Quick! Let's panic! Artificial Intelligence is taking our jobs! Or..let's just get along with each other. No, really, its designers intended it to be our friend and that's exactly what it can be. Neural networks are around us all the time. I'm using one every time I let Grammarly make a suggestion or when predictive text knows what I'm going to say next. They're everywhere and unless we're told it's likely we wouldn't even notice. Technology is like wizardry for a lot of us and we simply don't give it a second thought when we use a device or app. The thing is, we cannot ignore what is.
The AI revolution is upon us and sure it will do things that people do, making our lives easier and if you're unlucky maybe replace you at work. It's like having a hard working person in the room who only needs electricity to stay alive. The things AI can do really well are quite varied, provided they involve computing functions. That means it's good at making informed choices, so informed in fact that it's got several human lifetime's worth of learning behind it. It's good at doing repetitive jobs too, although limiting for its ability.
What can't it do? AI can't feel, it doesn't really care. We can train it to simulate care but it is totally fake. When a human feels something, or cares about something, it's a physical sensation in the body combined with a flood of snippets of thinking which bombard our awareness. AI just decides to do the 'best' thing and maybe show the words “there there” on the screen while it's preparing its next function. Humans are great at caring, offering compassion, and seeing to the little things which perhaps make no rational sense but help someone feel safe and secure. Expecting people to have fake caring relationships with technology is cruel, even more so that we know that lonely people do indeed turn to pretend things as friends or more. Just because you see a beggar eating food from the bin doesn't mean we all want food from the bin.
Something of great contention in the world at the moment is the ability of AI to be creative. A neural network can be taught to play music, for example. This is done in the same way any neural network learns. Its fed thousands of pieces of music and it studies the patterns in them. It then uses these patterns to predict something suitable. It's quite simple, it's not really creative or is it? How do we create things? Is our subconscious mind just jig-saw piecing the known world into something we don't recognise or do we just pull things from the cosmic potential? 50-50 perhaps.
Electronic music is growing in popularity, must be The Electro Review eh? Or maybe it's the fact that computers are easier to transport than cellos and one musician can produce a full on stage-show from their mac. Taking a band on tour costs a fortune, with visas and passports making everything complicated. Technology doesn't need any of these, not even a ticket. It's cheaper by far to employ a computer. It's why we really need to address the value of our humanity and see how it is worth so much more than even the most technical of jobs.
Finding out how far we can take musical AI is a job for musicians. Yes, some are afraid they'll be replaced but others are learning how to let AI join the band. When we put AI to use in a team, the team improves. At least that's the theory. With the help of a neural network software called SPAWN, musician Holly Herndon has made an album called PROTO. This PhD pop-star is one of the first artists in the music field to truly utilise this technology for composition. SPAWN has been taught how to play along with the band, and the output has been set in stone with the recording of PROTO. There's even going to be a tour, showcasing this new avenue of sound creation.
Instead of fearing AI and fleeing from it, Holly Herndon has made a considerate effort to find a home for it in the status-quo. Now they're rockin around the.. no we won't go there, or maybe we will? I'd quite like to see a band with an AI member. What instrument would you give them? In this case it's voice synthesisers. The music is written by people and the computer decides how to play its part. For non-musical people it may sound like cheating, but have you ever seen a composer of an orchestra? That's the bit the AI will be doing for itself, inflecting and emoting in ways that people may not consider. It's all based on what it's learned from people, it couldn't have done anything on its own. It needed us, will we ever need it?
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