A Couple of Thoughts on AI & Music

Dan Hanrahan
3 min readMay 7, 2023

I. A.I. “arts” is coming and is coming fast. Like every other technology that has emerged in the last 200 years (e.g. cars, smart phones, processed “foods,” plastic), its benefit or harm to humanity and to the other members of the ecosphere plays no role whatsoever in whether or not it is manufactured, promoted, and mass distributed, thus redefining key aspects of our existence. The majority of the most crucial aspects of our lives under the current system are subject to hierarchical/non-democratic decisions & the proliferation of technology is no exception. As we know, the decisions that affect us most are most often determined by whether or not they will benefit the growth of shareholder capital.

II. As regards AI and the arts, deep fakes of musical artists have already begun to proliferate. (I just listened to a “A.I. Kurt Cobain” sing Blackhole Sun over the original Soundgarden tracks. lolz). I believe that the most important thing for us actual flesh-and-blood humans to keep in mind as we listen to or read or view items manufactured by artificial intelligences, is that AI merely presents a representation of a person who feels, expresses and seeks to make sense of our existence in the cosmos. The program generating deep fakes does not actually and cannot actually feel anything. Feeling remains the domain of beings with sensory capacity. AI cannot have feelings because feelings occur as chemical processes that spark inside of living organisms. In a crude sense, the emotion or feeling is the chemical firing as it is received in regions of your body. AI has neither an organic body nor any of the hormones or neurotransmitters that generate states of feeling and emotions.

What AI art does is gather a bunch of actual artistic expression made by beings capable of feeling — of feeling fear, love, fear of love lost — and then cobble together a simulacra of that expression. It’s sort of like the world’s greatest voice impressionist, but without actual pathos and wit. If AI ever generates anything that sounds like pathos and wit, it would be but a representation of the pathos and wit created by humans who had to live in a mortal body in order to conceive them.

Our ability to distinguish between the organic and the fabricated has been subject to a steady decline in the past 200 years. Nonetheless, in 2023, it is crucial that we be able to do so if we are to maintain any of pride and integrity for being that which feels, that which loves and lives and dies — like everything else in this biosphere defined by interdependence.

Further reading & listening

- my essay “A Couple of Thoughts on LaMDA, AI, Sentience & Simulacra

— The visionary and prescient song “Cérebro eletrônico,” (1969) by Gilberto Gil