Google's new AI is composing original music and it's every bit as horrifying as you'd imagine

Google remains hard at work in the field of Artificial Intelligence despite repeated warnings by everyone from conspiracy theorists (okay… me) to Stephen Hawking that they were ushering in the end of mankind’s run as lords of this planet. They’re no longer satisfied with just beating humans at strategy games, though. Now they want the AI beast to strut its stuff in the creative field. What better way than to ask it to compose some original music? (Government Executive)

How long did it take you to learn a song on the piano? One of Google’s neural networks has just composed its first 90-second melody after being fed four musical notes to start.

Google Brain’s Project Magenta recently embarked on the project to figure out if computers could actually be creative. The Google team used Tensorflow, a machine-learning engine built by Google (which is open to the public), to make its determination.

The song is… well, let’s just say it’s not going to be screaming to the top of the charts any time soon even if they get Beyonce’ to star in the video for it. But before going any further, judge for yourself. Put in your earbuds or turn up your speakers and check out this 90 second composition.

This may not be Beethoven, but here’s the scary part. While the music is, at least to my ear, pretty dreadful… it is, without question, music. It’s not music that was written by a human being and then reproduced or enhanced by the algorithm. This is a new song. I’m sure they instructed the program on how different notes fit together to make chords and which ones relate to each other in ways humans generally consider harmonious, but there’s only so much you can do to describe “art” to something that’s never experienced it. They gave it four notes to start off and it began building out from there and wrote an actual song. It’s not just repeating those four notes, either. It takes off into new areas and builds a melody, a harmony and a beat.

I was already getting nervous when Google’s AI managed to beat a master at the ancient game of Go (which was supposedly beyond the ability of the smartest machine to do) but now it’s composing original music. This isn’t something a machine should be able to do. Humans have been around in our current form for… what? A few hundred thousand years? And for at least the last several thousand we’ve pretty much been masters of the planet.

But hey… we had a good run.