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Big Revolution - When a computer writes your favourite song

Welcome to Friday's newsletter, coming to you from... my sofa. Yes, a quiet day of catching up with t
June 14 · Issue #445 · View online
Big Revolution
Welcome to Friday’s newsletter, coming to you from… my sofa. Yes, a quiet day of catching up with the work backlog is just what I needed. But first all of this…
— Martin from Big Revolution

Big things you need to know today
  • Huawei appears to be putting ads on the homescreens of some of its smartphones. You’d think the company would not want to give people more reasons to be wary of buying its devices.
  • Some physical hardware security keys are being replaced due to a bug. The affected YubiKeys are a reminder that security is never a completely solved issue.
The big thought
Credit: Matthew T Rader on Unsplash
When a computer writes your favourite song
Here’s a quote from a much-shared TechCrunch article this week…
“I actually think 10 years from now, you won’t be listening to music,” is a thing venture capitalist Vinod Khosla said onstage today during a fireside chat at Creative Destruction Lab’s second annual Super Session event.
Instead, he believes we’ll be listening to custom song equivalents that are automatically designed specifically for each individual, and tailored to their brain, their listening preferences and their particular needs.“
It’s easy to mock this as just being a VC so wrapped up in technology and trend reports that he’s willing to completely ignore the fandom, artistry, and emotional connection that has always made human-produced music so important to the majority of people on Earth. Our deep relationship with music goes back millennia, surely a few algorithms aren’t going to change that?
But then, it would be unwise to completely discount the role computer-generated ‘song equivalents’ might play in our future.
There was a time when digital sampling seemed like a novelty that allowed people to disrespect the craft of musicianship by just pasting an bunch of other people’s songs together. But while albums like ’3 Feet High and Rising,’ ’This is the Day… This is the Hour… This is This,’ and ’Paul’s Boutique’ were mainly made up of other people’s work, they were works of art.
People don’t make albums like that much anymore ('3 Feet High…’ is still in a legal quagmire 30 years later), but sampling has lived on as a perfectly valid form of musicianship. Artists from all sorts of genres have built entire songs around a loop from someone else’s, while tiny samples you wouldn’t even notice help musicians build many a hit song. And hip-hop as a genre is almost entirely built on samples even to this day.
The point is that new things can become part of our wider behaviour without replacing what’s already there, even though we usually predict that ’[y] will kill [x].
If computers can write a great song, just for you based on your existing taste, there’s no reason why you wouldn’t listen to it, enjoy it, and share it with others. Maybe others will enjoy it too. But the communal joy of following an artist’s career, of standing in a room with hundreds of other people while that artists sings a song you all love and you all song along – that’s not going to go away.
That said, don’t discount the likelihood that one day you’ll fall in love with a piece of music, only to discover later that a computer wrote it.
One big read
Why Teens Are Selling Clothes Out of Their Closets Why Teens Are Selling Clothes Out of Their Closets
“On Depop, thrifted outfits and original fashion are the gateway to influencer status.”
One big tweet
John Herrman
it seems like the most likely culmination of the deepfakes stuff is powerful people using it to discredit real video, not the other way around
8:54 PM - 13 Jun 2019
It will be interesting to see what influence trust and authority has on the effectiveness of deepfakes.
That’s all for today...
Look out for the regular weekend ‘big reads’ edition, in your inbox tomorrow.
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