Will AI & The Singularity Transform Music? Ray Kurzweil’s Vision

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Welcome to LivingPianos.com, I’m Robert Estrin. The subject today is about the relationship between keyboards and the singularity. This should get a lively discussion going, and the central figure in our discussion is a man by the name of Ray Kurzweil. How many of you have heard of Kurzweil keyboards?

This is a subject very close to me.

In the 1980s, I had in my recording studio, a cutting edge digital audio workstation, the Kurzweil K 250. This was a keyboard with 88 wooden keys that could sound like a grand piano or a whole orchestra. It was one of a breed of digital audio workstations. Some of them were ultra expensive, like Fairlight, which was well into five figures, or New England Digital’s Synclavier Synthesizer System, which cost over $100,000! What made these so expensive? Well, before MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) if you wanted to have a computer hooked to music, you had to have a whole integrated system. So, digital sampling, multitrack recording, and music printing, all of these fantastic features came at a very steep price. Kurzweil was one of the leaders in this technology. How did this ever come to be?

Ray Kurzweil was a great inventor and still is on the cutting edge.

In 1975, he came up with a reader for the blind. It was a text recognition program that could take written text and read it aloud to people with visual impairment. One of the people who appreciated this was a man by the name of Stevie Wonder! He said to Ray, “You should come up with a keyboard that can sound like any instrument, including the piano.” And wouldn’t you know it, Ray did it! That’s when the Kurzweil keyboard was invented. Ray is a director of engineering at Google. Ray has been known as a futurist. If anyone else made the kind of predictions that he has made, I would scoff at them.

What is the singularity?

There are different definitions of the singularity. One of them is where machines become more intelligent than humans. Once that happens, all bets are off. No one really knows what will happen. Some people think it may create a utopia, while other people think it may be a dystopia. There’s no way to really know what will happen, but there are a lot of fears about it. Now, a lot of people are talking about this because of artificial intelligence. Right now we have things like ChatGPT, which can pass the bar exam, write papers, analyze spreadsheets, and can even write computer code. There are other programs like Stable Diffusion and Dall-E that can output works of art and even photorealistic pictures from text prompts. It’s pretty remarkable what’s happening. Believe it or not, there’s even A.I. that can compose music!

All of this is in its infancy and it’s very exciting, but the type of A.I. I’m talking about is artificial general intelligence (AGI).

With artificial general intelligence, instead of just being able to complete a specific task, it’s really more like what humans are able to do. What does this have to do with Ray Kurzweil? Well, he has been predicting thE singularity will occur sooner rather than later. His vision of singularity goes even one step beyond, where man and machine merge. It seems like a scary concept. There are hints of this out there with things like Neuralink, Elon Musk’s company. This technology could have great ramifications for people who have lost limbs, being able to use their thoughts to control prosthetic devices. Already there has been some progress made in this direction. But imagine your mind being hooked to the Internet. Instead of picking up your phone to have all this information, the electrical impulses from your brain are directly connected to everything. This is a frightening concept and an exciting one all at the same time.

Ray Kurzweil predicts the singularity will occur by 2030.

He believes this singularity will occur such that there will be nanobots going through your body repairing cells. So for every year that you age there will be a year of repair, eventually reaching a state of immortality where you’re aging at the same rate at which your body is being repaired by these nanobots. This sounds like science fiction, and we all hope that Ray is right! He’s been correct so many times before, but this is a wild assertion, naturally. I just thought I’d get this discussion going about AI in general, how it’s impacting music, and whether you feel that it will replace musicians. It is perhaps more likely that A.I. will provide tools that musicians can use as bouncing off points for inspiration, much like ChatGPT is doing for writers.

Do you think Ray Kurzweil is a nut, or do you think there’s some validity to what he’s saying?

Let me know how you feel about Ray Kurzweil’s prediction about the singularity in the comments here at LivingPianos.com and YouTube. And in general, how do you feel about A.I. and music and the whole direction things are going in the creative fields? Who would have thought that artificial intelligence would be taking over in creative fields before anything else? It’s pretty wild stuff, isn’t it? Thanks again for joining me, Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Resource.

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6 thoughts on “Will AI & The Singularity Transform Music? Ray Kurzweil’s Vision”


 
 

  1. Scary bstuff indeed/human +machine becomes one.
    Musicians are influencing each other .I think with artificial intelligence humans will still create .Bach did not know any cell phones or recordings,but he created masterworks.

    1. Bach may not have had AI or even recording technology, but he benefited from the development of many instruments from the violin to the pipe organ. So throughout history, musicians and composers have utilized technology in creative ways. Hopefully, AI will offer musicians tools for creativity rather than replacing us!

  2. Fascinating. Frankly, I have no doubt that this “singularity” concept is already being built and employed – we just don’t know it yet. As for music, let’s start with developing a music transcribing program that perfectly writes what you play – without you having to quantize rhythms. I’m hoping that this technology of robots will be first and foremost used for health care – cell repair, disease removal, repair the “itis” conditions brought on by age. Of course, it will put the Pharmaceutical industry out of business for a majority of its existence but, hey? As for composing? I don’t know that a robot can replace or do it better than a human. And, I specifically refer to classical, jazz, rock. Let’s see if any of us will be around to see this happen.

  3. Let’s remember that most “rules” for music composition and improvising are created after the original geniuses works of art – the rules explain part of the process ,to the less visionary . AI can only be Salieri (which is not all bad), or Lee Konitz (to Charlie Parker’s genius).

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