowed to use his AI-cloned voice to convey the lines in question, but from whom? Who has the right to decide?

Similarly, the AI-powered voice of famous South Korean folk rock singer Kim Kwang-seok was recently used to release a new song. The artist has been dead for 25 years, but a broadcasting company struck a deal with the artist’s family to use AI to clone their voice and make it something completely new, mostly for public enjoyment. There are many other cases of entertainment companies and content creators who want to bring back the voices and similarities of famous people for concerts or movies. But is it morally responsible?

On the surface, it’s something that can be determined by licensing deals and agreements with the entertainer’s estate, or, ideally, while the artist is still alive. As the practice becomes more common, we should be prepared to see a kind of name, image, voice, similarity clause in a person’s will, especially one that manages their posthumous wishes or appoints a manager to oversee their virtual self career. Is – a lot like having a business manager in their life.

Virtual identity is not just for celebrities

It’s one thing for celebrities to consider such content and management deals, but what about regular, everyday people? Maybe those who mourn for loved ones, like this woman who lost her young daughter due to an illness? Together in a virtual reality environment, the woman was able to reunite with her daughter in the form of an avatar, apparently traveling to the heavenly version and hosting a birthday party. This experience is clearly meaningful for the young mother and her family, but the interaction is by no means real. Some companies – as well as consumers – do not want to take part in developing such experiences because they take away the child’s independence and personality, while others see the opportunity to comfort and close families in pain.

And what about creating new virtual experiences for educational purposes, such as the award-winning interactive holograms: Survivor Stories Experience? At a time when students and citizens are questioning whether the Holocaust was real or what was really done by the Nazis, is there no room for such technology to be used for good? Which lines are appropriate in terms of creative license?

Moving towards an AI-powered future with AI-powered identity

There are no simple answers when it comes to virtual or AI-powered identity. We are sitting on top of a completely new medium of content creation, where famous as well as regular people will soon be asked to think about how to use their voice and image.

Virtual identities will become a currency that must be treated like their material possessions, in which they can express their desires in life and death and appoint managers and executors to approve their use. This may sound far-fetched, but digital voices are not aging and neither are avatars. With Metavers moving into the mainstream, our virtual self can live better than our years.

It will become a new requirement for each person to define and clearly define the parameters that suit their digital identity. Similarly, companies that offer platforms for creating AI-powered voice and video need to develop clear policies for adopting and using certain virtual AI-powered identities. Doing so protects both individuals and companies from coming down the slippery slope as highly disruptive AI-powered virtual identification becomes commonplace.

Taesu Kim is the CEO of Neosapience


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