Another Chapter in the Undeath of Rock

by David Solomonoff

Japan, where young men marry pillows emblazened with X-rated cartoon characters, has long been at the cutting edge of modern culture.

Hatsune Miku is a Japanese pop diva who plays massive stadium concerts to sold out crowds. But unlike her flesh and blood bandmates she’a a 3D hologram created with software you can also purchase for your PC to play any song you create.

William Gibson anticipated this in his novel Idoru, where Rez, an aging rock star, marries Rei Toei, an AI construct, much to the dismay of his fans.

In the end we learn that the programmers who created Rei Toei overlaid the memories and life experiences of many people to create her personality so that she is actually capable of far greater emotional depth than flesh and blood humans.

AI pioneer David Gelernter recently wrote an essay in Edge magazine in which he writes:

The natural correspondence between computer and brain doesn’t hold between computer and body.  Yet artificial thought will require a software model of the body, in order to produce a good model of emotion, which is necessary to artificial thought.  In other words, artificial thought requires artificial emotions, and simulated emotions are a big problem in themselves.  (The solution will probably take the form of software that is “trained” to imitate the emotional responses of a particular human subject.)

One day all these problems will be solved; artificial thought will be achieved.  Even then, an artificially intelligent computer will experience nothing and be aware of nothing.  It will say “that makes me happy,” but it won’t feel happy. Still: it will act as if it did.  It will act like an intelligent human being.

Hatsune Miku can’t yet breathe, sweat, much less engage in physical intimacy like the sexy, romantic ideal of the rock star. But those too may just be technical problems to be resolved with more sophisticated algorithms and higher computer chip densities.

But the most disturbing possibility of all would be that people may no longer want or need that degree of realism.

Update: Paul Raven at Futurismic comments:

Guardians of hollow notions of artistic authenticity (and curmudgeonly critics like myself) can at least take heart from the fact that idorus will face many of the same piracy problems and business model issues as flesh-and-blood acts, at least once the novelty quotient expires… though they’re probably less likely to get tired and jaded about their careers, to discover free jazz or to overdose on prescription painkillers.

Comments (2)