Once again, the economics of music tells us a lot about what lies ahead in many other dimensions of our societies:

In the last few days, music industry companies have seen their stock prices tumble, because analysts predict that musical works created by artificial intelligences will soon replace those in their catalogs, which will therefore lose all value: As a result, Universal Music lost 2 billion in market value in a single recent session; to counter this development, this major has reportedly asked streaming companies, such as Deezer and Spotify, to prevent artificial intelligence companies from having access to its catalog, so that they cannot use it to train their software.

It is however an irresistible evolution: already, AI generates songs, music and lyrics, more or less original; a firm called Endel has more than two million monthly listeners of its specific computer-generated “sound environments”, some of which are composed with the help of electronic artists; more generally, what is now called “functional music” (and no longer “elevator music”) such as nature sounds, whale songs, or other “white noise”, composed automatically or collected in nature, has more than 10 billion listeners per month, which is already more than 10% of the global streaming market, and their number is doubling every year.

It is difficult to imagine that a musical ChatGPT will be prevented from proposing very soon new works inspired by the greatest composers, both classical and modern, and going further into their own universes; some applications will also soon be able to interpret existing works in a different way than the best known human interpreters do. We could even imagine that everyone will be able to have an AI compose the music he wants, by giving a theme or a color, or a feeling, or a text, and choose the interpreter, living, dead or artificial.   We can’t prevent the appearance of musical works that could bring even more exaltation, ecstasy, and surpassing to the one who will listen to it or immerse himself in it.  Moreover, one day soon, one could find oneself in concert in front of a hologram interpreting old or new works better (or in any case differently) than any known interpreter.   The whole musical activity, and the whole music industry, both recorded and live, will be turned upside down.

One can imagine much more: one will soon be able to understand, at least by correlation, that sound forms, having nothing to do with classical western music, or popular music, or even with all the attempts at atonal music, or with all the other musics, African, Indian, Chinese, or others, or even with any animal or human sound, or even any sound existing in nature, have a great impact on such or such human behavior.   Thus, we could imagine sound forms, more precisely chosen than they are today, capable of pushing consumers to such or such category of purchase.

Finally, we can imagine that one day we will be able to ask by thought transmission to hear the music most adapted to our state of mind. This implies progress not only in AI, but also in neuroscience, and in particular in neuroscience applied to music and art in general, to better understand the cerebral phenomena involved in artistic emotion.

Many questions will arise from this:

Will we still think that humanity deserves to be considered as superior to the rest of nature, because it has created overwhelming artistic works, when we will have felt an equivalent emotion with a work composed by an artificial intelligence?  And again: will we have to fear a political or commercial manipulation of the minds by the sound, as it exists by other senses?

And finally, and above all: when will we understand that, instead of accumulating material goods ad infinitum and killing each other for increasingly scarce resources, in a world that we are making unlivable, the real answer to all the challenges facing humanity lies in the exploration of the potentialities of the human mind, which has barely begun?

Jacques Attali

Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)