At the suggestion of a former colleague, I listened to a podcast last week about a frightening new piece of technology. It scares me more than Kim Jong Un or Donald Trump with their tiny fingers hovering over their country’s big red buttons.
It’s called Adobe Voco and it’s best described as Photoshop for audio.
Adobe says it started the project for the entertainment industry. This program can patch in a correction to misspoken audio instead of having to recall the performer at greater expense.
How does it work? It tracks someone’s speech for 40 minutes and in that amount of time, a person apparently makes every sound in the language. You type the word or sentence you want and the program finds it from the recorded audio and patches it together seamlessly.
It scares the living heck out of me. It has massive implications for the proliferation of fake news. It could mean replacing the work of performers and voice-over artists with work they’ve already done. The chances are remote that this program would stay in the lane of the legal and moral. Journalists use ethics when they edit audio (or at least, they’re supposed to) but what if someone with a political agenda puts together something horrible that sounds like it was said by their opponent? It gives me shivers.
Perhaps people had the same worries about Photoshop and society has pretty much policed itself. I don’t remember that discussion. But we all know that once a false story of any kind has grabbed hold of people, the clarification never gets the same amount of attention. The damage is done and that’s what fake news is all about.
Adobe says it might not even release Voco because of what it can do. Just think back to how upset you got when one of your high school friends told another that you had said something … when you didn’t. Now imagine if someone’s life or a war was at stake. New technology can be wonderful but I guess I just don’t trust people enough to want to unleash this program without a lot more careful thought.