Artificial intelligence used to replicate Brown v. Board of Education oral arguments

Brown v. Board of Education was decided 70 years ago. There are no existing audio recordings of the arguments in which Thurgood Marshall, the then-NAACP chief counsel, opposed school segregation, nor are there recordings of Chief Justice Earl Warren reading the opinion from the bench.

Jerry Goldman, the founder of Oyez, utilised AI to replicate the voices of the litigators and justices, collaborating on the “Brown Revisited” project with the Knight Lab at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and the podcast company Spooler.

To produce the audio, Goldman had actors read the argument transcript. According to the Wall Street Journal, he also located historical recordings of Marshall, Marshall’s chief opponent, John W. Davis, and the justices.

An AI company named Respeecher modified the actors’ voices to resemble those on the historical recordings.

Tony Mauro, a retired journalist covering Supreme Court topics at the Marble Palace Blog, listened to the recreated oral argument.

Mauro commented on his blog, “It was remarkable. Usually, recordings of Supreme Court arguments sound tinny and distant. However, listening to the new AI version is clear and seamless. It felt like Thurgood Marshall was speaking a few feet away from me.”

The AI-generated audio received mixed reviews from individuals the Wall Street Journal interviewed.

Thurgood Marshall Jr. stated that one clip of his father’s AI-generated voice “was perfect in terms of voice quality and intonation” while describing another clip as “meh.”

Jeffrey Earl Warren, the grandson of Chief Justice Earl Warren, mentioned that his grandfather’s voice was “gravelly” and “much lower” than the AI voice.

Source: ABA Journal



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