'Deepfake': A Piece of Thieves' Slang Gets a Digital Twist


In the new documentary "Roadrunner" about the life of celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, the filmmakers made a controversial choice. The director, Morgan Neville, commissioned a software company to re-create Bourdain's voice digitally, synthesizing three lines of voice-over. The lines were statements that Bourdain wrote but never uttered before his death in 2018. The artificial-intelligence technology used to craft the fictitious audio is called "deepfake," and it has set off a debate online since food writer Helen Rosner published a piece in the New Yorker last week, "The Ethics of a Deepfake Anthony Bourdain Voice," interviewing Mr. Neville about the decision. While the audiovisual technology that allows this kind of trickery has long been in development, the word "deepfake" first emerged in late 2017.

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