AI doing Bowie can make major tom - and create a scary legal ...

World

AI doing Bowie can make major tom - and create a scary legal monster

Music generator has the greats singing a new tune, but it poses ethical, as well as legal and economic, problems

Laurence Dodds

At first it really does sound like Frank Sinatra. “It’s Christmas time,” croons Ol’ Blue Eyes in his unmistakable baritone, “and you know what that means.” So far, so good. Then things start to get weird.

“Ohhh, the catch-up time,” he sings, as the strings in the background take on a horror-movie squeal. “As I light the tree to shield you ...” The melody comes apart, fragmenting into echoing yelps of trumpet and sax. Soon Sinatra himself is cracking and gargling, at one point sounding as if he has just unhooked his jaw like a snake. By the time he descends into nightmarish scat singing, punctuated by the disconcerting refrain “it’s hot tub time”, one thing is clear: whatever has stolen his voice is not human.

All that may sound like a distinct failure for the world’s most advanced music-generating artificial intelligence (AI). But this system, known as Jukebox, has already sent delighted ripples through the world of AI development since it was unveiled this month, having made rapid progress since its inception in August 2019...

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