I'm a Voice Actor. Here's Why Google Duplex Doesn't Scare Me.


There's no question. Automation will have the single largest effect on the modern labor market since the industrial revolution. Forrester* estimates the effect to be around 10 million net jobs lost by 2027. Certain specific jobs, like cashiers, data entry, tax preparation, and telemarketing, are at more risk than others.

Testing begins this Summer on Google Duplex, the AI system designed to make human-sounding voice calls so as to automate things like booking restaurant tables and hair appointments.


To be clear, it is designed to, and largely succeeds in sounding absolutely human.

At the risk of sounding like every other famous doormat in the wake of digital disruption, being replaced by Google Duplex does not scare me.

Here's why....

As I mentioned in another post...

Voice humanizes brands. When well played, it gives the words and sentences character without caricature....The music of the human voice communicates exponentially more than through the words it speaks. Spoken voice has tone. Texture. Tempo. Pitch. Voice is the human instrument, and it can play every note and chord in the symphony of emotion. It's often the first sign of friend or foe. Love or anger. Joy or despair.

Google Duplex is a great mimic, and artificial intelligence and machine learning will allow it to be exponentially better months from now than it is today. The advances AI and ML have made in translation have been game changing, and yes, that work has hurt many translators as one example.

"You can't get it right if you can't relate..." ~ Beck

But Duplex isn't trained to deconstruct, explore, interpret, develop, and bring a character to life. It can't understand the pain of loss, the joy of childhood, the fear of the unknown. It can't relate.

It can't feel.

Until it can do that, the best voice actors will always be able to work.

Computers and animators can already render any character imaginable. But it still takes Dave Fennoy to bring Lee Everett to life.

We will always appreciate human created art. Artificial intelligence, machine learning, deep neural networks, they're all just screwdrivers, paint brushes, and chisels. It's up to us to use them to create. In a world of automation, we still appreciate hand made.

Voice actors are the modern day boy in the Velveteen Rabbit. Voice actors make characters real.