ArtSunday: Microsoft and the end of culture
Verily, we have arrived at the end of all culture. Perhaps predictably, the culprit is technology. Or, to be a bit more specific, the culprit is Microsoft, which has now infused the art of songwriting with the same kind of magic and warmth you’ve come to expect from Excel.
Microsoft is pitching software designed for you, no musical training required. You sing the words as best you can, and its Songsmith software supplies computer-matched musical accompaniment.
Words … fail. Fortunately, Microsoft has produced a commercial that tells us everything we could ever want to know. Really, it tells us a lot more than they wanted to tell us. And no, this isn’t a parody put together by Cupertino cultist types with too much spare time on their hands. This is an actual Microsoft production. Before watching, go ahead and swallow anything you don’t want to come come shooting out your nose.
Never mind that Microsoft was aiming for “over-the-top comic irony” – you can only ask so much of self-effacing humor.
Fortunately, the Internets are full of smart-asses. So let’s consider the implications of the Songsmithization of our culture.
Oh, here’s another:
Still with me?
Our popular culture has been dealing with the specter of “autonomous technology” run amok since Frankenstein, and in my cyberculture classes a few years back I had my students pondering the relationship between humanity, technology and actualization. Of interest was that third leg – where technology and actualization meet, where machines become self-aware and strive toward a higher ideal of self. That I called the “posthumanities,” and that’s where conversations about artificial life and artificial intelligence get interesting for me.
Those of you who have nightmares about Tron can rest a little easier tonight. If this is the best technology can do in the way of creating art, humans are okay for a couple more years, at least.
Still – imagine how scary Frankenstein would have been if Victor had owned Songsmith….
Thanks to Dr. Greg Stene for calling this travesty to my attention.