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  • Writer's pictureCarlos Hernandez

Tom Hanks Condemns Dental Ad's Use of AI-Generated Likeness

An advertiser has recently stirred controversy by employing a deepfake featuring Tom Hanks to promote dental plans without securing the actor's consent. In response, Hanks took to Instagram on a Sunday to issue a warning to his followers, explicitly distancing himself from the AI-generated video, asserting that he was not involved in its creation. This incident once again highlights the ongoing concerns within the entertainment industry regarding the use of digital likenesses of actors, a point of contention frequently raised by SAG-AFTRA workers currently on strike.

Notably, Hanks has been a vocal advocate for addressing the challenges posed by artificial intelligence (AI) in the industry. He has emphasized the artistic and legal quandaries presented by AI and deepfake technology, emphasizing that his performances can persist indefinitely beyond his own lifespan, and unless clearly labeled as AI or deepfake creations, audiences may not discern the difference.

Hanks even contemplated a scenario where an entire film series could be produced using an AI version of himself, maintaining the same appearance over decades. Intriguingly, the unauthorized dental plan advertisement featuring a visibly younger Hanks could be seen as a foreshadowing of this unsettling potential.

In an interview on The Adam Buxton Podcast last spring, Hanks disclosed that his awareness of this issue dates back to his involvement in "The Polar Express" in the early 2000s, where a CGI rendition of himself was used. He acknowledged, "We saw this coming" during that project, recognizing the growing reliance on AI and data-driven technology in filmmaking.

The ethical quandaries surrounding the use of AI to exploit the legacies of celebrities have already sparked heated debates. For instance, the documentary "Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain" generated controversy when it was revealed to contain AI-generated voiceovers of the beloved chef and storyteller.

Over the weekend, Zelda Williams, the daughter of the late Robin Williams, expressed her support for SAG's efforts to combat the misuse of AI. She shared her firsthand experiences witnessing how technology captures the likenesses of individuals who cannot provide consent, such as her father.

Williams characterized these AI recreations as, at best, pale imitations of the individuals they seek to represent, and at worst, as grotesque amalgamations of the industry's worst aspects, rather than upholding its intended values.

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