Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Controversial Super Bowl LII Ad Sparks Ethical Debate Over the Use of Deceased Celebrity Voices.....

Minneapolis, MN- On February 4th, 2018, the Philadelphia Eagles defeated the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII as over 100 million viewers watched from home or their favorite pub. In typical fashion when it comes to the yearly National Football League championship game, most people tend to discuss the commercials more so than the game itself after the dust has settled. This year is proving to be no exception, and an ethical debate stirred up by Amazon's now infamous Chimpanzee David Bowie ad will almost certainly continue into the foreseeable future.

An adult male Chimpanzee named Goliath, shown here contemplating his role in the downfall of human society, is slated for use as a conduit for the voice of Sarah Silverman

"I honestly didn't think anything of it at first," Black Mirror creator Charlie Booker explained from his orbiting satellite/keeping room. "I assumed it was a CGI chimp and some old recording of Bowie from an interview or something like that. I had no idea that was the real thing."

Booker, who has made a name for himself concocting suspenseful narratives where plausible near future technologies force viewers to examine their own values and explore potential societal pitfalls, wasn't alone. Surveys performed after the big game have shown that an overwhelming majority of viewers were unaware of the reality behind the ad for Amazon's new voice interface options for Alexa, their popular "intelligent personal assistant" technology. In the commercial, which stars Hollywood bad boy Adrien Brody as a fictional talented actor, a live chimpanzee can be seen running a variety of errands and speaking with the voice of David Bowie, who died from liver cancer in January of 2016.

What was kept hidden until now was just how Amazon developed the new Alexa voice options. According to a leaked memo, the process was the culmination of years of dedicated work capped off by recent advancements in 3D printing technology and veterinary surgery. The memo also revealed the names of celebrities and notable political figures short listed for inclusion in the Alexa update.

After disinterring Bowie's corpse, which Amazon owns the rights to, and locating the remnants of his decaying larynx, the research and development team created a model of the vocal apparatus in painstaking detail. Bowie's larynx was then 3D bioprinted using cutting edge biological polymers and surgically grafted into the throat of an adult male chimpanzee. After recovery from the surgery, the chimpanzee was trained to speak a few phrases on command in order to be used in the 30-second ad.

The leaked Amazon memo further details how thousands of chimpanzees will be fitted with various celebrity voice boxes in order to record phrases to be used by Alexa and then sold to zoos and individual collectors. Users will be be able to choose a celebrity voice for their Alexa at an added cost, with options ranging from the bargain bin to elite packages. For example, use of Adrien Brody's voice would likely be very inexpensive or perhaps even free, while purchasing BeyoncĂ©'s voice would likely cost hundreds of dollars. Options involving deceased celebrities would likely cost much more considering the technology required to produce them. Also chimpanzees don't exactly grow on trees, at least not until 2025 according to Amazon.

In addition to animal rights organizations, a number of extant celebrities are up in arms over the thought of having their voice used by Alexa and other future technologies after death. Some, like Hollywood bad boy Jared Leto, who will expire this Summer, are already planning a lawsuit. "The thought of some bored suburban housewife one day asking my disembodied voice to order more toilet paper is going to keep me up at night, at least until August 15th when the Collectors come for me. No, there isn't any point in trying to run. The tracker is lodged deep in my brain."

One potential use of the new voice technology that is unlikely to face legal challenge or ethical scrutiny is more personal. Alexa users will soon have the option of preserving the voice of a beloved family member, as long as their larynx isn't severely damaged by, I don't know, like a wolf or shotgun blast to the face or some shit like that. Who wouldn't, years after the death of their young child, for example, want to be able to ask them what the weather will be like today. I think that dead kid would probably be up in Heaven nodding approvingly. Because Heaven is real and it isn't too late to be saved.

No comments: