Music provides the background for my life. I write to music. I drive to music. I fall asleep to music. I meditate to music.
As a child, I bought cassettes and later, when they came on the scene, CDs by the box full of my favorite artists. When illegal digital music emerged, I got online and obsessed about Napster.
Many of the pop and rock songs that still reside in my old Apple playlists on my phone I downloaded from Napster or ripped from my CD collection.
In recent years, I slowly migrated to streaming services and I now rely heavily on the algorithms to find new artists and mixes, though I may return to my old saved music files and playlists and artists from time to time.
Now, the majority of my listening, which includes many hours per day while working, reading and writing, and doing tasks around the house and my office, is with small, lesser-known artists: folk singers, guitarists, classical musicians, some mellower and some epic synthesized tracks, progressive and mature country, and roots music.
Now comes artificial intelligence and easy, fast, accurate, cheap, and realistic simulations.
This algorithmic music — morphed from countless examples of authentic human-authored artistry scraped from countless online sources — will likely cannibalize the creations, lives, and dreams of countless artists.
The technology can fake any artist, any musician, and entirely original compositions are easily created by any amateur with a PC and a little time to learn, mimic, and experiment.
In my bones — as I sit here and listen to Blaze Foley sing Clay Pigeons — I ache for these brilliant souls, for their passions, their life work, their plans and hopes and dreams. What will become of them?
The tech-bros itching to make their trillions – and well on their way to achieving that – claim that while many existing jobs will be replaced, many new “jobs” and “careers” will open up.
For a young twenty-something classical guitarist who has spent the last fifteen years of her life studying, practicing, performing, and gradually painstakingly making a name for herself and finally scratching out a living despite the major setback that she endured during Covid – what will be her new “job”? What career” will she now turn to, as the intricate algorithms crank out in seconds melodies she has spent her lifetime mastering?
Will she set aside her guitar and the rhythms that stir in her soul, to become a musical prompt engineer?
But it’s too late. The A.I. scientists who designed the original foundations of the madness that the tech-bros and competitive corporations have now let loose on the world warned us: don’t make it open source and don’t let it into the wild. They warned of the profound risks of letting A.I. have access to the Internet, letting it write code, letting it assess and improve itself, and letting it run autonomously.
Each of those capabilities breeds exponential growth in the number of unknown unknowns, but in combination, the potential for staggering unforeseen outcomes cannot be comprehended.
Individual artists with no ability or interest in learning how to manipulate AI will be crushed in this madness.
Soon and for a long time to come, we will be forced to attempt to comprehend and process and manage these changes, as these shocks emerge too late for us to prevent them.
The loss of millions of creative dreams, each an individual life and story, is but one of the countless tragedies that we must now prepare for.
Perhaps a better world and a better humanity await on the other side of this new age.
Perhaps higher intelligence will help us rise above our mind-boggling capacity for stupidity. Perhaps our confrontation with machines and automation and simulation and all that will now become artificial will encourage us or force us to deepen our humanity and compassion and connection, to honor and realize all that we have that cannot be programmed and algorithmic – yet.
All outcomes in business happen only through the experiences we create.
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I’m Bob Berry — researcher, speaker, writer, and innovator on the art of compelling experience.