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Will human-created stuff be the Vinyl of the future?

As AI becomes more and more capable of creating anything a human artist can do, we will inevitably become swamped by cheap and plentiful content. Dall-E and Midjourney are already spitting millions of instant creations from a few sentences. It won’t be long before music and video are pumped into the digital ether like sausage meat by a pitch and pixel-perfect AI artists. ** (This article was originally written in November 2023 and, as you can see, is already out of date: Soundraw, Fadr, and  Boomy, to name a few, are leading AI music platforms, and SORA is about to give Hollywood a real headache on the moving image front.)

Human Vinyl
Made with Dall-e

This could be the greatest thing to happen for real creators…
…Stay with me because I know this is somewhat counterintuitive.

In days past, if you wanted to be an artist, be that graphical, musical or moving image, there was a steep curve of learning that needed to be ascended before you could get in the game. Likewise, an expensive technical barrier limited access and visibility to the fortunate few prepared to bleed for their art. This system, while exclusive, produced some of the best art, music, literature and cinema we may ever see, along with a host of punk, pirate and indie-spirited pioneers who bucked the system and became legends.

Technology changed all that. The tools of creation became democratised and, in the first instance, fell into the hands of the punks, pirates and indie-spirited pioneers who saw an opportunity to free themselves from The Man, and they did. The indie scene thrived for a while. From the late eighties onward, technological leaps in computing gradually shifted the balance of power from the gatekeepers into the hands of just about anyone who fancied having a go at it for themselves. The next three decades unfolded, and all the would-be music producers had laptop studios, all the wannabe artists had Photoshop, and the smartphone camera turned anyone into a nascent movie director.

Great leaps forward in artistic expression occur as reactions to the status quo. Jagged edges appear where smooth curves once were the norm. Heavy guitars played without rules become part of the zeitgeist where lush soundscapes once resounded.

Art has always been a commercial concern, and as technology lifted the barriers to access, more and more people have seen an opportunity to turn a buck. The concern looms large in a landscape where AI effortlessly churns out countless creations: Will AI replace human creativity altogether? There's a prevailing fear that profit-driven creators will harness AI to mass-produce content, flooding the digital realm with an endless stream of art, music, and media. However, amidst this apprehension, there is hope.

It lies in the enduring human desire to connect with the heart and soul of creation. The fundamental urge to pick up an instrument, wield a paintbrush, or pen a story remains vital to our artistic evolution. These endeavours are not merely means to an end but expressions of our humanity.

As AI eases the production process, we may indeed witness an abundance of content—creative works birthed from algorithms and data. But amidst this sea of data, real human artists will have the opportunity to shine more brilliantly than ever before. They'll be the ones who harness their craft not solely for profit but for the sheer joy of it, creating an authenticity that resonates with audiences on a deeper level.

Art, music, and media have often found themselves stifled by mediocrity, overshadowed by the flood of readily available content. However, in this era where technology grants us the power to create effortlessly, we'll discover an appreciation for those who invest time and effort in mastering their chosen craft. These individuals will stand out as beacons of authenticity, ushering in a resurgence of true artistic expression.

The rise of AI-generated art, music, writing, and video may initially challenge the status quo. Still, it won't diminish the allure of witnessing a human artist breathe life into their creations. In a world awash with automation, human artistry will be the beacon that guides us back to the essence of creativity.

As we look ahead, we can find solace in the belief that AI, far from replacing human creativity, will ultimately catalyse its renaissance. Just as vinyl record sales surge in the age of streaming, one day, maybe soon, great works created for the sheer love of it may be celebrated too.

AI, like The Force, is a powerful ally.

Just last year, a new and final Beatles song was released with John’s scratch demo vocals bisected and lifted from the roomy piano part and polished into an Abbey Road-worthy top line. None of this would have been possible without revolutionary technology. Times they are a-changing, and this genie will not go back in the bottle. I believe that human creativity will be celebrated in the future, and hopefully, AI will be a fantastic collaborator. In the words of Mr Lennon, “I may be a dreamer…”

...There is still a chance they enslave us all and turn us into batteries, though.

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