Photo: Catherine Karnow/Miller-McCune
UC Santa Cruz emeritus professor David Cope has for 20 years been working on software, called Emily Howell, that generates original and modern music. Using algorithms that mathematically mixes, recombines, and alters musical combinations, his music can often convincingly mimic the styles of the great classical composers such as Mozart and Bach.
That said, his work has generated a hostility from those who believe creativity is something a machine could never have, arguing that only humans can compose music with 'liveliness' and 'soul'. What I particularly find interesting about the article Triumph of the Cyborg Composer is that it shows the strong prejudices we have against anything that belittles the meaning and spirituality of our lives. The world is flat, earth is the center of the universe, and we all have souls that can't be bestowed onto robots.
What attracted me to this article wasn't the enjoyable music examples by Emily Howell that you can download, but this precursor to the modern-day Spanish Inquisition us robot creators and AI researchers will perhaps one day face.
"We are so damned biased, even those of us who spend all our lives attempting not to be biased. Just the mere fact that when we like the taste of something, we tend to eat it more than we should. We have our physical body telling us things, and we can't intellectually govern it the way we'd like to," he says. In other words, humans are more robotic than machines. "The question," Cope says, "isn't whether computers have a soul, but whether humans have a soul."