Tom Hanks, the beloved Hollywood actor, recently found himself at the center of a controversy when an advertiser utilized a deepfake of him to promote dental plans without his consent. The actor took to Instagram to issue a warning to his followers, emphasizing that he had “nothing to do with” the AI-generated video. Hanks, known for his vocal stance on the challenges posed by artificial intelligence (AI) in the entertainment industry, particularly concerning the use of actors’ digital likenesses, has once again brought this issue to the forefront.
Tom Hanks’ Concerns on AI and Deepfakes
Tom Hanks has been a prominent advocate for raising awareness about the artistic and legal challenges presented by AI and deepfake technologies. He has highlighted the unsettling prospect that, even after an actor’s passing, AI-generated performances could perpetuate indefinitely, virtually indistinguishable from the real thing. The unauthorized use of his likeness in the dental plan ad serves as a glaring example of this concern, as it depicted a much younger version of the actor.
Industry’s Ethical Crossroads
The use of AI to profit from celebrities’ legacies has sparked ethical debates within the industry. Instances such as the AI-generated voiceovers in the Anthony Bourdain documentary and the technology’s use without consent, as expressed by Robin Williams’ daughter, Zelda Williams, have raised serious ethical questions. These recreations, though technologically impressive, have been criticized as mere facsimiles and, at their worst, as monstrous amalgamations that diverge from the industry’s intended purpose.
Tom Hanks’ awareness of this issue dates back to his experience filming “The Polar Express” in the early 2000s, which featured a CGI version of himself. It marked a pivotal moment when a huge amount of an actor’s data was locked in a computer. Hanks and others foresaw the ethical dilemmas arising from the power of AI and the potential misuse of actors’ likenesses in the years to come.