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A Computer-Generated Future -- Writer's Poke #449




Could a computer write a hit pop song? Why not? The Australian comedy trio Axis of Awesome demonstrated that many pop songs follow a basic four chord formula. If that’s all it takes, then certainly a computer should be capable of reproducing the formula. For all I know, maybe computers already generate all pop songs already.

If computers did produce the music you love to listen to, would it bother you? Maybe pop music doesn’t qualify as “art,” but what about traditional European classical music? Bach and Beethoven and Mozart were all geniuses, right? And their music isn’t just simply the equivalent of disposable plastic eating utensils; it’s the fine china of the music world. If a computer could compose original classical music, that would be a feat indeed, wouldn’t it? Would it at the same time diminish the genius behind the original human creations of the past masters?

The problem with computer-generated music – pop or classical – is that it’s all derivative. But perhaps that isn’t a problem. After all, people like things to be derivative, don't they? Any time a group releases a new album, they always seem to promise that they've learned their lesson -- that the new album will simply deliver everything that their fans liked from previous albums. When an album bombs, it’s generally because the new work goes too far beyond what the fans expect. AC/DC may be one of the most famous examples of a group making a career on giving the fans exactly what they want with each song, and nothing new or unexpected. 

Computers can create successful songs according to formula, and they have the ability to write lyrics – after all, pop lyrics aren’t all that sophisticated, even if some songs do boast a whole team of song writers. And in 2011, the Japanese pop group AKB48 – a girl group with over eighty members – went as far as to create a virtual member, Aimi Eguchi.

Perhaps all that’s left for computer programmers to do is to create a computer-generated audience, or if that’s too virtual for your reality, then they could integrate these simulated people into human-like robotic bodies. The ultimate act of human creation may eventually lead to eliminating the need for human beings altogether.  

Is the elimination of the need for people the end result of evolution, or as sentient beings interested in our own survival, shouldn’t we be fighting against being made redundant?

“I visualize a time when we will be to robots what dogs are to humans, and I’m rooting for the machines.” – Claude Shannon

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