top of page

What Scarlett Johansson, 'Her', and Xiaoice Reveal About the Future of AI and Human Connections

What a week it's been! From Scarlett Johansson's clash with OpenAI over her AI voice double to revisiting the poignant themes of the film 'Her,' and diving into the fascinating world of the Xiaoice chatbot, all topped off with insights from a Gartner's webinar on Human-Centered AI. Let's unpack what they mean for the future of AI and human connection.  

Starting with Scarlett Johansson.  She is not amused with OpenAI at the moment. The reason? Their new GPT-4o model sounds uncannily similar to her character from the film ‘Her.’ If you’ve seen it, you’ll remember Scarlett’s voice as the AI assistant Samantha, and now it seems that ChatGPT has borrowed those sultry tones for its latest upgrade.

Here's the scoop: OpenAI rolled out GPT-4o, touting some next-level conversational skills. It didn’t take long for people to start noticing that the bot's voice was a dead ringer for Scarlett's in ‘Her.’ Naturally, folks started buzzing about it online, making comparisons and joking about how we’re living in the future depicted by the film. Someone even tweeted, ‘OpenAI's new model is insane, Her is real!.’

But Scarlett Johansson? She’s not laughing. She claims OpenAI is using her voice without her permission, which she sees as a big no-no. Apparently, she had already turned down a collaboration with them. Now, she’s calling them out for what she views as a violation of her rights and misleading users who might think she’s involved in the project.

Even OpenAI’s CEO, Sam Altman, has weighed in, acknowledging the similarities to ‘Her’ but sidestepping the consent issues Scarlett raised. He’s a big fan of the film and has mentioned how it accurately depicted AI and human interactions.

This story is also very timely as we start questioning how the future of human-to-machine relationships will look. It led me to revisit the film 'Her' with a basic premise of exploring a deeply personal relationship between a man and an AI. The protagonist, Theodore, played by Joaquin Phoenix, is a lonely writer who purchases an operating system upgrade designed to meet his every need. This AI, named Samantha and voiced by Scarlett Johansson, evolves from a helpful assistant into a complex entity with whom Theodore falls in love. The film poignantly explores themes of intimacy, connection, and the emotional capabilities of AI. Going back to watch this film this week, as it kept falling down my ever chocka ‘To Watch’ list, I felt it captures the essence of human loneliness and the deep need for connection in the digital age.

Warner Bros film Her

To push my thinking about these themes even more, I also happened to tune into a brilliant webinar this week from Gartner called 'What if Your Most Human-Centric Leader is a Machine?'.  VP Analyst, Mary Mesaglio (and my new hero), did an exceptional job exploring the myriad ways humans and machines already interact with emotional connections. I was particularly intrigued by the Xiaoice chatbot, which is specifically designed for emotional human connection and boasts about 660 million users, 75% of whom are male (sounding very ‘Her’ like?).

Xiaoice chatbot

Mesaglio went on to echo my very drive and purpose in the HITL and Human-Centered AI space: ‘be equally rigorous about behavioural, technology and business outcomes.’ For me, human-centered AI transformation is all about integrating AI tech in a way that puts people first. It means designing AI systems that enhance our lives, meet our needs, and reflect our values. This approach ensures that AI helps improve our well-being, empowers us, and has a positive impact on society.

It’s been a week of real insights for me! Scarlett Johansson is upset with OpenAI for using a voice similar to her character in "Her" without her permission, raising important ethical issues in AI development.

The film ‘Her’ explores deep emotional connections between a human and an AI, illustrating the complexities of human-to-machine relationships. As AI like the Xiaoice chatbot shows, these technologies can significantly impact our emotional and social lives.

Ultimately, human-centered AI transformation emphasizes integrating AI in ways that enhance our lives, meet our needs, and reflect our values, ensuring these advancements benefit society while respecting human dignity.

So, what do you think about AI getting a bit too friendly? Should we be concerned or embrace our new digital BFFs? Are we putting enough human-centred design into the #AIRevolution? Drop your thoughts in the comments below and if you haven’t seen ‘Her’ yet, grab some popcorn and dive into this modern classic—because who doesn’t need a little more existential crisis in their movie night?


Tom Bryant is a Business Change & Transformation Specialist based in the UK, Founder & Director of TFB Consulting and confirmed FOMO AI Enthusiast! He is passionate about keeping the ‘human’ in Human-Centered AI evolution.


bottom of page