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Scarlett Johansson v Sam Altman, and the return of Adobe’s empire | Intent, 0014

OpenAI gets hit with AI's first big celebrity likeness challenge, and Adobe gains an advantage over emerging competitors with AI. Plus, interesting startups and jobs!

midjourney: someone facing off against an ai version of herself

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  • The agenda ahead:

    • The nuance behind OpenAI’s controversial, yet most popular AI voice

    • How Adobe might fend off even the most compelling alternatives

    • Three interesting startups to watch (with jobs!)

Scarlett Johansson, OpenAI, and Sam Altman walk into a bar

OK, let’s first cover the play-by-play:

  • The 2013 movie Her is a pervasive recommendation in the AI space; the manifestation of a personalized AI named Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson) inspired many technologists with something both achievable and potentially groundbreaking.

  • On May 13th, OpenAI revealed their updated voice assistant, getting closer to a more human-like AI companion than ever before – with features like interruptibility and tone, in addition to the updated foundational model GPT-4o.

  • The OpenAI ecosystem – a mix of employees and fans – excitedly tweeted comparisons to Her before and during the event – including Sam Altman himself: https://twitter.com/sama/status/1790075827666796666 

  • Scarlett Johansson released a statement on May 20th, revealing that Sam and OpenAI had approached her in September of 2023 to be the voice for ChatGPT – and that, after consideration, she declined. Sam reached out again at some point to see if she would reconsider.

  • Now, Scarlett has hired legal counsel, upset that OpenAI has released a voice dubbed Sky that she, and many users, believe sounds suspiciously close to her own.

  • Sam and OpenAI have released their own statement that the voice behind Sky is not Scarlett Johansson’s, and that the voice actor behind it was hired well before September 2023. They’ve removed Sky’s voice regardless in the meantime.

So, what’re the questions and takes?

  • On ethical grounds, some are asking the question as to whether or not it’s right for OpenAI to have found a similar voice actress after clearly being inspired by Her. On the other hand, this is often how things work in the world of entertainment and production: if you don’t get your A-list actor, you go try to find the closest thing you can.

  • On legal grounds, there are a lot of remaining questions – did OpenAI train or tune the voice on Scarlett at all? Is there a likeness argument to be made [Wired explores this] – similar to Midler v. Ford Motor Co., a 1988 case in which Bette Midler sued and won against Ford for using a “sound-alike singer” after she declined the work herself?

Overall, there is a bottom line here – this is “the sticky stuff” when it comes to our early exploration of AI implementation. Some set of the population is going to find these questions hard to grapple with, fueling an anti-AI sentiment that might eventually clash with industry ambitions. Organizations like SAG-AFTRA will be key to these “AI and human rights” issues we’ll be dealing with for the next decade.

But it would be good for the industry if OpenAI could have a month or two without controversy.

The Feedback Loop

Episode 002 of The Feedback Loop is live! 10 startup founders pitched concepts across international fintech, AI for student entrepreneurs, a new approach to social media, + more – then, they each received unfiltered and honest feedback from two check-writing venture investors.

And it wasn’t without its tense moments – at some point, Jenny Fielding, Managing Partner @ Everywhere Ventures: “If you’re gonna pitch anyone, you gotta know your business model, so this is very unclear.”

Watch: YouTube
Listen: Spotify | Apple Podcasts

The return of the Adobe empire?

Over the past several years, there have been a slew of products that have chipped away at Adobe’s customer base.

If you’re in the world of video editing, then you know that the rise of DaVinci Resolve was fast and furious, to the point where many recommend it over Adobe’s Premiere Pro for new editors coming onto the scene. Then, there’s the case of collaborative design with Figma, a mainstay among tech companies for UI design and prototyping. And, of course, Canva – known for its streamlined graphic design interface and quick integration of AI features into its web UX.

These companies have fervent fan bases and a real “anti-Adobe” vibe – but we’re pinning a prediction today that a lot of those users will come back to Adobe in the next few years.

Take a look at recent product announcements:

It’s just the first example in what might be many throughout the 2020s: behemoth companies with a treasure trove of data having a headstart on AI features. They might feel like startups again for the first time in a long time – watch out for the next phase of Adobe. Don’t call it a comeback.

Three interesting startups to watch, that are hiring!

  1. Column Tax is building the [Plaid, Stripe, Twilio] for tax products – it’s infrastructure and APIs that let any mobile banking or fintech company add tax solutions to their featureset. They’ve raised >$26M from investors like Bain Capital Ventures and Felicis, and are hiring a SWE (NY or SF) and a founding business operations role (NY).

  2. Magical has raised >$41M to automate soul-crushing work with AI. It’s a no-code solution that allows people and teams to connect + move info between any app, even those without integrations. And they’re hiring software engineers and content creators (SF, Toronto).

  3. And today, we’ve got one ourselves – the team at Free Agency (>$15M raised) is building products across job search + career management, as well as media like Intent (the newsletter you’re reading) and The Feedback Loop (weekly YouTube show/podcast). And we’re looking for a social media & community intern who loves startups & tech!

That’s all for now –

Sent with Intent, by Free Agency