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A New Role for Werner Herzog: The Voice of A.I. Poetry

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If artificial intelligence had a voice, what would it sound like? Calm, like HAL 9000? Perky, like Alexa? Polite, like C-3PO?

For the editors of “I Am Code: An Artificial Intelligence Speaks,” a collection of poems generated by A.I., the answer was obvious: Werner Herzog.

The 80-year-old German director, actor and author is a titan of independent cinema whose films often concern the hubris and folly of humankind. His speaking voice, known to audiences mostly through the stark, literary voice-over narration that accompanies many of his documentaries, carries an existential pathos and Teutonic gravitas that have made it a pop culture trademark.

Something like this, anyway, was on the minds of Brent Katz, Josh Morgenthau and Simon Rich, the editors of “I Am Code,” when they reached out to Mr. Herzog to ask if he would lend his formidable instrument to the audiobook version of their project.

“They had an understanding that I wasn’t the best choice — I was the only choice,” Mr. Herzog said in a phone interview.

“When you look at the text, it becomes quite self-evident,”…



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