Hello DJ HAL: The Rise and Rise of AI – Part 1
Machines that learn. The holy grail of computer robotics. Things such as Smart Speakers are now ubiquitous and omnipresent, and are increasingly putting AI (Artificial Intelligence) in charge of various functions in the home such as lighting, heating, entertainment and security.
Are we increasingly living in a world in which robots are becoming more human, and humans are becoming robots!
Problem is… technology is sexy, that is part of the drug-like hook that we are all seemingly attached to. Have you seen Spike Jonze’s movie ‘Her’? Estimates signify that in two years there will be almost as many personal assistant bots as there are people on this planet. Suddenly music is playing again in the houses that it was not playing before – and it is a frictionless experience.
Rise Of The Robots
In his 2015 book ‘Rise Of The Robots’ by Martin Ford, we are presented with a future of a new culture and economy of artificial intelligence/smart software/robots that has taken over many of the job roles of human beings. Accelerating technology will change the economic prospects for society as a whole. Have you seen Wall-E? Will DJs and musicians be on that list, and will creative endeavours be within a robots grasp? Or is artistic expression a specifically human thing? After all, when you really look at it, music can be broken down into pure mathematics to some extent.
A few years ago I was doing a lecture to my degree students on the emergence of AI, and during that session we all saw Compressorhead for the first time. It was like seeing a bunch of Terminators rocking out! A hologram is already one of the biggest pop stars in Japan. How long until the headline act at Glastonbury Festival is a robot band?
We are seeing a proliferation of early signs… part human part-computer producer SKYGGE, Google Deep Dream DeepJazz AI music maker, Melomics – a computational system for automatic music composition based on bioinspired algorithms, and in 2012 an entire album was released by Iamus, a music composing and generating computer. Recently Sony CSL Research Laboratory’s FlowMachines software delivered an AI created song ‘Daddy’s Car’ inspired by The Beatles.
How soon will it be before we encounter robot turntablists?
Imagine an artificial intelligence-controlled robot body with a space helmet pulling off moves and patterns that would be physically impossible for a human being. Only one robot-step away from Daft Punk. What do you do, when you suddenly realize that YouTube/Spotify/Apple Music/Amazon Music etc is a better random tune selector than you are… and with a far bigger collection of smart music file objects! It can choose from a seemingly infinite amount of human recorded music from over the centuries. Matching mood, bpm, energy, auto-mixing and various other choices dependent on the algorithm it is using – and infinitely faster than your paltry human brain. Or is it just a smart jukebox?
be a bit more ‘interesting and unpredictable
Sticking to one genre of music has always been a constant fight for me personally as a DJ. Media, magazines, clubs etc all need to be able to pigeonhole your DJ and general musical exploits as much as possible. One thing that constantly pushes me to be explorative in the music I listen to and also play out is the feeling of human artistic expression, feeling the music through empathy with the crowd – an attempt to be a bit more ‘interesting and unpredictable’… and less of a robot!
It reminds me of a music industry event years ago, where I decided to start my set with The Sex Pistols ‘Anarchy In The UK’ and mixed this into a slamming house/breaks track – would a robot be able to break out of it’s genre specific programming in order to come up with random ideas such as this? (For your information – believe it or not – the mix worked brilliantly, and certainly got people’s attention).
We are the Robots!
A new website Rave.DJ lets you choose random tracks on YouTube or Spotify by cut and pasting URLs to create your own unique mashups or mixes. There is no way to change keys or bpm etc, but surely that is only round the corner as the developers tweak the algorithms. I tried it with a mashup called ‘Missing Flavor’ that I pressed up on vinyl years ago and have been performing live at many gigs over the years – ‘Ultra Flavor’ by Farley and Heller overlaid with ‘Missing’ by Everything But The Girl. The results can be heard by clicking the ‘Missing Flavor’ link below:
Some quite random re-editing of the tracks is evident making it a little messy, but imagine what could be on the horizon. One of the spooky things that it did is name the mashup ‘Missing Flavor’, exactly as I had done on the original vinyl bootleg years ago! AI is here to stay and one thing is for sure, it will only become more powerful.
*Part 2 of this article will appear soon on the Denon DJ Blog!