The Muse in the Machine

Not long ago, we were introduced to this video of a robotic band playing (what else?) heavy metal Motorhead tracks.

It’s amusing to watch, and a respectable feat of engineering. We’ve all know and love animatronics since the Pirates of the Carrebean ride was installed at Disney Land in 1967.

Are these machines artists? I don’t think anyone would say that (although the engineer who created them might be).  An artist actually has to create art, not just move in time with it.


A machine could never create art… right?

I once thought that humans would always be necessary for the creative process. Now I’m beginning to wonder.

First, there was the guy who created an algorithm to generate books. It mostly writes factual reports, but he’s got more than 800,000 on Amazon, and that’s more than even James Patterson could write in a year.

It’s only one jump away to start creating fiction. Kurt Vonnegut defines curves to stories that a computer could chart, and it’s hard to argue that you can’t see these exact same arcs repeated over and over in our most popular entertainment from antiquity to today.

It’s pretty clear that some mega-selling authors do little more than find/replace character names, settings, and McGuffins from one novel to the next. Surely a computer could do that.

And then, perhaps most shocking of all,  several groups have created software that can compose original music. You might point to its limitations, but keep in mind that it’s in its first generation. What will come in five years? Or fifty?


So are we secure, or will all of our functions—even our creative ones—someday be automated? Is there anything worthwhile we can do that a computer won’t eventually be able to do better?

Leave me a comment to let me know what you think.



About Sechin Tower

Sechin Tower is a teacher, game developer, and author of MAD SCIENCE INSTITUTE, a novel of creatures, calamities, and college matriculation. He lives in Seattle, Washington.
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