AI’s Musical Resurrections: Creepy or clever?

June 30, 2023

Earlier this week, Paul McCartney told the BBC that AI helped him acquire the late John Lennon’s voice from an old demo in order to produce one final Beatles record.

Grimes has also weighed in on the debate about AI-generated vocals, saying she’d want her voice to be used posthumously by just about anymore. Sting, on the other hand, feels differently and for valid reasons.

This recent trend of creating artificial versions of celebrities’ voices, while fascinating from a technological standpoint, raises ethical questions and challenges our understanding of consent and privacy.

The idea isn’t a bad one…

The sheer idea of using AI to revive the voices of dead musicians comes from a good place, doesn’t it? It’s meant to preserve their unique musical talents so fans can enjoy their work for decades to come.

By leveraging AI techniques such as deep learning and voice synthesis, developers can analyze existing recordings, interviews, and performances of deceased musicians to create realistic and convincing vocal imitations.

This method allows for the restoration of incomplete recordings. In some cases, musicians may have left behind incomplete recordings or demos before they’ve suddenly passed — think Tupac, Amy Winehouse, John Lennon.

AI can help fill in these gaps by generating new vocal performances that align with the musician’s style and sound. This allows us, the fans, to experience the intended vision of the artist, even if it was never fully realized during their lifetime.

The Downside of AI-Generated Voices

While it is tempting to experiment with new vocal combinations and reimagine classic songs, we must remember that at the core of this technology lies the power to manipulate and distort reality. The consequences of misusing this power are not only harmful to the individuals involved but can also undermine the very fabric of trust and truth in our society.

Artists may face ethical dilemmas when confronted with the use of AI-generated content that exploits their voice or likeness. They must grapple with the implications of this technology on their creative process, artistic integrity, and the broader impact on society.

Unauthorized Monetization

We consider the creation of artificial versions of celebrities’ voices to be unauthorized monetization. AI-generated content can be used to generate revenue without the artist’s consent or knowledge. This unauthorized use of their voice or likeness can result in lost income opportunities and may infringe on the artists’ intellectual property rights.

Voice, much like one’s likeness, is an intrinsic part of an individual’s identity. To use someone’s voice without their permission is, undeniably, an ethical violation. The question of whether a person can own their voice is complex, and while current legal frameworks may not provide adequate protection, it is our responsibility as a society to collectively address this challenge and ensure that advancements in AI technology respect the dignity and rights of all individuals. Going forward, using deepfake voice recognition, in addition to staying aware of the implications of AI-generated music and content, are important to reconciling with this changing technology and what it means for artists, entertainers and listeners alike.