Which headline-grabbing tech guru would you choose as the debut guest to launch a new podcast? Musk? Bezos? The Zuck? How about Steve Jobs? Well, thanks to AI, a podcast has pulled off that impossible-sounding coup, and the results are predictably bizarre.
The podcast used an AI model to resurrect Apple's celebrated co-founder and pair him with an AI-generated version of the living comedian Joe Rogan. The result is a rambling interview that takes in Jobs' studies, the art of storytelling, Microsoft's bad taste and the spiritual history of the Indian subcontinent. Yes, AI Steve Jobs talks a lot (to see how AI is revolutionising art and design, see our piece on how to use DALL-E 2).
Podcast.ai claims to be a new weekly series that will feature interviews generated entirely by AI. The first episode is introduced by Joe Rogan, although it isn't really Rogan. It's an AI-generated voice based on his speech patterns. That might already sound strange enough, but then Rogan introduces his guest.
"My guest today has made some of the great technological products of our age and he's always pushing the envelope for innovation," the fake Rogan says. His guest? None other than a fake Steve Jobs, also generated using AI.
The voices were created using play.ht's library of voices and a generative AI model that was fed every audio clip of Jobs that the makers of the podcast could find. Transcripts were generated with fine-tuned language models, and the model was taught Job's biography to "accurately bring him back to life."
Do they bring Jobs back to life? Not really. The 20-minute interview is difficult to follow. While the AI guest's voice could pass as Jobs as times, it often sounds wooden and unnatural, especially that nervous laugh. But stranger than that, the train of the conversation veers all over the place. Asked if he's a Buddhist, the AI Steve Jobs goes off on a tangent recommending that people take LSD. Asked if that experience inspired Apple's Newton, Jobs somehow ends up talking about Google's UI.
Sounding like a talking encyclopedia or Alexa reading from Google search results, Jobs flits from criticism of Microsoft's lack of taste to Adobe's business plan and a brief mention of the Mac's contribution to making the world a better place. Many of the comments feel like things Jobs might have said, but just not in that order, creating the impression of a mashup of Steve Jobs soundbites.
The slightly creepy nonsense leaves us wondering what' the point is. And perhaps the point is just to promote play.ht's tools, showing that this can be done, and that it could have more useful functions. But we wonder whether it's in good taste to use Jobs in this way.
It isn't the first time that AI's been used to bring people back from the dead – we've already seen a photographer using AI to imagine how late celebrities would look today. That project felt respectful, almost a poignant tribute to lost talent, but Podcast.ai feels like merely a collection of disjointed paraphrased quotes of random things that Jobs once said.
Podcast.ai is inviting people to propose who they should do next, and so far the highest ranking suggestions are Elon Musk interviewing Nikola Tesla and Buddha in conversation with Einstein (people don't seem to have got the bit about the need for existing audio clips to feed the AI). A suggestion to do Donald Trump interviewing himself is also rapidly gaining votes – that's one we would listen to.
We've seen all sorts of AI-related controversies lately. For more AI developments see the copyrighted AI graphic novel featuring a Zendaya lookalike to the AI image that won an art competition. We also have a pick of the weirdest AI art, and we've seen how the best AI art generators compare.