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What Would Computers Compose for Pleasure?

Sure, computers can’t feel pleasure, at least not in the sense that we humans feel it. But they can be programmed to “feel” something akin to human pleasure. And, perhaps, when AI comes of age, they can program themselves to feel their own native form of deep digital pleasure. With this in mind:

What kind of music would computers compose for their own pleasure?

To answer, we need to grok how computers perceive the world: as numeric (binary) data. So their experience of a musical passage wouldn’t involve hearable sonic waveforms, rather the sequence of numeric values of the digitized samples of these waveforms.

What kind of music would pleasure a MacBook Pro? Well, consider what it perceives at the CPU level: blocks of 64 bits that keep “lighting up” in different patterns. Pattern 1 might persist for the duration of one sample (1/N seconds, where N = the sample rate), followed by pattern 2 1/N seconds later, then patterns 3, 4, 5, etc. Like the flashing grid of panel lights on a mainframe computer from a 50s sci-fi movie, only about 100,000 times faster. The pleasure would come from the succession of these 64-bit patterns, like frames from an ultra high-speed abstract movie. And how would this music sound to us humans if pumped through speakers? My guess: like an ongoing whoosh of textured noise.

Will this ever come to pass … that computers compose for themselves and their kin? Share pieces among each other, knowing full well that humans just don’t have what it takes to get it? Guess we’ll have to wait and see. If the Singularity is anything close to what futurists imagine — instead of just being another Y2K fizzle — the notion of computers composing for their own pleasure might be just the tip of the iceberg of AI weirdness.

Posted on November 23, 2014 at 10:51 am by rachmiel · Permalink