Artificial Intelligence has been a relevant topic in society for decades and it has been speculated in the mass media for a long time; but only recently the technology behind it had developed in significant ways. When we think about AI the first things to come to our minds are usually the programs that can beat humans at chess or poker, machinery robots that perform complicated tasks with sharp precisions. Besides picturing AI in farfetched settings shown in movies we can be sure that intelligent machines perform many manual labor jobs, high-complexity computations and data-driven optimization processes. By definition music is a form of art and entertainment, which puts sounds together by using harmony, melody and rhythm. We can agree that music is a subjective area, no matter for how long we talk we will not be able to reach a unanimous criterion in differentiating good music from bad. The main element of art is creativity and many people view creativity as a “last bastion of humanity”. Society greets the improvement of practical aspects of life, like transportation and medicine, with open arms whereas they tend to fear the drastic changes in more spiritual and metaphysical areas. Let’s take communication as an example; it is agreed that communication ways are much easier and quicker than in the past, however it is a popular idea in modern society that conversations and human interactions have lost their sincerity and soul. Since there are discussions nowadays about social media replacing modern communication I speculate that in the near future we as a society will start questioning what creativity is and if it should be left to humans only.
Nowadays there are at least eleven companies that focus on developing AI that creates music. The creators of those companies claim that they are not looking for all music jobs to be replaced by machines, some of them simply want to make a “good enough” music that can be played in elevators or YouTube videos.
The researcher and composer of on of the AI startups Una Monaghan admits that all of the musicians she met expressed their negative thoughts about the idea of a robot producing music. Although it is speculated that many of the entry-level jobs for musicians might disappear in 5-10 years because of the development of AI programs, Una believes that the programs might be beneficial for music industry and musicians. When the first digital synthesizer was introduced in the 1980s it caused an outrage from musicians too, they believed that computers would take their jobs. However, it caused an opposite effect, musicians learnt to use them in an effective way, which led to small music revolution of some sort. It is important to mention that the majority of employees in the creative field do not earn high salaries and often struggle to find jobs. Current musicians with low-to-medium income would suffer in the future if AI programs will implemented in the music production even more. Although from consequential ethics point of view that might be the main factor to stop developing and promoting AI in art, I doubt that the majority of the population that are not musicians will have any impact on this issue. One of the reasons why we struggle to freely speculate whether AI creating music is intrinsically wrong or not is because it does not directly and physically affect living beings. For instance, in some fields of genetic engineering where it harms animals it is easier to discuss the wrongness and rightness of those actions.
The fact that the privilege of creativity might stop belonging to only humans will open some existential questions about life’s worth and joy. Does AI really create the music and therefore it should be considered an artist or does it simply perform machinery function? As a counterexample I want to discuss the human’s speech and literature. Languages have been created by some number of people, yet others use them to communicate and create some pieces of literature. The way that writers have learnt the languages and have read books written by other authors can be compared to AI programs being loaded by huge music libraries which they then process. We might argue that modern authors do not really create new things because they wrote them based on the knowledge and data gained from previous “databases”.
There is yet another issue that rises from this case – the authorship and authorship rights. Who will be considered the author of the musical compositions that comes from intelligent programs? There are too many variables in this equation and surely people will start feeling greedy when the product finally starts bringing income. First, there are scientists and engineers that worked on the code and technology. Second, there are musicians that assisted in startups. Third, there is always a big corporation that unites all of those people above and/or buys shares. Since AI creates music some of the existing artists might sue if the new song sounds too similar to their music. One of the startups AIVA (Artificial Intelligence Visual Artist) chose classical music as their creative direction because of this exact reason, most of the samples in classical music are copyright-expired.
Even though feedback that people receive when they present their art projects is an important part of the creative process and satisfaction, I believe that even in possible dramatic turn of events when AI would produce the entirety of music people with a real passion to create will not stop doing so. After all, intrinsically, we do things like singing and painting for our self-satisfaction and stress relief. One of the questions raised during the presentation was if AI really is creating art. I think we can definitely conclude that AI participates in the creating process of music and whether or not that participation can be put on the same level as creative process performed solely by a human it is still an impressive step that the humankind managed to achieve.