Despite Nick Cave’s broadside against computer-generated lyrics, they’re here to stay. Artists need to be educated and protected
Faced with an attempt by a new chatbot to imitate his own lyrics, the musician Nick Cave delivered a withering verdict: it was “replication as travesty”. He understood that AI was in its infancy, but could only conclude that the true horror might be that “it will forever be in its infancy”. While a robot might one day be able to create a plausible song, he wrote, it would never grow beyond “a kind of burlesque”, because robots – being composed of data – are unable to suffer, while songs arise out of suffering.
Fans of Cave and his band the Bad Seeds will agree that his music is inimitable, but that doesn’t mean they would necessarily be able to tell the difference. A few days before his remarks, experts were asked to distinguish between four genuine artworks and generically paired AI imitations. Their verdicts were wrong five times out of 12, and they were only unanimously right in one of the four picture comparisons.