Are you human, or are you software?

‘Artificial intelligence’ looks scary from a distance, but more limited and interesting close-up. In a recent article for Computer Weekly I explored whether AI software can be creative, such as by writing music. The answer is yes, but only with a lot of help from people – and according to those working on music-generating software, you’re going to get functional music for backing videos or lifts rather than the Goldberg Variations.

Ed Newton-Rex, who runs one such company Jukedeck, said that JS Bach had more than just his profound knowledge of music: “It was also his fervent religious belief and very high sense of academic rigour.” Or as Kate Simko, a composer and musician who gamely agreed to discuss the concept, said: “Music has this power, it’s non-verbal communication between human beings.”

I also spoke to Ben Burtenshaw, a researcher at University of Antwerp. His team was invited to get software to write a book, but came up with a better idea: it has used software to collaborate with a human writer.

Software lacks a divine spark and doesn’t have anything it is burning to say. Artificial intelligence and automation are tools for humans to use, not ways to replace us.

NB. As well as Twitter and LinkedIn (but not Facebook), I am now using Mastodon, which can most easily be explained as an open and non-corporate version of Twitter: @[email protected].

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