When it comes to artificial intelligence, we typically think about things like automation, image manipulation, machine learning, or even just science fiction. We don’t usually think about Joe Rogan. However, a company called Dessa has developed artificial intelligence that can emulate speech with surprising accuracy and fidelity. And their first subject was Joe Rogan.
Joe Rogan’s chimpanzee hockey team
When Dessa unveiled its new project to the world, they did so with a deepfake of Joe Rogan’s voice. A deepfake is a video, image, or audio recording manipulated by artificial intelligence to resemble someone else. For example, this gif of Amy Adams as Nicolas Cage.
Deepfakes have been around for a while, but up until recently haven’t received much public attention. They were typically used for machine learning research, or Hollywood projects. Now, as the technology and our understanding of it grows, we’re seeing deepfakes more often.
The new Joe Rogan audio deepfake is an excellent example. Dessa created a video of text-to-voice Joe Rogan deepfakes, all tongue-in-cheek. The first deepfake on the video features Joe Rogan convincingly discussing a chimpanzee hockey team.
“Friends, I’ve got something new to tell all of you. I’ve decided to sponsor a hockey team made up entirely of chimps. I’m tired of people telling me that chimps are not capable of kicking human a** in sports. Chimps are just superior athletes, and these chimps have been working out hard,” says the deepfake. And honestly, it’s a very convincing facsimile of Rogan’s voice.
In response to the deepfake, Rogan wrote on Instagram, “I just listened to an AI generated audio recording of me talking about chimp hockey teams and it’s terrifyingly accurate. At this point I’ve long ago left enough content out there that they could basically have me saying anything they want, so my position is to shrug my shoulders and shake my head in awe, and just accept it. The future is gonna be really f*cking weird, kids.”
The implications of deepfake tech
As deepfake technology improves, society will have to grapple with the implications of being able to fabricate convincing voice and video. Joe Rogan’s comment regarding the future is truer than ever.
Dessa wrote of their unveiling on Medium, “It’s surreal for our engineers to be able to say they’ve legitimately created a life-like replica of Joe Rogan’s voice using AI. Not to mention the fact that the model would be capable of producing a replica of anyone’s voice, provided that sufficient data is available. As AI practitioners building real-world applications, we’re especially cognizant of the fact that we need to be talking about the implications of this. Because clearly, the societal implications for technologies like speech synthesis are massive. And the implications will affect everyone. Poor consumers and rich consumers. Enterprises and governments.”
Dessa also provided some examples of pros and cons to deepfake technology, and what it can help accomplish. Some cons included spammers or fraudsters impersonating a loved one to retrieve sensitive information, entrance into high-security areas, and political framing or propaganda.
However, pros include improved accessibility for those who use text-to-speech tools to communicate, for example those with Lou Gherig’s disease. We could also see automated dubbing for films or shows in other languages in the future.
Dessa added, “We won’t pretend to have all the answers about how to build this technology ethically. That said, we think it will be inevitably built and increasingly implemented into our world over the coming years. So in addition to raising awareness and acknowledging these issues, we also want to show this work as a way of starting a conversation on speech synthesis that must be had.”
Fan reactions to Joe Rogan’s deepfake
Fan reactions ranged from impressed to concerned. One user on YouTube jokingly commented, So you’re saying we can now generate our own JRE podcasts? The future is wild, man.”
“This is actually horrifying…. you can set someone up so easily,” wrote another user.
One Instagram user joked that it wasn’t a deepfake at all. They wrote, “The truth is, you forgot you were actually talking about this yesterday on mushrooms and a hot mic picked it up.”
A user with a bleaker outlook said, “So how long before it does your job better than you?!?! That’s the scary part, when the AI is better at making entertaining conversation for us.”