autotune and avatar

Although autotune is now used as a digital effect, it was originally used to correct pitch in songs. With its use, singers can sing in perfect pitch, so long as they are not too far off. Indeed, autotune does not need to work in real time, and at a high level, it is no different from an instrument synthesizer, but with the instrument sampled in real time. (Perhaps such a hybrid approach could render even more realistic real acoustic instruments, and make almost anybody a “great” music player.) As the automated portion of the autotune’s capability improves, less and less of the singer’s input is needed, and one finds less and less need for the perfect singer, and more and more need for the perfect song and its performance intention — this is, after all, the essence of a creative work — not the much valued virtuosity with which it is performed (for its “difficulty”).

A similar thing has been taking place in motion picture production, with computer assisted graphics taking over for effects and stunts. Lately, the production process for the movie Avatar has pushed this process to a mini-plateau of some sort. Avatar, as you may recall, is produced by sampling the expressivity of the actors on a body grid, then re-rendering in a very different way. Much like the human-controlled machines in the movie, the actors are just giving input to a machine, which follows the director’s desires. Again, as the technology improves, less and less of the actor’s input is needed, and eventually, they, like the singers, will be unnecessary.

When it comes to the creative fields, as it does — I believe — in any field, the evolution of automation technology diminishes birth advantages, allows compartmentalization of skills, promotes specialization of skills, and therefore equalizes opportunities. The beneficiaries are people who engage in true creativity of the mind, both in the arts and in the engineering of the technology, while the losers are the human “performers”, save for the few truly great ones, who will be needed to go through the dehumanizing experience of being sampled as input for a machine.

So… study what a machine cannot do, or, study how to make a machine do that.

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