New AI systems have carved inroads into many industries, not least of all those involving voice and audio. Now the audiobook business is in trouble; since AI has the increasingly good ability to mimic the human voice and generate words, many voice actors and readers have watched the demand for their contributions steadily fall. According to a report from Tech Explore, voice actor Tanya Eby, who has been in the business for 20 years, has seen her workload drop “by half.” Several of her colleagues report similar trends in their own work.
AI startups like DeepZen, based in London, cheapen audiobook projects tremendously, making it a challenge for human actors to stay viable. DeepZen technology takes several different human voices to create a unique new one, similar to how Midjourney or DALL-E “scrapes” the Internet to generate novel images.
Big Tech companies including Apple and Google are reportedly transitioning into AI audiobooks, citing an interest to make services more accessible. Not everyone, though, is so eager to incorporate AI into storytelling.
Stories revolve around human experiences, hopes, fears, and desires. Handing the narrative baton to a machine can bankrupt stories of their human element. That’s the strong opinion of Emily Ellet, an actor and audiobook narrator.
The essence of storytelling is teaching humanity how to be human. And we feel strongly that that should never be given to a machine to teach us about how to be human. Storytelling should remain human entirely.Audio book narrators say AI is already taking away business (techxplore.com)
Eby said the AI audiobooks lack “emotional connectivity” that makes a good story worth listening to. She is also worried that people will simply get used to the machine-generated versions, and that this is already “quietly happening.”
Peter Biles wrote here on the potential shortcomings of the “AI novel” and agrees with Eby and Ellet. Stories are artifacts of culture–they form the moral imagination of societies. While AI has its uses as a tool, there are certain spheres where maybe it’s best avoided.