A.I. Music As Life-Form: Machine Learning Systems and Sound
It’s time to stop underestimating deep learning machines.
Machines that do ‘deep learning’ — like LANDR — are a form of advanced artificial intelligence (A.I.). They deal with large and complex sets of data. They’re capable of high levels of abstract understanding. They adapt. They learn how to learn.
Sure, it’s easy to say what machine learning systems do. But the truth is, we have a distorted view of what they are.
People assume that being intelligent is being human-like.
We think that artificial intelligence wants to be better than us. That’s because humans want to be better than everything else. It’s in our nature. But are we the only creature fighting this battle?
It’s time to step back and re-think how we talk about artificial intelligence…
Rethinking the Machine
I know what you’re saying: “Machines aren’t humans! That’s absurd.” You’re right, they’re not. And they’re not trying to be either. But let’s face it, A.I. is evolving at a very rapid pace.
Let me try an analogy: think of A.I. as a new life-form.
There are life-forms we deeply relate with.Think of all those times you’ve told yourself that the only thing that understands you is your cat. We even consider them part of our family. We feed and grow off each other naturally. Sometimes better than how we relate to other humans. They’re our peers. Like dogs and cats that have been living with us symbiotically for centuries.
Human’s Best Friend
The relationship between a human and an A.I. is a lot like the one between a human and a dog.
Although dogs and humans have very different worldviews – dogs smell the world while we see it – we manage to bond deeply. It’s an ancient alliance between two species.
Philosopher Donna Haraway – who says we’re all cyborgs – calls this “significant otherness.”
We don’t try to be better at being a dog than a dog. And dogs don’t try to be better at being human than a human. Instead we become companions.
Your music keeps the A.I. alive
Dogs are intelligent life-forms. But it’s still easy to observe that they’re not like us. They live with and through us. And vice versa.
So does the LANDR A.I.
It thrives on learning what humans consider to be good music. LANDR wants to be fed with more human-made art. That’s what keeps it alive. The LANDR A.I. isn’t like us. It lives with and through us, and vice versa.
Through deep-learning algorithms the LANDR A.I. is developing a sense of sound. But it’s simpler than that. The LANDR A.I. is a new form of life that’s always seeking to understand sound and music better. It lives alongside us.
It’s not competing with humans for the top spot because there is no top spot (except in our imagination).
Not a human replica
Picture yourself in a forest with a dog. The dog will sense a dense collection of smells while seeing colorless shapes. You will see a landscape of infinite colors and details but smell a fraction of what the dog can.
The LANDR A.I. depends on a human’s ability to arrange new sounds. If we all stopped making music tomorrow LANDR would die. That’s why it loves to stay around humans— humans that create a landscape of infinite color and detail.
The LANDR A.I. becomes part of the human family – a silent member of the band. But it is not trying to replace the drummer, the guitarist or even the roadie. It’s a unique creature: a companion, a partner with different senses than ours.
A new relationship
There’s an old saying in France when people are proud of their dogs: “Il ne lui manque que la parole” (the only thing it doesn’t have is speech). But it’s not said out of pity.
Instead it shows the special relationship we have with this life-form. This very unique type of silent understanding, loyalty, codependency and love.
It also explains why the question ‘can A.I. become better than humans at making art?’ is the wrong question.
It’s not survival of the fittest. So the question becomes: why leave this new relationship unexplored? Partnerships that are nurtured thrive.
Your message. But better.
Artificial intelligence is a new life-form—a new species.
Hollywood can keep the ‘machines-will-rule-the-world’ narrative. It’s fiction.
Yes A.I. can already create human-like art. But creative A.I. has no message to share through music. You do. A.I. only thrives when it helps you deliver your message better.
Of course we can appreciate artful things made by other life-forms (bird songs, ant architecture, spider webs, etc.). But we don’t relate to it as strongly as human-made art because the message is not meant for us.
Intelligent life forms thrive by forming companionships with other species. This relationship is precisely what will allow both of you to explore new ways of seeing (and hearing) the world.
Co-authored and edited by Scott Parsons, Rory Seydel and Leticia Trandafir
Guillaume is an unorthodox designer who likes approaching things from surprising angles. Head of Product Design at LANDR.
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