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Ethical Dimensions of Human voice overs in a Digital Age-humanoid speaking to a microphone
Ethical Dimensions of Human voice overs in a Digital Age-humanoid speaking to a microphone
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Sep 7, 2023

AI and Authenticity: Ethical Dimensions of Human voice overs in a Digital Age

Historical Perspective: From Radio to AI

The art of voice overs has journeyed through time, right from the golden age of radio to today’s podcasts.

In between these time markers, there’s been a notable evolution.

But how did the introduction of AI shake things up in this domain?

The advent of AI voices, especially sophisticated text-to-speech engines, has transformed the voice over industry, ushering in a new era of possibilities and challenges.


How Advanced is Today’s AI Voice Technology?

In recent years, AI voice technology has witnessed exponential growth.

Gone are the days of robotic, monotonous AI voices.

Today’s text-to-speech engines, powered by deep learning, can produce lifelike artificial speech, mirroring the human voice’s tonality, rhythm, and intonation.

Numerous applications now incorporate this tech, from virtual assistants to AI-driven audiobooks, and even video game characters.


What Ethical Quandaries Do We Face with AI Voices?

This exponentially growing landscape isn’t free from ethical conundrums.

Hyper-realistic AI voices open doors to misuse, like deepfakes.

Imagine an unauthorized AI replica of your voice endorsing a product you’ve never used.

Disturbing, right? Another ethical concern is voice data’s ownership and consent.

When you speak to a digital assistant, is your voice data ethically used?

Last, and by no means least, the rise of artificial speech challenges the livelihood of human voice over artists.

With AI voices offering cheaper and quicker solutions, where does that leave human talent?

Ethical Dimensions of Human voice overs in a Digital Age - An emotionless humanoid

Can AI Voices Truly Resonate Emotion?

Emotion is nuanced, complex, and deeply human.

While text-to-speech engines can mimic sound, the essence of emotion often gets lost.

A human voice actor can convey sorrow, joy, excitement, or anxiety, based on subtle variations in their tone and pitch.

This authenticity, this human touch, is hard, if not impossible, for AI voices to replicate fully. At least for now.


Can We Strike a Balance Between Tech and Humanity?

Some human voiceover artists are finding ways to coexist and even thrive alongside AI.

By leveraging the benefits of AI – such as localizing their voices or modulating it.

Some use the power of AI to generate video content using their voice.

While retaining the authentic emotional connection only humans can offer, perhaps a new collaborative model can emerge.


What Ethical Approach Should We Adopt?

Transparency is pivotal.

voice over seekers should clearly know whether they’re hearing an AI or a human.

Giving proper credit, financial and otherwise, especially when human voice data contributes to AI voice models, is another cornerstone of ethical usage.

Moreover, informed consent, especially when sourcing and using human voice data, remains non-negotiable.

We can (and I submit that we should) adopt fair models, where whenever AI versions of real voice actors are used, talent should be paid on a per-usage basis, as opposed to a flat fee for a carpet agreement using the voice for whatever application without limitation.

Talent agents should also be able to play a role (I may be biased here).

At a VO conference in 2022, I suggested that agents would be able to use human-synthesized voices from a large database via API and offer casting options to clients.

This would be another source of income for both agents and talent at a discounted cost for clients. Win-win, right?

Ethical Dimensions of Human voice overs in a Digital Age - Man with VR glasses

What Awaits in the Future?

The synergy between human voice overs and AI voices will likely define the industry’s future.

AI will undoubtedly become more advanced, but human voices, with their emotional depth and authenticity, will always find a unique place. As long as ethical guidelines shape its progress, the voice over industry will have an exciting, inclusive future.

Voice, in its essence, connects deeply with our human experience.

While AI voices are shaping a revolutionary path in text-to-speech technology, the human voice over retains its irreplaceable essence.

For all those navigating this domain, understanding the ethical dimensions is not just essential—it’s imperative.

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  • Debbie Irwin Sep 13, 2023 Reply

    Amen to that!!

    • Voice Crafters Sep 13, 2023

      Thank you for your feedback!

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