Skin in the Game: Modulate AI and Addressing the Legal and Ethical Challenges of Voice Skin Technology
25 Pages Posted: 18 Feb 2021
Date Written: January 6, 2021
This educational toolkit from the BKC Policy Practice on AI includes a case study, a teaching note, and a background primer. Collectively, they comprise a toolkit that can illuminate some of the challenges in moving from AI principles to practice. The case study, Skin in the Game: Modulate AI and Addressing the Legal and Ethical Challenges of Voice Skin Technology, follows MIT alums and friends Carter Huffman and Mike Pappas, who co-founded Modulate in 2017 to commercialize their technology for creating synthetic voice skins. By innovatively applying concepts from artificial intelligence systems called Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs), the two men had created a novel approach to make one voice sound like another in real time. Although Modulate had extremely limited human and financial resources, Huffman and Pappas wanted to ensure that this technology, with its ability to match the timbre of almost any individual on the planet, would not be misused. How could they simultaneously push Modulate forward, maintain its technological and competitive edges, and make their investors happy, while also upholding a code of ethics? For a tiny company like Modulate, what did this look like?
Written by Rachel Gordon, Research Associate, Teaching Learning and Curriculum Solutions, Harvard Law School Library, and Ryan Budish, Assistant Research Director, Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, this case was developed as a basis for discussion in educational and training environments. It is intended to spark discussions among students as they put themselves in the place of the Modulate co-founders, and explore the conflicts and tensions that they faced. The case is not an endorsement of any one approach or business, but instead highlights the complex and dynamic challenges that AI ethics can present in the real world.
Keywords: artificial intelligence
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation