AI and the Performing Bits

Is it real or is it Memorex? Remember those days? We’ve been treated to questions like those for some time now when it comes to music, film, and other means of arts and entertainment. And the pace of things seem to be quickening as the powers that be in these industries are jumping with both feet into the big tech Artificial Intelligence rush. 

New technology is great when it can advance creativity. New technology is also bit scary when we don’t know exactly what it’s going to yield. But the one thing we do know is that if the bean counters think they can save a buck and make two by using a new innovation they’ll take that leap, regardless of the risks it might pose to the creative spirit.

I’ve been talking about Artificial Intelligence a bit here and obviously will continue to do so. It’s the thing of the moment. Which means some hope it’s the thing of the future. And it just might well be. But how that is going to impact the arts is going to be a tricky future to navigate. Perhaps after Google, Mircosoft and any other tech giants get their AI search engines up and running we can ask and find out. (Google calls theirs Bard. Seriously?)

We’ve already seen technology create magic in audio and film/TV. De-aging is a popular recent trend in film. Of course that follows the trends of CGI characters and CGI backgrounds and CGI just about everything else. 

We’ve got computer generated narrations for eBooks competing with live readers. We’ve been enhancing audio tracks for decades, and in the most recent decade or two we’ve been enhancing live performers. 

Yesterday there was a story in Vice about voice actors being asked to sign over the rights to their voices so their clients can use artificial intelligence to generate synthetic versions for future work, perhaps replacing the need for the artist for future work. 

Each technology advance gets met with both praise and criticism. Some deserved. Some not so. I’m no luddite or traditonalist who eschews these advancements. But I think we’re heading into tricky ground in this next chapter of entertainment and creativity that parallels what we’re experiencing in real life.

There’s that old and recently accelerating propaganda truism (ha!) that teaches us it’s not about separating fact and fiction. In the Peacock network’s series The Undeclared War there’s a great sequence when a news editor sums it up while explaining the way it is to a younger new recruit:  

“The point is to get people used to the idea that everything’s a lie. There is no truth. Once they accept that. Biggest liar wins.”

Who cares if a search result yields a false result? Who cares if Carrie Fisher is dead when she’s still appearing in Star Wars? Who cares if deep fake videos or audio can sabotage a politician or a company? Who cares if the audiobook you’re listening to is read by a human or a computer? 

Set aside the labor issues and putting folks out of work. Those are real discussions that need to happen. But what if Tom Hanks, who is pretty darn excited by the de-aging process in film, or rather a digitally created Tom Hanks keeps starring in movies long after he’s gone. Hell, we could have Forrest Gump appearing with world leaders that haven’t been born yet twenty years after they’re dead. 

We all had a good laugh at the manipulative creation of boy bands awhile back. Don’t think we won’t see and hear new bands created out of the whole cloth of digital bits and bytes. There’s no question in my mind that we’ll see an entire film created out of an AI prompt some day down the road. 

There will be innovation. There will be excitement and celebration and there will be reactions. Some of which might actually be human. 

We live in interesting times. 

Tech Predictions for 2023

I thought I’d jot down a few tech predictions for 2023. So here we go.

There will be tech news in 2023. There will be grand promises and grander failures. It will be entertaining, a bit crazy, and ultimately meh as the latest in a round of bad bets come due or come closer to being so.

Apple will make a ton of money in 2023 even though some governments want to design products for them. Apple won’t have as easy a time of it as it has in recent years for a number of reasons including some self-inflicted wounds.

Artificial Intelligence will continue to be a dominant story until chat bots start writing most of the tech stories.

The Metaverse will further try to wriggle out of the pond with or without legs. With other companies jumping into the “let’s put an expensive, goofy-looking, headache inducing gizmo on your head” it will be one of the comic tech highlights of the next few years before this whole thing ends where it was always destined to: an enterprise play.

Cyrpto will continue to falter as the denizens of the latest refuge of scammers discover that they’ve sucked all the money they can from the available suckers. There certainly won’t be any Super Bowl commercials.

Streaming Entertainment will continue to figure out that they haven’t figured it out yet. Consolidation will begin in earnest, hopefully before the streamers cancel all of the shows.

Twitter. Who the hell knows. It’s owner sure doesn’t.

Mastodon and federated social networking will continue growing pains as it continues to grow and becomes less of a pain for new users to gain entry.

Humans. Humans will be the biggest tech story behind the stories that capture the headlines. The humans who create tech will continue to be in some form of tension with the humans who use it. Humans who do use tech will continue to look less and less for tech to solve their problems, understanding before tech creators that all tech solutions aren’t necessarily going to change the world.  At least until the tech creators understand that they need humans to talk to humans to help them solve the problems with the products they create. Or until the robots show up.