Note — Apr 07, 2019

What Will Happen When Machines Write Songs Just as Well as Your Favorite Musician?

A few thoughts reading this; 1. We often say that creative and collaborative jobs will be hardest to replace because of some unique human quality. Perhaps. That assumes AIs need to match the best (or very good) humans but they don’t really need to, do they? Most people are quite satisfied with good enough and perhaps good enough doesn’t need that much “uniquely human” creativity. 2. AIs crunch data (music in this article) made by others, will these “others” get paid for their work? Before common users are paid for their surveillance data? 3. Will there be “algorithmer stars”? Will the intelligences you follow and listen to be the algorithms or the people who write them?

As AI capabilities improve, it’s possible­—probable even—that the songs will become good enough that we’d opt to listen to them, for instance, while working or driving. The economics are enticing for streaming services. Imagine Spotify self­-generating thousands of hours of chill-out ambient tracks with no need to pay human composers a dime. […]

“They won’t be able to bring any emotion, any life experiences, into it. They won’t be able to cross-pollinate ideas from other fields.” As Adam Hibble, creator of Popgun’s music-writing tool, puts it, “This AI has no idea what’s culturally relevant or what is politically relevant or whatever it is that is currently important in the zeitgeist. It’s a mindless but very intelligent music creation system.” […]

Yet in one sense, the neural nets are mere­ly mimicking the way humans compose. We, too, consume hundreds or thousands of songs over a lifetime, intuit patterns, and recombine our knowledge into something new. We sample, we steal, and we transmogrify. Our creativity, too, is built on the creativity of those who came before. But when a machine does this, it can feel like an impersonal, even vampiric act. […]

Southern says her project is a harbinger of a cyborg future in which AIs assist human composers rather than replace them. After all, she figures, few people truly want to listen to software-­generated music: “If it was all made by a robot, then it’s just not interesting.”

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