Scarlett Johansson and OpenAI’s Trust Issues - The World News

Scarlett Johansson and OpenAI’s Trust Issues

When OpenAI unveiled the latest version of ChatGPT last week, a chatbot that can listen to spoken questions and respond verbally, many users had one question: Is that Scarlett Johansson?

The actress, who provided the voice for an A.I. assistant in the movie “Her,” has now made clear that she did not do the same for OpenAI — and she demanded that the company stop using the sound-alike. It’s another sign of eroding trust in OpenAI, which has taken fire from creative industries and former employees.

“I was shocked, angered and in disbelief,” Johansson said in a statement on Monday, days after OpenAI’s product announcement kicked off debate about one of ChatGPT’s new virtual assistant voices, which is called Sky. The company wouldn’t confirm who provided the vocals, though Sam Altman tacitly encouraged the comparison, plugging the announcement with a single word — “her” — on social media and writing that the new ChatGPT “feels like A.I. from the movies.” (OpenAI’s chief technology officer, Mira Murati, said that was a coincidence.)

In her statement, Johansson shed more light on the matter:

Last September, I received an offer from Sam Altman, who wanted to hire me to voice the current ChatGPT 4.0 system. He told me that he felt that by my voicing the system, I could bridge the gap between tech companies and creatives and help consumers to feel comfortable with the seismic shift concerning humans and A.I. He said he felt that my voice would be comforting to people.

Altman tried again two days before the ChatGPT product announcement, she added, but released the service before they could connect. Johansson — no stranger to waging war against big companies — suggested that she was ready to take legal action.

OpenAI backed down. While Altman said after Johansson’s statement that the actor behind the Sky voice had been cast before he reached out to the movie star, his company was pausing the use of Sky.

“We are sorry to Ms. Johansson that we didn’t communicate better,” he added.

The spat is another sign of eroding trust in OpenAI. Johansson explicitly linked her dispute to the fight over “deepfakes and the protection of our own likeness, our own work, our own identities.” (Though the fight in this case was over a sound-alike, not over an A.I.-generated copy.)

It was also reminiscent of fears among Hollywood writers, news publications, authors and others about A.I. being trained on their work without their permission — or compensation — or replacing humans. (The Times and other newspapers have sued OpenAI and Microsoft for copyright infringement.)

And the controversy emerged after some former OpenAI employees publicly accused the company of caring more about doing business than about ensuring its products don’t harm humanity.

Jamie Dimon suggests he’s closer to stepping down. At JPMorgan Chase’s investor day on Monday, the bank’s C.E.O. of 18 years said that the timetable for his retirement “isn’t five years anymore.” The comment puts succession at JPMorgan back in focus; potential replacements include the senior executives Jennifer Piepszak, Marianne Lake and Troy Rohrbaugh.

Microsoft builds artificial intelligence into laptops. The tech giant announced new computers featuring chips that can run A.I. applications natively. Locally powered A.I. is the newest focus for hardware companies; Apple, which has touted the A.I. capabilities of its latest iPad Pro models, is expected to make a similar announcement for its Mac computers later this year.

Janet Yellen seeks Europe’s help in combating excess Chinese goods. The U.S. Treasury secretary said in a speech in Germany on Tuesday that a wave of cheap Chinese exports represented a huge threat to the global economy. Expect it to be a topic at a meeting of Group of 7 finance ministers this week.

Donald Trump and Republicans raise more than President Biden. The Trump campaign and the Republican Party collected $76.2 million in April, according to officials; the Biden campaign said it had raised $51 million with the Democratic National Committee, about half of what it raised in March. Still, Trump remains well behind Biden in overall money accumulated.

In the end, the heat was too much for Martin Gruenberg, who struggled last week in congressional hearings to answer for the toxic “boys’ club” culture at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, of which he is chairman.

Gruenberg said on Monday that he was “prepared to step down” after losing support from a key Democratic senator, Sherrod Brown of Ohio. That would force the White House to find a successor to help oversee the nation’s banks and lead an agency that insures over $10 trillion in consumer deposits.

Gruenberg isn’t leaving immediately; he will depart only when a replacement is confirmed. (The White House says it will name a successor “soon.”) That would preserve the Democrats’ 3-2 majority on the agency’s board, at least through Election Day.

That’s important: The F.D.I.C., along with the Fed and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, is tasked with drafting tough new capital requirements for banks that Wall Street and Republicans strongly oppose.

The writing was on the wall. Gruenberg took fire from the Senate Banking Committee last week during a hearing prompted by a Wall Street Journal investigation into hostile working conditions.

While Gruenberg apologized, he declined to step down, and he won public support from high-level Democrats, including Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. But that changed on Monday when Brown, the committee’s Democratic chairman who is facing a tough re-election fight, reversed his position and called for his ouster.

Republicans are putting up the fight. The chair of the House Financial Services Committee, Representative Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, called on Gruenberg to step down immediately, saying “this announcement is too little, too late.”

Sheila Bair, a Republican former F.D.I.C. chair, also called for an immediate change: “It’s untenable. If this was a bank C.E.O., they’d be so gone,” she told DealBook.

There have been a series of setbacks in the year since the PGA Tour and Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund agreed to combine forces in the professional golf world, including missed deal deadlines and the resignation of leaders.

When the PGA Tour secured a huge investment in January from U.S. investors, including the hedge fund mogul Steven Cohen, the question was whether the Saudi deal was dead.

But negotiations are still very much alive, two people familiar with the talks told DealBook’s Lauren Hirsch. The Saudi Public Investment Fund, which bankrolls LIV Golf, and the PGA Tour exchanged term sheets in recent days for a potential deal in which the Saudis would inject $1.5 billion into the tour’s for-profit arm. Representatives both from the fund and from the PGA Tour declined to comment.

U.S. investors have already invested $1.5 billion in the PGA Tour. In the January deal, those investors, led by Fenway Sports and including Cohen and fellow billionaires Marc Lasry and Arthur Blank, took a minority stake in a commercial venture created by the tour. The cash infusion was seen as a way to help the tour better compete with the Saudis in the golf world or to make a Saudi investment more palatable to regulators.

The deal now on the table would give the tour $3 billion in new funding, with the Saudis and U.S. investors each kicking in half. The PGA Tour would retain majority control.

Major questions remain. A deal between the Saudis and the PGA Tour is far from certain, and one of the biggest unresolved issues is LIV Golf’s future. The upstart circuit has spent heavily to lure top golfers away from the tour, but it has yet to prove it is a viable business. If a transaction led to LIV’s disappearance, that could draw scrutiny from the Justice Department, which plans to look into any deal on antitrust grounds.

The Justice Department may also question any arrangement that gives the Saudi wealth fund seats on the PGA Tour board, given the agency’s concern over interlocking directorates.

Jeff Madrick, the author of “Age of Greed.” Boesky, who amassed great wealth before becoming a symbol of Wall Street avarice after his arrest and conviction for insider trading, died on Monday. He was 87.

David Einhorn, the hedge fund mogul known for betting against companies, including Lehman Brothers a year before its collapse, has been shorting Tesla again.

That wager has drawn criticism from Tesla’s legions of supporters. It has also led to a public fight between Einhorn and a former employee.

Einhorn has long been skeptical of Tesla’s prospects. The short-seller, who profits when a target company’s stock declines, has accused Elon Musk — in colorful terms — of misleading investors about the capabilities of the company’s autonomous vehicle software. A bet against Tesla lost Einhorn a lot of money in 2020, but his Greenlight Capital revived it two years later.

A former Greenlight employee has challenged his former boss over the matter. Last week, James Fishback, who now runs Azoria Partners, called for a debate with Einhorn on the merits of Tesla’s business:

“I’ve been critical of Tesla shorts like @davidein because they fundamentally misunderestimate Tesla’s core value driver: autonomy.”

Einhorn dismissed his former employee. After declining to participate, he questioned Fishback’s professional credentials:

I am not aware that you have ever spent any time analyzing Tesla or its fundamentals — or really any other equity position for that matter. Certainly not during the 2 years while you were a macro research analyst at Greenlight.

Fishback got feisty, sharing documents from his defamation lawsuit against Greenlight that he said showed he was in fact the firm’s head of macro. In the legal filing, Fishback said that he “excelled in his work” and generated “over $100 million in profits” over two years ending August 2023. It was when he resigned, according to Fishback, that Greenlight began claiming that he never held the head of macro title.

In short: Don’t expect that debate anytime soon.


  • Google will invest €1 billion ($1.27 billion) in a data center in Finland, a country with ample access to wind power, to help support its artificial intelligence services. (Reuters)

  • Legal & General Investment Management, a top investor in Anglo American, is backing the mining giant’s breakup plan that’s meant to ward off BHP Group’s hostile $43 billion takeover bid. (FT)


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