Longtime Solid Snake voice actor David Hayter is a man of many talents, and has written and acted across films, games and TV since the early '90s. He's a guy who's been around these industries a while, certainly knows what goes into making the sausage, and he's not impressed with AI one bit.
"Anybody who steals your voice should be locked up for forever, but I also have a different perspective on it," Hayter told Eurogamer in a new interview. He goes on to describe coming up with an idea for a movie and asking ChatGPT, just for funsies, to knock up a script to see what came out: "the worst, most clichéd, soulless, dumbest collection of words I've ever seen".
Oh but Hayter's just getting warmed-up. When it comes to voice AI, "the technology to copy our voices is amazing," said Hayter. "If you Google 'deep fake voice, replication of Biden', for example, you know, they've got him saying all these crazy things, or whatever. But if you listen to it, there's no soul to it. It's still clearly just a manufactured version of his voice."
You have to agree with him on this one. Don't judge me but I watched a YouTube video where AI voices of Biden, Obama and Trump ranked the Resident Evil games and while the premise is funny and the voices are close there is for sure an uncanny valley effect going on. It sounds like Obama but you instinctively know that it's not Obama: something's missing, a lack of inflection, something about the pitch, whatever it is. And if I recall right Obama argued against Resi 4 being in top tier so he can do one anyway.
"If you think you're going to get the thousands of subtle, emotional adjustments that [prolific voice actor] Jennifer Hale is going to give you word for word, you're fooling yourself," said Hayter. "Yes, legally, we should all be protected against these idiots trying to repurpose our voices for free, or our voices or images or writing, what have you. But technologically, I'm not terribly concerned, I think it'll always be soulless."
We're still very much in the promise stage of AI, where advocates for the tech are alternately telling us how much it will change the world while others are trying to reassure governments it won't do a Skynet. But it is already abundantly clear that certain dire predictions about its emergence, such as for example writers and voice actors soon being out of a job, are total pie in the sky next to what these technologies can currently produce. "Soulless" is the perfect word for the tech right now, and may well always be.