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Do androids dream of…?

Do androids dream of…?

Hello, world” doesn’t sound like a pop album of the moment. It doesn’t belong to Rosalía or Enrique Iglesias, and it doesn’t look like this summer’s big song is going to come here. However, the quality of this artist of the moment resides in the nature of his origin: There is no human brain behind his composition –play it, I swear it’s not reggaeton-: What you’re about to hear has been composed by an artificial intelligence.

The concept of Artificial Intelligence (AI) encompasses a diffuse field that speaks of mathematics, geometry and, especially, emotions and feelings. Literally, it is the search for a mechanical or computational element to interact with its environment and propose coherent responses.

Although right now you will have in your head the opening of Westworld with a robotic hand on the piano, some experts define artificial intelligence as “the ability of a system to correctly interpret external data, to learn from that data and to use that knowledge to achieve concrete tasks and goals through flexible adaptation”.

The result has been pursued for more than 80 years, to achieve an emotionally active intelligence, which responds to the stimuli it perceives from its environment. Stimuli that trigger emotions, that are not as we perceive them, but that can give a new meaning to the word “feel”.

Feel and… Create: Hello, world

In 1958, the IA was used to compose Bach style choirs, La suite Illiac. 60 years later, and with a somewhat less rudimentary system, a team of research looked for algorithms to capture and reproduce the concept of musical “style”. Many scientific and technical results were obtained. Some prototypes were built with rudimentary interfaces.

The novelty and enormous potential of this approach attracted the attention of some talented musicians who joined the team. In 2016, the first song produced using this system was released: Daddy’s car, a Beatles-style song that would become the theme song for this album. Then more musicians came. At some point, under the artistic direction of SKYGGE, the artists took control, and the scientific project became a musical project.

Now, Hello, world is an album you can listen to on Spotify that features a selection of 15 tracks produced by collaborating with artists of different styles.

Cover of the album “Hello World”.

Even though music was a challenge for artificial intelligences, to manage to bring a “Beatles’ unpublished theme” such as Daddy’s car, suddenly opens a way to the way of working of these neural networks. One of these intelligences is capable of “consuming” all that existing information about a field, centrifuging it, and producing something new, although perhaps not surprising. Hello, world’s project is a collaboration, providing the human part that AI is not capable of acquiring in its learning process.


Something similar happens with painting, and the project “The next Rembrandt”. The work of the Dutch painter Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (1606-1669) is a complex world of overwhelming chiaroscuro. He is considered one of the best Baroque painters in history, and his work and style have been universally studied.

This project “The next Rembrandt” has phagocyted all the existing information about the painter, each stroke, each stage, colors, styles, figures, characters, postures… to then develop a system that not only allows the reproduction of deteriorated works, but also the production of new ones with an absolute fidelity to the style of the baroque painter.

Learning process of “The next Rembrandt”. Courtesy of “The next Rembrandt” project

Intelligence and inspiration

These are just two examples of the thousands of projects that exist trying to achieve an artificial intelligence that, from an artistic point of view, has the capacity to excite and produce exciting material. It is not a question of repeating what has already moved, or reducing it to atomic pieces capable of coming together again to offer something new, though not surprising. All the searches seem to have fallen on deaf ears: The true inspiration and will to produce and innovate, beyond the trial and error, seems so far to be an exclusively human virtue.

In spite of this desolate appearance, the attempts to achieve a satisfactory result do not stop, with advances being made every day in all fields with increasingly advanced intelligences. Who knows if one day Skynet will manage to dominate the world and exterminate the human race. Until then, one is glad to be of service.

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