As a Hollywood A-lister, it is practically part of Tom Hanks’s job description to have unerringly straight teeth that appear much whiter than average for a man of his age. The well-liked actor, who has in the past topped lists of the most “trustworthy” celebrities, is the kind of person a dental insurance company would naturally love to have as an ambassador for its brand.
Unfortunately for Hanks, it seems one such company was so keen on this idea, it created a deepfake version of his image using artificial intelligence (AI) and he’s not too happy about it.
“BEWARE!! There’s a video out there promoting some dental plan with an AI version of me. I have nothing to do with it,” he told his 9.5 million Instagram followers in a post showing a computer-generated image of himself, possibly from the video itself.
Hanks had previously voiced concerns about the artistic and legal challenges posed by AI, while also embracing the creative possibilities of AI-facilitated “de-ageing” effects in his films.
Indeed, the issue of unauthorised and/or unremunerated use of actors’ faces and voices using AI tools is also a central issue in the ongoing strike by Sag-Aftra.
The union representing US actors is keenly aware that major studios fancy eliminating acting jobs by scanning and creating digital likenesses that they can then use in perpetuity and without, in the union’s view, fair compensation.
The Oscar-winning actor’s complaint about the rogue dental plan ad suggests that some marketers are already exploiting the potential of cheap endorsements through the trickery of AI. One consequence of this is that the very concept of a “trustworthy” celebrity may, like our ability to distinguish fakes from the real thing, come under severe pressure.
Hanks’s dental trauma is yet more proof that this deliberate confusion prompted by the unethical harnessing of AI will manifest in ways that might seem banal, but are pernicious all the same.