Engineering Our Art

Image via Bruce Timothy Mans

Music is easier than ever to discover. Surely this is a triumph and yet, it makes me kind of sad when I think about how one doesn't have to search out and find music in traditional ways anymore. Pitchfork and Rolling Stone may still be relevant, but you don't need the encyclopedic knowledge of a music critic to tell you what you might like these days. Plug in some songs you already know you love, and have an algorithm feed you what else you will probably enjoy.

It really works, mostly. What the formula probably won't tell you, that you should know, is that "Pale Blue Eyes" was the sonic template from which Mazzy Star was birthed. It won't tell you that "Sex Beat" by Gun Club created the sound that was heard in many a Pixies song. You might figure some of those things out from recommended "influencers" lists, but it will be hard to put together an entire band's catalog from the seed of some forgotten classic.

Turning art recommendations into a system is about more than just algorithms, though. If you feel like you just want to unwind, in addition to the "chill mixes" that all the streaming services feature, neuroscience has found the song that will most relax you. After listening to the song, “Weightless,” by Marconi Union, I can attest to the fact that the song is indeed, incredibly relaxing. They even have a ten hour version. With results this precise, it can be hard to argue with science.

This trend is not limited to music, either. New technology is even going to assess what audiences would like to see on the big screen. Warner Bros. is planning on letting AI green light their movies.

It works by assessing the “value” of an actor, estimating how much the film could make in theaters or streaming sites, and offering “dollar-figure parameters” for packaging, marketing, and distribution decisions behinds movies.

Human creative choices are not entirely out-of-the-picture, but data drives business decisions. They say lightning doesn't strike twelve times, but based on the criteria above, don't be surprised to see artificial intelligence recommend Die Hard 12. Thank goodness the Skywalker series is over because things could get a lot worse for that unfortunate family's saga. You might even find yourself wondering what could go wrong with reconstituting a couple of dinosaurs from some ancient DNA to make a theme park, again.

As with many of the scientific and technological advancements, these things seem like mixed blessings. Computers can never replace humans in some areas, and creativity is certainly one of those areas. Tastes will never be an exact science. I like to think people are a bit too mysterious for that.

Canned Dragons by Robert Rackley
Made with in North Carolina
© Canned Dragons