My (Unlikely) Replacement

A woman's face half robot and half human in shades of blue

All through the voice-over trade, worries are bubbling like simmering soup that artificial intelligence will replace human voices. Some in the voice-over game full-time are wringing their hands that work will dry up, AI will take over and the voice will become obsolete. I’m in the VO game full-time and I’m not worried. With a caveat.

Humans who despise recorded voices on phone systems would be apoplectic if all they could reach was a fake voice. They’d rise up like zombies and rain hellfire upon the corporations that use AI. Perhaps that’s a slight overstatement. But using only synthetic voices wouldn’t go over well. Humans prefer humans, as this survey showed.

With the increased focus on shopping locally and supporting each other, if VO artists can get over themselves and band together, we could garner sympathy and pressure AI users to do what’s right. Hire live and local people to voice their projects.

And there’s quality. Oh I know the quality of AI will improve but this message arrived last week. If it’s the best that London’s largest employer can do, it makes me optimistic about the future. Listen to what I mean.

Even taking all of the above into account isn’t enough. There’s one more thing that has to happen and it requires long-term thinking.

The Caveat

This is a direct plea to my fellow voice actors. Don’t take a job recording text-to-voice. If you do, you’re just providing a template for someone’s AI. They use the voice to create the sounds the AI will be based on. It makes me gleeful to see such voice-seekers practically pleading for auditions. They’re asking us to create platforms that would put us out of work. If we don’t do it, they will struggle. And if you do it, you may as well be a cashier using self-checkout. You’re contributing to the erosion of your own industry. The longer the likes of LHSC send out messages reminding patients to bring their “heath” cards, the better for the future of voice actors.

5 thoughts on “My (Unlikely) Replacement”

  1. As someone with over three decades of experience using synthetic speech or voices if you wish, artificial voices are here to stay and there is absolutely nothing you can do to stop it or even slow it down. Since my first PC back in 1986, every time I turn it on I’m listening to synthetic speech, so lets see 365 X 35 X 6, you do the math, I’m a dam expert. Every smart device I.E. phone, assistant, car, computer has synthetic speech/voice and recognition built-in, if you can talk to it and it can respond, its got it!

    The sample you gave is quite pathetic, but that’s more a nerd thing and poor configuration verses a technology limitation.

  2. Wow! That sounds horrible! Annoying really! Real voice or nothing for me cause I’d hang up given I couldn’t understand some of what she said.

  3. Well said! I believe sadly that AI is here and little can be done to stop it, and that technology will improve and will take some jobs, though mostly the low budget projects. I believe and am hopeful that there are still many amazing clients who know the value of connection, understand the value of what we do and that you ‘get what you pay for’, and will pay for that connection. If it goes that way, that is ok with me…

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