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Sam Altman’s lawyers probably wish this video clip of him raving about Her didn’t exist

Published May 21st, 2024 4:27PM EDT
OpenAI CEO Sam Altman
Image: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

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Director Spike Jonze’s 2013 drama Her — starring Joaquin Phoenix as a man who falls in love with an AI voiced by Scarlett Johansson — “certainly more than a little bit” inspired the team at OpenAI.

Those are the words of OpenAI CEO Sam Altman in response to a question from Marc Benioff at the Dreamforce 2023 conference back in September. Benioff had asked Altman to name his favorite sci-fi movie, at which point Altman singled out Her, a movie that’s back in the news this week thanks to ChatGPT’s ‘Sky’ voice option sounding suspiciously like Johansson — with it also emerging that Altman tried to get the actress to contribute her voice to the chatbot and then moved forward anyway with a near-copy after she declined.

OpenAI has now removed that voice option from ChatGPT in the wake of Johansson both lawyering up and revealing her side of Sky’s backstory, which includes Altman not only wooing her but approaching her again just days before OpenAI’s event last week during which the voice of Sky was featured prominently.

Not that anyone probably assumes the resemblance of the chatbot’s voice to Johansson is coincidental — after all, Altman himself cryptically tweeted “Her” by way of underscoring the significance of Sky to ChatGPT-4o — but here he is just a few months ago actually raving about Her as his favorite sci-fi movie (skip to 24:14):

“The number of things that I think that Her got right, that were not obvious at the time — like the whole interaction model with how humans are gonna use an AI, this idea that it’s gonna be this, like, conversational language interface — that was incredibly prophetic,” Altman tells Benioff. “And certainly more than a little bit inspired us.”

Altman continues: “I think this idea that we all have, like, a personalized agent trying to help us, and we talk to it like we talk to, you know, ChatGPT — that was actually not what most movies … most movies thought if we interacted with an AI at all, it would be like robots shooting us or something.”

Clearly, Altman is obsessed with Jonze’s movie about a lonely man who falls in love with an AI program that has a beautiful voice, before realizing that the relationship is not “real” in the sense that the AI is also doing the same thing with lots of other people. The movie, which you can stream right now on Max, ends with Phoenix’s character realizing that he needs to, you know, actually get back out in the real world again. That whatever thoughts and feelings he had for his AI were a fantasy, and nothing more.

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.