Bonum Certa Men Certa

IBM Took a Man’s Voice, Pitting Him Against His Own Work, While Companies Profit from Low-Effort Garbage Generated by Bots and “Self-Service”

posted by Roy Schestowitz on Sep 27, 2023

Reprinted with permission from Ryan Farmer.

I

BM Took a Man’s Voice, Pitting Him Against His Own Work, While Companies Profit from Low-Effort Garbage Generated by Bots and “Self-Service”.

The New York Times finally posted something [paywall] worth stopping and considering.

In 2003, a man named Greg Marston did some voice work for IBM.

He signed a contract “figuring they would be on the up and up”, and then 20 years later, they took his voice and used it to make “Connor”, a digital clone of his voice, as a product that they could sell, without paying Mr. Marston anything.

He came across “Connor” when he was watching Wimbledon (brought to you by IBM), and heard himself as the announcer. He was not amused.

He and his attorney are said to be “in contact” with IBM, and he says he knows that he has lost work due to this “digital clone” of his voice which was made without his consent.

The question to ponder here, is whether the practice should be legal at all.

If we assume that all a company like IBM has to do is arrange for ongoing royalties, then eventually they won’t need any voice actors.

Without any need for new voice actors, a job disappears. Eventually, the ones that agreed to the contracts will die and the royalties will go to their heirs, which never did any work at all.

Another part of the article that I enjoyed, is that apparently, now there is a Web site (or maybe an app?) called Boomy which lets people crank out a bunch of low effort music, perhaps too nice of a word, let’s say “content”. They like “content”.

They’re always looking to fill up “streaming” with “content” now, and it doesn’t matter if it’s any good or not. If it costs basically nothing to make and you can get some people to stream it, hey, it’s a big world and you’ll make some money.

Of course, this leads people to copy and paste this crap into Spotify, which I’ve read tries to prune some out, but only if they prove that other bots are “listening” to it (streaming it for just barely long enough to get “royalties”.

So, the “Dead Internet Theory” is continuing to prove itself.

You have a bunch of “Chaff Bots” making garbage for other bots to “stream” over and over again until Spotify realizes what’s happening and boots the “content” off, but there’s so many ways to game this system, right?

It’s basically just a high bandwidth version of, “have curl grab your Epinions articles on a loop as the pennies pile up”.

Spotify is very much a DotCom Era 2.0 product. How much Internet bandwidth is this using?

The music “industry” has hit rock bottom. There is literally no effort anymore. I actually listened to one of these “AI” tracks called “Heart on my Sleeve”, I think, last night, and it was so bad that I turned it off.

I mean, it wasn’t discernible from other “mumble rap assclowns” I guess, so they’ll lose their jobs first. You’ve gotta start somewhere.

The vegetables who create this “content” will lose their jobs and the vegetables who listen to it will keep clicking, along with the bots.

I’m glad that there was a lot of good music for hundreds of years before it stopped, all at once.

My spouse wonders why I listen to, almost exclusively, music from the 1950s through about 2000, and I guess he just doesn’t get the whole “golden era” thing. You know?

Everything had a “golden era”, and for animation, in the US, that was like when my grandparents were alive and in their 20s or 30s, and again in the 90s.

Teatres

Movies? Used to go twice a week. Now we go twice a year.

They had to haul Hayao Miyazaki out of retirement to make one more to have something fit to go to the movie theater over.

Nobody will easily replace Hiyao Miyazaki, or at least not a robot designed to run a “content farm”, which is what Netflix and Spotify have been for a while, but even those get worse.

As long as people keep “subscribing”, nobody at the company cares if the “content” is good. A while back, Netflix laid waste to their animators and said that there will be “robots” for this now too. It’s a very “corporate” product.

They have “algorithms” to read the audience and what they respond to, then they go back and have robots to draft scrips to show the audience things they liked before, over and over, and then yet more robots to animate it.

I am pretty sure that Japan will not go this route with its animation industry for a long time, if ever.

The movie theaters are dying.

Marcus Cinemas has switched to anime and sporting events because they can’t draw in ticket sales with Hollywood crap anymore. The writers may be on strike. Who cares?

Anime and sporting events are how you get people in who don’t want to see all this junk from Hollywood. Nobody wants to see that. The theaters know it. They built all these multi-plex cinemas they can’t fill (look at that graph) and now they need to find people who have money in their pockets.

The reason anime is taking over the theaters in the US is because the United States is a culture that is in terminal decline and cannot compete on quality.

The society in the United States accepts, all sorts of garbage. Not just culturally, but it’s depraved in almost every sense of the word. Criminality is tolerated. People openly flaunting their corruption. The country is finished. Tent cities? The politicians made everyone so selfish and jaded and high on themselves that nobody cares until it’s them.

Anyway, the movie theaters don’t even charge for tickets for the sports. Sports fans are the other demographic with money to spend. You go in there and they hope you buy twenty dollar popcorn, ten dollar Pepsi, and seven dollar hotdogs.

Worth a shot, for the theater owner. There are people who don’t want to burn to death in the sun watching a game. Have you ever tried to go see the Cubs at Wrigley Field? I’ve lived close enough for years and it’s absolute madness trying to get in there, and out.

That’s if you can get tickets. They have robots that buy all the tickets at the list price, naturally, and then they can sell them much much higher.

Nice big movie theater screen. Just pay for expensive snacks, which you’re going to do at the stadium.

Some say that a culture in decline excessively values entertainment.

Entertainment is always valued. When a culture is in decline, it will accept lower and lower standards of entertainment because the entertainment is a reflection of the culture.

I suppose the tl;dr version of this article is a depressing “shower thought”.

There’s never been more people in the world than there are now, and there’s never been less creativity in it.

We’re finally at the “Give up on life.” chapter of the species.

There’s really not a lot left to do on the Web.

The companies have turned it into a sky high garbage dump with bots, walled gardens, and DRM.

Every year, the legal landscape in the US gets worse as well, and then we export it through trade deals. They think that threatening everyone who is utterly broke will make them suddenly want this garbage they’re producing.

I refuse to participate in this race to the bottom with garbage written by robots, designed to be “consumed” by idiots.

I have the privilege of knowing what’s going on, and if we don’t ever get good original works out of the American entertainment industry again, well, it was nice while it lasted, but there will always be voice acting to dub over foreign stuff, or at least subtitles.

Ironically, the resistance to the “bot garbage” is coming from the US copyright and patent offices, which are normally the enemies of Freedom.

Which normally issue all sorts of bogus horseshit that people in the Free Software world are threatened by simply due to being less moneyed than the people who get the patents and copyrights.

Even the purveyors of this bot-generated smut and garbage are hitting a wall with the authorities because the law pretty clearly states that only a human being can “create” a work.

So, we can expect the purveyors of garbage to use the money they are obtaining by the imbeciles consuming crap to lobby to extend the laws to apply to low effort “content” generated by bots.

Whether they succeed or not is, at this point, unknowable, however it would be the worst thing to happen since the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

One reason the music labels and Apple stopped “selling” music files that were yours to keep and pushed Apple Music is that eventually everyone who wants a copy of music, from when it was good, has one, and this market ultimately becomes self-limiting.

If you pay Apple $13 a month plus tax to keep listening to 70s/80s bands (80 cents per CD when bought 7 at a time at the thrift store), then you never own it, and the market is not self-limiting.

Meanwhile, your kids can listen to trash generated by robots.

If the United States public schools were interested in giving children educations befitting a human being instead of a head full of mush, we may never have reached this point. Every time we let rich billionaires “reform” the schools, the next generation comes out worse.

McDonalds doesn’t want to pay people to take orders.

mcdonalds terminal

So they have a “robot” to take your order now. A kiosk, which runs Windows, apparently.

This one has been broken for a few visits now. Apparently, Windows can’t handle “showing pictures of hamburgers for people to tap on”. Big surprise.

McDonalds punishes people who go to a register. You can’t use a coupon. You need the app or the kiosk for that. If you go to a human, they punish you with a 20% surcharge.

They portray this differently. They turn it around on you. If you use the app or the kiosk you get a 20% off coupon or occasionally a “free hamburger”.

It actually works out to what the price used to be before they fired people and forced you to do the unpaid work of navigating through an app or a kiosk to do the unpaid menial job of telling someone what you would like to eat and paying, and then sitting down.

Other companies, like Walmart, did these a long time ago. The customer gets no discount and has to do physical labor that a cashier used to be paid for.

The company is now finding out that shoplifting has gone through the roof due to self-checkout fraud. Some of it isn’t fraud, some is that the user didn’t scan something right and could be arrested anyway on the way out the door.

Richard Stallman has an easy solution to the “self-checkout” problem. He said when he goes to the grocery store he walks past them and mentions that people are doing free labor and taking a paying job away from someone.

The McDonalds/Walmart GULAG. One more way people are getting screwed with robots.

There are so many examples of how companies are using this stuff to offload work onto others and not paying them, that the only real value of all of this technology is stolen labor and unjust profits. We should reject the bots. Especially in the case of the supermarkets.

When I go to Jewel-Osco and check out, I have my digital coupons loaded and they work at a cashier register when I enter my “loyalty” number. I’m not wild about this. You used to just go in and get the sale price.

But it’s better than going to “self-check” and busting your ass bagging $300 worth of food while the thing goes “bonk bonk bonk please wait for assistance unexpected item in bagging area bonk bonk bonk”, and of course everyone else got that too so wait in line for your chance to pay after the other dozen people who got jammed up just trying to remove full bags when they ran out of room on the scale.

How long does it take me to bag and pay for these groceries?

Even at minimum wage, I would have made about $2-3.

If everyone in town uses them, this replaces at least two dozen full time jobs per store.

Instead, we have homeless, jobless, people living in tents.

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