If Amazon’s grim new plan goes through, Alexa may soon be able to impersonate deceased relatives

A new Alexa ability that allows it to imitate other people’s voices was unveiled at this year’s re:Mars conference by Amazon.

When you first look at it, it doesn’t seem to be all that horrible, right? When I hear the voices of J.A.R.V.I.S. and C3-P0 on my Alexa, I can’t help but imagine how I’d feel like Tony Stark or Luke Skywalker if I had my own Alexa speaker with the voices of Paul Bettany or Anthony Daniels.

The notion was offered by Amazon’s Alexa senior vice president Rohit Prasad with a video of a youngster being read to by Alexa using the voice of their recently dead grandma. One minute of audio from the person who Alexa is impersonating may be used to reproduce this tape, an Amazon spokesman said Engadget (opens in new tab).

It’s possible that the scenario was designed to elicit a sense of warmth, but it might just as well have been a Black Mirror-esque sequence. In fact, the idea of this episode and the one in Be Right Back are almost similar.

Martha discovers she is pregnant, and she has to check out new technology that enables her to speak with an artificial intelligence that resembles Ash, who was died in a car accident. I don’t think it’s supposed to be a preview of anything positive.

Rohit Prasad stated that although Alexa couldn’t completely erase the agony of losing a loved one, “it can absolutely make memories endure” and alleviate any grief.

Experiencing sadness may be tough at any age, but it can be particularly difficult for children, like the one seen in the video Amazon posted. I don’t think it’s healthy to blur the borders between life and death while dealing with grief.

Even while Amazon clearly views this as an advancement of the practise of remembering loved ones via old images and movies taken before they died away, Prasad’s reply makes it apparent that this is not the same. This AI-led feature isn’t playing a tape of a book reading; it’s utilising the person’s voice to create a manufactured recollection of what they were doing before they died.

Those who want their voice to live on via Alexa even after they die should be commended, and I’m sure they’ll like this function. I, for one, would want to be laid to rest.

There’s more to digital-undeath than that

It is possible that the usage of this copycat function may open the door to other frauds in addition to the ones described above. Despite the fact that most of us are trained to disregard and hang up on automated phone calls, we may be more open to listening when our grandma or son is pleading for money.

Deepfaking technologies, coupled with advanced audio and visual faking techniques, might make it hard for us to accept any movie we see.

Of course, Amazon isn’t the only business working on AI-powered voice assistants like this. Every voice assistant company, including Apple, Google, and the others, is likely working on improving their voice assistants’ realism and personalization. However, these advanced imitating capabilities are like a Pandora’s Box, and should only be opened with extreme caution.

As a result, it seems that Amazon is taking precautions. It hasn’t stated a release date for this feature, and it hasn’t even verified whether it would be made accessible to the general public.

As soon as Alexa’s audio immortality is exposed, it’s just a matter of time until she can talk as if she were already dead.