Critical Response 3 - Message in a Bottle

By: Dominic DeMarco

Dear future CS470/Music 356 student,

What a wonderful decision you made to jump into the wacky world of AI + Music. Back in my day (Jan 2023), MusicLM didn't exist publically, generative art was just hitting the internet, and people started learning about a new chatbot, ChatGPT. In just the 10 weeks I took this class, the AI world has undergone what feels like a decade's worth of innovation. I can only imagine what the AI landscape looks like now - have we reached the singularity, or has progress stalled completely?

I came into this class with a rather negative mindset towards AI. I was unimpressed by the types of problems it could solve, and it felt very much overhyped. I didn't have a positive experience in the two AI classes I took at Stanford as a sophomore (I also took them the first pandemic quarter). But when I saw Music + AI on explorecourses, I knew I had to give this class a chance. And boy, I'm so happy I took this class. Like so many CCRMA classes, you get out what you put in effort-wise. You create new instruments and tools using AI techniques instead of building some pre-designed cookie-cutter sentiment analysis or dog vs cat classifier. And sure, you could absolutely build those things using the tools learned in this class. But Music 356 is a critical making class, and asks you to care not about whether your homework "works," but rather how how you feel when doing it.

I am coming out of this class much more optimistic about the potential of AI not as an adversary to humanity, as it is sometimes framed (see the Turing Test), but rather as an extension to humanity. On the one hand, do not try to control AI too much and limit its incredible capability for expressivity. On the other hand, do not let the AI control you and the music/art that you create. Let AI be your copilot, let it be an idea generator, let it be a partner-in-crime for whatever inventions you imagine in your mind. And maybe don't say anything nasty about GPT4 (or whatever version you're using these days) on the internet!

Best, Dominic