Algorithmic Intuition

February 12, 2023 ChatGPT AI Algorithm Generative AI Colin Meloy Nick Cave

Sean Lynch’s photo from Nepal in infrared make visible what the human eye can’t see.Sean Lynch’s photo from Nepal in infrared make visible what the human eye can’t see.

Decemberist’s frontman Colin Meloy asked ChatGPT to write a song in the style of his band, and then proceeded to record it. The whole exercise is maybe a bit gimmicky, but I like Meloy’s overall takeaway about the technology from this experiment with the remarkably mediocre song”:

I want to say that ChatGPT lacks intuition. That’s one thing an AI can’t have, intuition. It has data, it has information, but it has no intuition. One thing I learned from this exercise: so much of songwriting, of writing writing, of creating, comes down to the creator’s intuition, the subtle changes that aren’t written as a rule anywhere — you just know it to be right, to be true. That’s one thing an AI can’t glean from the internet.

For a more scathing review of ChatGPT’s songwriting services, look no further than Nick Cave, who wrote an elaborate takedown of the technology on The Red Hand Files:

What makes a great song great is not its close resemblance to a recognizable work. Writing a good song is not mimicry, or replication, or pastiche, it is the opposite. It is an act of self-murder that destroys all one has strived to produce in the past. It is those dangerous, heart-stopping departures that catapult the artist beyond the limits of what he or she recognises as their known self. This is part of the authentic creative struggle that precedes the invention of a unique lyric of actual value; it is the breathless confrontation with one’s vulnerability, one’s perilousness, one’s smallness, pitted against a sense of sudden shocking discovery; it is the redemptive artistic act that stirs the heart of the listener, where the listener recognizes in the inner workings of the song their own blood, their own struggle, their own suffering. This is what we humble humans can offer, that AI can only mimic, the transcendent journey of the artist that forever grapples with his or her own shortcomings. This is where human genius resides, deeply embedded within, yet reaching beyond, those limitations.

Next: The Existential Loneliness of Prompt Engineering

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