8 min read

Artificial Interference

The following short story was inspired by my notes on The Dark Side of Generative AI and Why I Cloned My Voice.

Lance’s fingers cramped, his arms locked onto the steering wheel, and his eyes stared forward, focused on the last ten laps of the race. He listened to the intel from his spotter, Jake, and despite sweating through his clothes in the Phoenix heat, nothing could distract him from the goal: winning.

I’m the best, Lance said to himself in his head, I’m the best.

He had been dreaming of this moment for a decade. After years of training, sacrifice, and a singular aspiration, he was only 10 laps away from winning this race and getting enough points to qualify for the NASCAR Cup Series Championship. And it didn’t hurt his confidence in being the clear leader of the pack.

I’m the best, Lance thought to himself, I’m the best.

In Lance’s helmet, Jake’s voice buzzed in his ears like a second stream of consciousness.

“1 outside Lance... #2 still there, tire... bumper... is this clown trying to pass?”

Lance couldn’t see the car creeping up behind him as well as Jake in the spotter tower. They had been a team for several years and Jake was good. He knew what was going to happen before the driver knew they were going to do it. Jake had an eye like a hawk and even though he wasn’t driving the car, it was like he had one hand on the wheel.

“5 laps left, Lance, you’ve got ‘em in your crosshairs!”

Lance grinned as he hit the next turn. He pictured the flashing lights of the cameras and his team celebrating with pops of champagne. He knew his dad was standing in the stands screaming in excitement and probably spilling half his beer onto the person next to him.

“#2 still outside… bumper... door… go low, GO LOW!”

Lance, feeling confident in Jake’s intel, dipped the car to the inside. But, like a flash from a camera, the orange and black #2 was suddenly door to door with Lance and inching out in front.

“Where the fuck did he come from Jake!” screamed Lance into the helmet, “Jake!”

“Lance, what are you doing?” Jake spit into the radio.

“You said go low!”

“Outside, outside, dig, dig, DIG… fuck.”

Lance got out of the car and slammed his helmet to the ground, cracking the clear plastic face covering right up the middle. Everything he had worked for, all he had hoped for, all the sweat, and pain, and money dumped into this dream was now roadkill. As he stared down the crack in his helmet, the rage bubbled up and spilled out. He stomped to Jake and slapped the radio out of his hand.

“Hey!” Jake yelled in surprise. “Lance I’m sorry, but-“

“You sabotaged me! What the hell were you looking at up there, huh? You didn’t fucking see Mark coming up behind me?”

“But, wait, no I…”

Lance got closer and tilted his face down into Jake’s. “I can’t fucking believe you did this and of all the fucking people to lose to! Mark!”

He put his hands over his face and backed away, too devastated to argue anymore. He began to leave his crew when Mark caught his eye. Mark was looking at him with a smug, shit-eating grin, cameras flashing around him and his team popping champagne. He wished he could pop him in the head with one of the champagne corks, or worse. He wished he had won. He wished, for the first time, he didn’t listen to Jake. He wished he could just go back this one time and do it all again. He wished, but it didn’t change anything.

“Tough luck, Lance,” said Mark with a smirk as he walked towards him. Lance bit his tongue, knowing anything that would come out of his mouth at that moment might start a fight. He turned to walk away.

“Hey! Don’t be such a sore loser. You lost to the best, you should feel proud of that!” laughed Mark with his hand on his gut, cracking himself up.

“Fuck off, Mark. I had that race and you know you just got lucky.”

“It's all about intel, baby, the race isn’t won on the track anymore!”

A few days later, Lance got a call from Jake. He was hesitant to answer for a few reasons; he was still angry, he was disappointed, and he felt a little bad for taking it all out on Jake.

“Listen,” said Lance, “I’m sorry I got in your face, but seriously what happened? How could you have missed Mark like that. He was right fucking there and I didn’t even see him.

“I think I know what happened, but you have to hear me out.”

“Ok, explain.”

“Well, whose voice did you hear the whole time?”


“And when I said ‘go low,’ you did it because it was me who told you to, right?”

“Who the hell else would I be talking to?”

“Exactly!” said Jake, “who the hell were you talking to?”

“You!” screamed Lance into the phone, “it was you! It was your voice! Ugh. Ok, look I know I was pretty shitty to you, but you made a mistake. Why are you trying to deny it?”

“Because you weren’t talking to me! But, you were hearing my voice.”

Lance sat on the line in silence, considering the thought.

“So you think someone hacked into our signal and played some audio of your voice?”

“No, I think they hacked my voice. Come over and let me show you. Please.”

Lance arrived to a frantic Jake. His clothes were wrinkled, and his curly hair was flattened in the back and on the top. He had black circles under his eyes after not sleeping for a minute the night before.

“Sit here,” said Jake and motioned to a stool in the kitchen. He fetched his laptop and placed it perfectly in front of Lance.

“See this website? Someone didn’t just intercept our radio. You truly believed it was me, right? There are these voice synthesis algorithms that mimic the cadence and sound of people’s voices. So, I think they might have generated my voice and hacked our signal.”

“But how could they do that?”

“Let me show you.” Jake pulled up a plain-looking website; mostly white with blue buttons and a green track on the bottom. He had been working on this all night. He made Lance press Play.

We are the music makers, And we are the dreamers of dreams,

Wandering by lone sea-breakers, And sitting by desolate streams —"

“Is that my voice?” said Lance, leaning into the screen. Jake just nodded his head.

World-losers and world-forsakers, On whom the pale moon gleams:”

“I never said this shit, what even is this shit? Whom? Gleams? I never said this!”

Yet we are the movers and shakers of the world for ever, it seems.

“All I had to do was upload, like, 45 minutes of you talking and this site can mimic your voice and your inflection almost perfectly. It was almost too easy, you have so many interviews and content on YouTube. There are even videos of your races with audio of my spotting, maybe that’s how they cloned my voice.

“Who Mark?”

“I don’t know for sure, but it's possible.”

“You know, after the race when he came over to gloat, he said something really strange. He said, ‘the race isn’t won on the track anymore’ or something like that.”

They exchanged a look that make Jake shiver and Lance red-hot.

“He did this,” said Lance, the irritation growing in his voice. “He was the one who sabotaged me!”

Jake could see the anger fuming from Lance. It was thick in the air and became contagious. Jake, no longer to blame for the humiliating defeat, became enraged too.

“Did you find any audio of Mark’s spotter?” asked Lance.

Jake quickly typed: Hi, Lance. The race isn’t won on the track anymore!

But it wasn’t Lance or Jake’s voice, it was Mark’s spotter.

On the day of the championship race, Lance and Jake set up out of sight, away from the other spotters. Radios in hand, they tested intercepting their opponent’s communication signal. It was too easy, just like the voice clone, and Jake started having second thoughts about their plan, not because he didn’t think Mark deserved to lose, but something didn’t feel right. Lance was sure it was Mark and his team who intercepted their signal, but with the ease of putting together and executing their revenge plan, a tiny voice in the back of Jake’s mind kept asking, are you sure? And no, Jake wasn’t sure anymore. Especially not here, in an isolated tower far from the rest of the competitors, watching how close the race really was.

But Lance was almost giddy with excitement.

“Look at that, Jake, he’s moving closer to the front! Ok, let's wait for him to get a little more comfortable, then BAM. He won’t see it coming!”

Jake’s fingers started to tremble on the keys. He typed anyway.

3 wide top. #17 is moving up, take that outside position.

Through his binoculars, Lance saw the orange and black #2 move to the position. They looked at each other in disbelief.

“More, more,” screamed Lance, tell him to pull up on that corner.

Slow into that corner, Mark, pull up, pull up.

The car in front, #21, wiggled in an unnatural way that taunted physics. #21 spun out, the tail end crashed into the car behind and hurtled both into the grassy field in the center of the track, barely missing Mark and another driver. Sparks, smoke, and metal shards scraped and twisted against each other. The medic team sprinted to the scene.

Jake typed: only 2 wide. This is your race now, Mark, watch #4 they are taking the inside.

10/4 said Mark, back pulling to the front of the pack.

But Mark was quick to take positions and moved before Jake could finish typing. Many people thought NASCAR was just driving in a circle, but the drivers, and especially their spotters, knew it was really a high-speed game of chess.

“Okay, now tell him to gas it on the next turn. He’ll start to lose control and back down. #4 will brush by just like Mark did to me,” said Lance.

#4 on your bumper. Last lap, gas it on the corner.

Too fast, said Mark. I’ll spin out.

Gas it, typed Jake, be aggressive on this corner and you win.

The final turn approached and #4 started to creep in on Mark. Even he could see the green car now almost door to door with him. He did what his spotters told him to do, gas it.

The orange and black car pulled out even further in front. For a moment, Jake wondered if maybe their plan had backfired. But when the turn whipped around to launch into the straight away, Mark’s car looked like it hit an invisible wall. The front of the car flipped up, smashing straight down on top of car #4, bouncing off and rolling, rolling, rolling back through the mess of cars swerving and spinning out. By the time Mark’s car stopped, it was no longer orange or even recognizable as a car. The front and top of the car had vanished into scraps, now scattered on the ground like leaves.

Jake quietly closed his laptop while Lance, mouth agape, watched the rest of the car burn through binoculars. Black smoke puffed from the car like breaths in cold air. Jake and Lance held their breath as the medics tore through hot metal to pull Mark’s body from the flaming car. They laid him on the track, but he didn’t get up. They lifted him onto a stretcher, limp arm dangling, placed a neck brace on and exposed his bloody face. The crowd gasped as one.

Lance and Jake sat in silence, horrified.

“We need to leave,” said Lance, staring at his shoes.

They ran to the car and drove two hours back to Jake’s house. Jake immediately got to work deleting everything on his computer.

“I can’t believe that happened,” said Lance over and over, “I can’t believe it.”

Jake’s phone rang. It was a friend he used to spot with before working with Lance.

“Dude, did you see that crash?”

“Yeah, what do you think happened?”

“What happened? You didn’t hear? Mark’s dead. Rumor so far is a broken neck and internal bleeding. And I bet he suffered some severe burns, but I don’t know. And you didn’t hear it from me,” he said and hung up.

“Mark’s dead?” asked Lance

Jake couldn’t speak but nodded his head up and down.

“I’m going for a drive,” said Lance. He hopped in his car and took off down the road as fast as the car would allow. Hands gripping the wheel tight, he raced to nowhere.