This AI-written pop song is almost certainly a dire warning for humanity


Artificial intelligence has already been used to create a short film, snippets of angst-ridden poetry, and even the odd avant-garde melody. But the YouTube video above might just be the first pop song written by AI — and it’s almost certainly (probably) a dire warning for humanity.

But what do these strange, foreboding lyrics mean?

The song in question was created by researchers at Sony, who used the company’s Flow Machines software to analyze a database of some 13,000 lead sheets (basic scores that record the melody and harmony of tracks) from different genres around the world. The software writes its own melodies, and a human composer, Benoît Carré, was drafted to turn material into a fully-produced track. He simply inputted a desired style of music (in this case The Beatles) and got to work.

The lingering question, though, is what the hell is “Daddy’s Car” actually about? Although the lyrics were written by Carré rather than the software, it’s impossible not to detect the menacing threats of machine intelligence in the wording, presumably working through Carré like a sinister puppet master. Here’s my interpretation of the lyrics:

In daddy’s car, it sounds so good / like something new, it turns me on

The rise of AI is putting us all, metaphorically, in the back seat of “daddy’s car” — a paternalistic system that guides our lives, and that over which we have no control. The siren song we’re listening to is the “something new” of consumer tech, which offers machine learning-powered experiences that turn both us and our soon-to-be robot overlords “on.”

Good day sunshine in the back seat car / I wish that road could never stop

We don’t care that we’re not in control: we’re just happy for this sunshine and hope that the road (of fast-developing AI) will never run out.

Down on the ground, the rainbow led me to the sun

But when we consider our new place in the world (“down on the ground”) we realize the colorful rainbow road of AI leads us, just like Icarus, straight to the Sun, and our own destruction. The use of rainbow imagery here is a clear allusion to the Bifröst in Norse mythology — a burning rainbow bridge that links the world of mortals to the realm of the gods. But the gods are dead and the machines rule in their place.

Please mother drive, and then play it again

And though we’re now trapped in daddy’s car, we need to ask mother (aka mother nature, aka Gaia, aka the natural order of the universe) to take over and replay our mistakes, hoping that we might learn from them a second time round. This obviously refers to some AI-driven apocalyptic event that will wipe out a solid portion of humanity, leading us to cautiously rebuild civilization.

And taxman are gealed (??) tomorrow never know (???)

Not got a clue about this bit actually.

Anyway, completely spurious over-readings aside, “Daddy’s Car” is only one of many tracks produced by Flow Machines. “The Ballad of Mr Shadow” is another, which is supposed to mimic the styles of songwriters like Irving Berlin and Duke Ellington. And years ago, the same Sony team also published a number of jazz compositions created using the same software. Sony says a full AI-written album is coming out next year, and presumably that will complete these mysterious prophecies, charting our dystopic future. Daddy’s car is just the beginning.

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