I love me some Vulfpeck. Especially the music. But also the aesthetic and really the whole package.

This piece of commentary is great for a number of reasons, including his sensible proposed change in business model around music.

But the main reason I’m sharing this is when he speculates about future disruptions to music. He says:

Is it AI? No no no, humans are obsessed with humans making music. Ya know, that’s the base layer.

The keyboardist in Vulfpeck, Woody Goss, he’s getting spooked by AI in music, and he said “you know what? [he plays chess] Computers have been beating humans in chess for a little while now, but the sport of chess is bigger than ever.”

And I said “yeah you’re right; that is what people love about music. They want to rally around a human.” I’m sure a robot could jump higher than someone or is a better gymnast, but are we tuning into the robot Olympics? No, we like humans.

I think that gets at the philosophical heart of all of this emerging AI. Zooming way out, humans care about humans. AI can generate billions of images, movies, songs, books, whatever, and I bet at least some of it will be good! And it will likely continue to get better! I bet AI’s creative output will activate the same pleasure centers in our brains that human-produced work activate.

But there is no AI substitute for a human belting out some lyrics and baring their soul to the world in front of an audience of people. There’s no AI substitute for a human-produced drawing of someone on the subway, even if a similar-or-even-better result could be produced in seconds by AI. The artifact is often less important than the process — the human process — that made it. That’s why I suspect videos of creative processes are so attractive; we are captivated by seeing humans doing human things.

It is the act of human expression that intrigues us and connects us to one another. By expressing ourselves, we share our humanity with the world. When that is received and reciprocated by others, we create a feedback loop of our shared humanity. In my view, that’s one of the most powerful effects of art.