I remember when internet use began to go mainstream in the middle 90s. Anyone paying attention could see that this technology was going to completely revolutionize life on this planet. We just didn’t know how. If you were sentient back then, you’ll know how quickly the internet became entwined in popular culture.
Thirty-some years later, the internet is as important to daily life as fresh water and electricity. An untold number of industries have been disrupted or wiped out while new heretofore unimaginable ones filled those spots. Who could have predicted TikTok back in 1996?
When it comes to what’s happening in technology today, I believe it’s 1996 all over again except there are two highly disruptive technologies coming on line. The first is quantum computing, the unbelievably fast tech that will handle incredibly complex problems. Researchers and engineers have a long way to go before this tech eventually trickles down to the public, but one day your phone will be a quantum computing machine.
The other disruptor is AI. If you didn’t see 60 Minutes last night, watch this.
More important than the discovery of fire or electricity. Wow.
And I know some great things will result. But as with all technology, someone will use it for evil–or at least for doing some bad sh*t just because they can.
Look at Drake, for instance. If you haven’t seen the AI-generated recording of him rapping someone else’s song, check it out.
Think he’s happy or flattered by this? Not a chance. In an Instagram post, Drake called this “the last straw.” I think he’s serious. Or it could be a tongue-in-cheek comment. Whatever he thinks, people are going to use AI to flood the internet with sh*t. If this keeps up (have you seen/heard the fake Rihannas and The Weeknds?), pretty soon, it’ll be impossible to tell what’s real and what’s fake.
Here’s what I mean. Somewhere out there is a person working under the name “ghostwriter.” He/she used AI to create a song called “heart on my sleeve” which features Drake-style AI vocals duetting with The Weeknd. The song was successfully uploaded to Spotify, Apple Music, You Tube, and YouTube Music and as of today (April 17), it has been streamed 250,000 times. The video has been seen 150,000 times. It’s also all over TikTok.
Here are some things to consider:
- If you’re an artist–hell, if you’re anybody–how are you going to feel when someone clones your voice and image to do something of which you don’t approve? Words are literally being put in your mouth. Imagine logging on one day and there’s a video of you spouting horrible racist stuff?
- What are the copyright implications for something like this? If you take the audio from one artist and AI it into audio from another artist, who gets paid for what?
- What if the general public likes the AI fake better than the original? What then?
- How can misuse of AI in music (heck, anywhere) be policed and controlled?
- And how far away are we from a parade of fake AI-generated artists taking away a big chunk of the market from humans?
I’m sure there are benevolent uses for this kind of tech in music, uses that we haven’t even dreamed of yet. For example, think back to the introduction of sampling and drum machines in the early 80s and the changes they wrought on music. But for now, all I can see is the mischief (to put it mildly) that lies ahead.
This is why I’m so onboard with people behind things like the Campaign for Human Artistry which is trying to set out some rules and guidelines for the use of AIs in the creative space. I’m also happy to see the major labels trying to stop people from training AIs with music–and without any kind of license.
AI is going to have a major, major impact on the way music is made, marketed, and consumed. It’s also going to mess with how we value music.
UPDATE: This afternoon (April 17), Apple Music, Deezer, and Tidal have pulled the track down. Universal Music Group says that streaming platforms have “a fundamental responsibility to prevent the use of their services in ways that harm artists.”