Are the Robots Coming for Artists’ Jobs Too?

As a graphics designer whose main area of operation is in the digital space, I work very closely with some of my colleagues who are programmers and developers, so naturally, I’d have some knowledge about the likes of programming and other elements which make up the more technical side of what we do as a collective. When I design graphics for the web, for example, I’m guided by a consideration of how those graphics are going to be incorporated into a website, so I at least have some knowledge about programmatic principles and the likes.

And that’s why I’m not too worried about the looming threat of the robots which are supposedly on a drive to replace the many jobs people rely on to put food on the table. I mean sure, robots/machines are a lot more effective at completing certain tasks, which would make them the perfect replacement for many of the jobs a lot of people do, but there are just some things which simply require that human touch.

So if robots are all set to replace many of the other jobs, I really don’t believe they’ll be able to replace the jobs of artists as well.

I recently saw a rather interesting insert on some German tech show about how computers are being taught to essentially be “creative.” What happens is the basic principles of programming are applied in that a set of instructions are fed into the computer and thus a programme is created, prompting the computer to iterate through various different combinations of musical notes to effectively create music in this way.

Now look, how many musical notes are there on any instrument? There’s a lot, right? How many bars are there in any song from any genre of music? Lots, right?

So this computer would then proceed to produce one note at a time, matching it with either the same or any number of different notes for the next one, up until it has iterated through all the combinations for each and every note to form only one bar and there are many bars in the typical song.

So basically what is going on here is that the computer is doing nothing more than creating a lot of noise – a lot of what will no doubt be unpleasant sounds which sound nothing like any song anybody would even refer to a song. Furthermore, someone with a keen ear for music like a music producer or a talent scout would have to listen to what will ultimately be millions upon billions of “songs,” which would defeat the purpose of having a computer replace the artist in the form of a music producer. Someone would still have to scour all this noise in order to ultimately get to a production which sounds like something akin to good music, so if robots are indeed coming for artist’s jobs, they’re still going to be creating some more jobs for us.

True creativity cannot be taught or programmed, not even by the best hackers and programmers of this world, so artists, your jobs are safe…for now! You may perhaps just have to adapt to an ever-changing world in order to keep your specific job as an artist.

Shaun Greaves

Blogger of arts and liver of life. Singaporean at heart, but living in the UK. Life is art, appreciate it.
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