The rise of the machines
You know how much of a geek I am if you have read some of my posts here. As a software engineer, I am often thrilled and problemed by the developments in the area of artificial intelligence. It’s a technology that we all might have faced at some time in our lives in the last few years and it gets better with time with sometimes spooky if not frightening results.
One of the arguments about the limitations of AI is (I should better say… was) that it can never reach the creativity levels of the human mind. In a very interesting series of documentaries, this argument is put to the test and some really interesting applications are presented. Even more recently there were some tools presented (eg. DALL-E 2, Midjourney) that allow you to create images by providing a text description. So you can write “I want an image of a couple dancing the Tango underwater wearing space suits while the Pugliese orchestra plays music” and it can create an image for you showing this (or something pretty close to it). Even more interesting is that such an artificially constructed photo has recently won a photo competition which raised a lot of discussions.
Even more recently Google has announced MusicLM, an AI software, that can generate music based on textual descriptions. Imagine for example asking it to write a song for your love partner with a unique melody, specific instruments, style, etc. and it will deliver it. Now for the Tango geeks like us, one could think of trying to ask for versions of songs from orchestras that no longer exist. For example, how would “Bohemian Rhapsody” sound if it was played by Pugliese’s orchestra? In some cases, it might also be like time travel. We know that there are orchestras like Troilo’s who, in their first years, a large part of their repertoire was not recorded. We also know that not all songs that were played live by orchestras made it to recordings. So one could ask for a version of “El Huracan” from Troilo’s orchestra although we don’t have it and satisfy their curiosity.
Reactions and biases
Given all this, I am asking myself: Would we relate to such pieces of music? I mean… what if we heard a music piece written totally from AI with lyrics produced by something like ChatGPT? We know they can create music that can inspire emotion, we know they can produce meaningful and emotional texts. Would knowing that a song came from software and not from a human being, change our attitude toward it? And what if we didn’t know it? Before you answer the question quickly, by totally dismissing the possibility that something “without heart” can move you, think about the following.
Today’s algorithms are already capable of identifying and manipulating our emotions in order to sell us products of any kind. We are not impenetrable in detecting and stopping our emotions. We don’t even know who or what triggers them sometimes. We just run some “software” (that we are currently discovering) with specific rules that when given the appropriate input (pressing the right keys on the piano etc.) can output emotions. So how can you “protect” yourself from AI art?… and in the end… does it really matter? Do you really want to avoid, or protect yourself from such art?
Tonight’s Goodnight Tango
In this post, I don’t have any answers for you… I don’t even have an answer for myself. I don’t know how I would react to AI art and if I would be prejudiced against it or not. I won’t also dare to make any predictions. Obviously, there are more implications from it but I will come back to them in future posts. Till then let us enjoy tonight’s Goodnight Tango from an orchestra and a voice who knew very well which piano keys to press and when in order to surprise us and make us feel joyful and energetic.