I recently responded to a survey about AI-assisted musical creation. It was an initiative of SACEM, the French organization responsible for musician’s rights. Some questions were theoretical, others dealt with how musicians should be paid in a variety of AI-related circumstances. For example, should I be paid if someone chose to use a piece of mine as a model for an AI-generated work ? It’s a valid question, although in my case, an unlikely occurrence. Optimistically, I answered “yes.”
The survey was interesting because it hypothetically posed the long-term effects of what’s now a commonplace phenomenon, the creation of art by entering parameters into a computer program. And to corroborate this, a couple of days after I took the survey I saw that Microsoft has a service where any parent can ask the computer to generate a children’s story for them to read to put their child to sleep. Then, almost immediately after reading that I came across yet another article saying more and more people are generating AI-novels to sell on the Amazon KDP self-publishing platform.
One of the questions in the survey was whether I’d would consider using AI as a tool of creation. I’ve had ideas which I’d like to realize but as of yet seem impossible. AI could perhaps solve this. One was for a film that I wrote a number of years ago which would require large-scale special effects, a huge cast and technical procedures which, for a self-producing, micro-budget filmmaker such as myself, are impossible. For those lacking huge budgets, AI could be useful.
I imagine that somewhere in a Hollywood board room there must be plans to produce AI films before the real film is produced, a development of the story board concept. I bet they’re even dreaming that AI films could one day replace what the public considers as a film, and have them accept the completely virtual. This would be a prudent business decision since, besides vastly increasing profits, it would remove relying on artists, which in Hollywood already is a rare event. Hollywood needs product on demand like any business and artists can’t necessarily produce on schedule. AI could solve this ongoing problem by altogether removing the artist from the production chain.
Perhaps the AI artwork should be considered as a medium in itself. This may be the key to producing interesting work rather than what might risk being “specific-generic-product.” In that case, it would depend on the AI program design and, equally important, the questions entered into the program. I can see where it could be fun to enter information such as “Chapter 8, stream-of-consciousness novel in the style of Dante’s Inferno-meets Bambi-at Frankenstein’s house, Great Candy Mountain, thinking-things-not-thinking, woman with an obsession for antique rifles and peanuts, push “go” and see what happens. I’ve no desire to write that particular story, but it could be amusing to read Chapter 8.
Another question on the survey was whether AI artworks should be labelled. This seemed to group AI art, writing and music into the same category as genetically-modified vegetables, artificial meat and insect pasta. SACEM is a musical organization, and so they meant specifically AI songs, movie scores, and maybe classical and contemporary music. As a musician I’m less inclined to play around with music and the idea of AI “songwriters” belting out some version of “Hotel California” mixed with “Yesterday” and “Hallelujah” sends chills down my spine. I am “one of those people” who runs from a room faced with a bad song.
But why spoil the party? Most songs and film scores I hear are already so generic that it seems pointless to bother with a label. And for all I know, the songs we hear now could easily be AI products. On the other hand, what should we think if one day someone discovers in a vault, somewhere in Vienna, Beethoven’s completed 10th, 11th, 12th, and 13th symphonies? It could raise questions. One thing’s certain: the day I come across Pierre Boulez’s “Variations on Happy Birthday for Kazoo Orchestra” on YouTube, I may consider AI labelling as a legitimate option.