Amateurs + AI

02023-02-24 | Art, Book, Bread, Music, Podcast | 7 comments

The night was cut short when I woke up after three and a half hours of sleep. I read for a while, wrote down a few ideas for Rain Music, and had coffee early, at 0440. At 0700 I left the house to walk.

The act of making music, clothes, art, or even food has a very different, and possibly more beneficial effect on us than simply consuming those things. And yet for a very long time, the attitude of the state toward teaching and funding the arts has been in direct opposition to fostering creativity among the general population. It can often seem that those in power don’t want us to enjoy making things for ourselves -they’d prefer to establish a cultural hierarchy that devalues our amateur efforts and encourages consumption rather than creation. This might sound like I believe there is some vast conspiracy at work, which I don’t, but the situation we find ourselves in is effectively the same as if there were one. The way we are taught about music, and the way it’s socially and economically positioned, affect whether it’s integrated (or not) into our lives, and even what kind of music might come into existence in the future. Capitalism tends toward the creation of passive consumers, and in many was this tendency is counterproductive.

So wrote David Byrne in his book How Music Works.

An Amateur, from the Latin word Amator meaning Lover, is someone who loves to do something that they don’t get paid for. I am an amateur bread baker. Making my own bread for about ten years has given me a greater appreciation for a very well crafted bread from a professional bakery. A professional loaf. Making bread once a week allows me to understand the craft and intelligence that goes into making bread every day. I can marvel at a soft crumb and crunchy crust made with locally sourced flour. I am no longer a passive bread consumer. I am a enthusiastic amateur.

In my mind the above David Byrne quote connects to a podcast I listened to this morning.

But Tchaikovsky’s latest book, “Children of Memory,” ostensibly about crows, read as something very different to me: the best fictional representation I’ve read of what it is like to interact with, and perhaps even be, an artificial intelligence system like ChatGPT.
The Ezra Klein Show: Is A.I. Actually Creative? Are We? on Apple Podcasts


🐈‍💨 is my new emoji proposal for ChatGPT, based on the (already widely mentioned) French pronunciation “chat: j’ai pété” = “cat: I farted”.

It seems to me that a capitalist society doesn’t want to raise smart people, it wants to raise consumers. In a few years AI may well create all of the art, music, and books the consumer could want, and nobody will have to pay royalties to the pesky artists. The biggest galleries/record-companies/publishers will have their own AI and the smaller ones will rent time on available AIs. They will be able to produce unbelievable amounts of content… Perhaps the movie Matrix was right… only, instead of human batteries creating energy for the AI there will be human consumers of AI created content. In the podcast Adrian Tchaikovsky mentions a cartoon of two panels. The first panel shows how humans envisioned the future: a human sits and paints while a robot works. The second panel shows reality: the robot gets to paint and the human works.

I have been thinking about the discussion of personhood for AI. How typically self-centered for our species that a number of humans are already discussing personhood for AI, when systems like ChatGPT were designed to appear as human as possible, while not recognizing alien (to us) intelligences like octopuses or forests.


  1. Steve

    >It seems to me that a capitalist society doesn’t want to raise smart people, it wants to raise consumers. In a few years AI may well create all of the art, music, and books the consumer could want, and nobody will have to pay royalties to the pesky artists.

    I also wonder about this from my perspective as an educator: what will be the long term consequences of injecting AI into widespread distribution be upon critical thinking and troubleshooting skills for technical professions/trades?

    I actually remember standing in a hallway at a record label’s headquarters (who shall be nameless for the purposes of this posting) with a friend of mine back in the mid-80s and overhearing a couple of guys walking down the hall together.

    One says to the other, “This is just awesome … if only we could do this without artists …”

    I looked at my friend and he just shakes his head and looks down at his feet. I have never forgotten that overheard comment. Frankly, I don’t even know what the context was, or what “this” referred to, though I have a pretty good idea. And here we are! The “dream” is now within reach.


    I totally agree with these sentiments.
    However, this same ( or almost same) idea was one I had in mind to do a short write up on, let that write-up be my comment on this.
    But yes, it all makes sense.
    Nothing wrong with being an amateur anything. One has to start somewhere and if like what you do, then what others think shouldn’t matter. If you let it matter, you become a slave.
    I don’t know much about AI, but from the little I have read on it and as one who was 57 years an educator, this bodes very ill for the creative mind of the future.

  3. anne

    The music industry has been hit hard.

    So discouraging for young musicians.

    AI has been around for a very long time -I assume it was created to help solve complex global problems. Why has it failed? Too expansive? Not enough data or unreliable data?

  4. ottmar

    AI hasn’t failed at all. It is doing exactly what people want it to do, which is to replace artists: “… if only we could do this without artists …”, as Steve commented earlier. Business people don’t understand art. Some appreciate it but in general they don’t “get it”. Some nerds are also musicians. Canton is a great example. He is an accomplished musician, an artist and inventor, but also a software programmer. Probably has a degree in computer science, too.
    I am going to go out on a limb here, but it is my sense that some nerds have a love-hate relationship with the arts. Like business people, they don’t get it. Perhaps they want IT but IT eludes them. So, they create Napster and YouTube and Pirate Bay and Spotify and AI… And the business people throw lots of money at these projects because it means content creation without having to rely on the notoriously unreliable artists. And the politicians love it because they can see that it will lead to a more passive, perhaps more docile society of AI content gobbling folks. People are already addicted to social media and once content can be created 24/7 by AI… perfect.

  5. Steve

    >I am going to go out on a limb here, but it is my sense that some nerds have a love-hate relationship with the arts.

    Some of us that started in the arts became nerds after a while and but have a love-hate relationship with being a nerd :^)


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