Most of our firsthand experience with artificial intelligence in entertainment stems from farfetched cases of an undeveloped understanding of AI in vivid Hollywood scenarios. Majority of the scenarios bring to question whether advances in technology could evolve beyond our control in movies like, The Terminator, Ex Machina, and children’s action film Spy Kids. In these notable films, AI agents develop a conscious thought process equivalent of the protagonist their up against in these films.
While this gives a flowery depiction of AI, the outstanding question of AI and its affinity in the context of art/entertainment remains. It’s important to understand the original purpose of AI, which is to assist humans and their interaction with technology. “The technology we have today compared to what could be is like making a stick figure drawing of Michelangelo’s David,” stated by Tim Tuttle, CEO and founder of AI firm Expect Labs. But what if that same AI technology can produce art much greater than Michelangelo’s David?
Breakthroughs that are brought into this world are usually unorthodox especially in art. Usually against enormous resistance from the status quo, is itself a profoundly human talent, driven as it is by narrative, vision, empathy and influence. When it comes to music specifically in the genre of Hip Hop, it seems hard to believe that AI can duplicate the flow and delivery not to mention the sense of urgency in the content.
In 2014, Melomics released 0music – an album composed by an artificial intelligence named Melomics109 without any human intervention whatsoever. You can hear one of the songs from the album here. Now, the music isn’t anything special; it’s no Mozart or Beatles. However, its lack musical greatness doesn’t take away from the magnitude of the step taken. As we’ve all learned from studying disruption innovation, most disruptive innovations start out unimpressive; that’s why most people don’t pay attention until it’s too late. As a musician who has studied disruptive innovation, this scares me. I’m scared of the potential that an AI can reach not just musically, but across every genre of art. There are even instances where AIs are writing film scripts. Again, they’re terrible, but that’s not the point. The point is that it’s a step, and a giant one.
A familiar commercial tech giant Google has launch Magenta, a research project to explore using artificial intelligence to create art. Magenta encompasses two goals. It’s first a research project to advance the state-of-the art in music, video, image and text generation. So much has been done with machine learning to understand content— for example speech recognition and translation; in this project we want to explore content generation and creativity. Second, Magenta is an attempt to build a community of artists, coders and machine learning researchers. Starting with algorithms that can generate music at first and eventually will move on to videos and various visual arts.
There are two main reasons why this scares me. I’m scared of an obstacle that I think humanity will face and has faced repeatedly in history. It’s the same obstacle we faced when we learned that the sun did not revolve around the earth. When AI achieves a level of artistic creativity that leaves us in awe, I think we will all question how special humans really are. As of right now, art is very much a reflection of our experiences, and often times an extension of who we are. When we like a song, we feel connected to the artist – it’s all very grounded in relationships. How will that change when something that isn’t human does the creating? What is there to connect to?