Advances in AI (general discussion)

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andre's picture
andre
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Advances in AI (general discussion)

As I am venturing into current AI research from time to time, I came across this today and wanted to share it with you.

This is what AI can do today already. Is it just me, or does it induce an uncanny feeling in you too? I'd say it's only a matter of time until disinformation can no longer be separated from the truth (deep fakes). And that doesn't sound like a future I want to live in, does it to you? 

Background 

These neural networks are fed thousands of pictures and then discover (learn) automatically the features that distinguish them (a process called auto-encoding). In the video, a researcher uses sliders to gradually fade between the features that were just learned: age, smile, gender, ethnicity, etc.

Deep Fakes

Similar AI techniques are already used to make people say and do things they never did. These deep fakes are getting closer to reality by the day. The potential for political and criminal abuse is huge. Imagine a video showing you (yes: you) discussing a criminal plot with fellow accomplices and then some surveillence camera footage that shows you actually shooting someone. Good luck defening yourself at court.

And now imagine similarly faked stuff about politicians emerging shortly before a general election. Truth will be no more. Our daily lives will be one of tribes grouping around "leaders" they decided to trust, engaged in violent shouting matches, nobody able to be sure about the truth anymore. The end of civilization as we know it.

What About Music

Ok, enough of that. Now what about using this tech for music? A while ago I've mused about this already, but every now and then I get back to the topic and re-think it. The issue with music is that it's not continuous, but discrete serial information, more similar to language than pictures. There is no easy blending between features that would not corrupt ryhthmic, melodic and - most of all - semantic coherence.

In other words: You'll get something that surprisingly sounds like music, but isn't actually music anymore, because its inner logic is gone: The self-referentiality and structure, usually carefully assembled and arranged by a composer/songwriter, turns into a wishi-washi dream-like echo of fragments that aimlessly wander around.

This is because current AI blends stuff at the surface, without understanding the (temporal, structural, cultural) logic behind.

There's certainly a place for this kind of "special effect" in music, but if your goal is to write/compose original music that is recognizable and standing out, this technology leads into the exact opposite direction.

Thanks for reading. Going back to work now ;-)

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Hi Andre,

With regards to the negative side of AI for music, I believe having individuals knowledable and apparently ethical would help to maintain AI in the positive. That individual is you. What Synfire is a testament to what can be done when the best Human Intelligene guides AI.

Thank you!

 

andre's picture
andre
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Oh thanks.

I didn't mean to say however that AI isn't useful for music. It absolutely is. It is merely that neural networks, as one particular example of many AI techniques, are not that useful for composing/generating music. They may well be useful for other tasks, e.g. classification, motif recognition and similar. That's why we are still running some research in that direction.

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Really good zoom meeting yesterday. You mentioned Synfire is built on Smalltalk. Which implementation of Smalltalk is this?

andre's picture
andre
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Cognitone extended VisualWorks in-house to meet the demands of a desktop audio application. The product however includes large parts built in C++, C, Objective-C and other languages. There is no way to make a product of this complexity with only a single language, especially when AI and knowledge-based inferencing is involved. That would be extremely hard to do in C++.

Synfire 2.0 will even include a new programming language that was specifically designed by Cognitone to implement the new generative features.

Ruchir's picture
Ruchir
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Fascinating, are you aware of the Keykit work by Tim Thompson in the early 90s? Seemed to have a similar aim?

andre's picture
andre
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Didn't know KeyKit yet. There are similar platforms, like Symbolic Composer by Peter Stone, or more recently, Opus Modus, if you want to code your music like a LISP program. The very first (unpublished) incarnations of Synfire, named Leviathan back in 1992, also allowed for writing music using a simple Smalltalk syntax. However, I found writing music as code too abstract and inconvenient. It's so much more intuitive to toss around figures and other parameters and place them in containers.

The new generative language used in 2.0 however has nothing in common with the above. If anything, it is more akin to Prolog. And it builds on the powerfull data structures, knowledge base and transformation functions of Synfire.

With 2.0 there will be new ways to generate parameters out of the blue. I am convinced that manually building an arrangement from generated fragments is more productive and fun than writing an entire arrangement as code.

After all, music is a message from humans to humans.

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