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.

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