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The Sam Altman saga casts a shadow on "ethical" AI

We shouldn't just let developers claim they're making generative AI "ethically" without scrutiny.

Bryant Francis

November 22, 2023

2 Min Read
The words "AI ethics" rendered in a glowing blue font against a cyberspace-y background.
Image via Adobe Stock.

The saga of Sam Altman's firing and re-hiring from OpenAI happened at a distance from the video game industry. Some game developers have been experimenting with the GPT-4 API to create chatbot-like NPCs, but major platform owners like Valve has signaled they won't allow games built on the model to be sold without proof they were built on data owned by the developer.

That wrinkle in the video game industry's AI adoption speaks to one adjective bandied about by developers when discussing generative AI tools: the word "ethical." We actually started hearing the phrase as early as 2017, and Unity outlined its plans for ethical AI in 2018. In 2021 we've heard AI developers big and small roll out the phrase, seemingly with the awareness that there is general unease about how AI tools are made and how they are used.

In one example, Unity's Marc Freeman explained to us in a recent chat that the company's AI tools have been ethically designed so developers can ensure they own their data, and that the data used to make their game content has been properly licensed. That explanation addressed concerns about data ownership and generative AI tools, which have been repeatedly shown to be harvesting words and images that the developers did not have the rights to.

The flip side of the ethical AI coin is the deployment of the tools. Voice actors have become the first victims of AI tool deployment, as companies have either pressured them to sign away their voices for the purposes of replicating it in the future or watched as too-eager fans ran their voices through commercially available tools to mod them into other games.

This threatens to not only take away their jobs but force words into their mouth that they never said—a pretty violating sensation if your job is to use your voice to perform.

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About the Author(s)

Bryant Francis

Senior Editor, GameDeveloper.com

Bryant Francis is a writer, journalist, and narrative designer based in Boston, MA. He currently writes for Game Developer, a leading B2B publication for the video game industry. His credits include Proxy Studios' upcoming 4X strategy game Zephon and Amplitude Studio's 2017 game Endless Space 2.

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