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Future Culture Change

Posted May 2020

I have been reading “A World Without Work” by Daniel Susskind lately and have been finding some of his thesis concerning and I have only finished Part 1 so far of 3. Previously, I was of the mind that I thought AI and technology was not going to really decrease the amount of work in the future, only change it. Some jobs, yes would no longer exist, but other/new jobs would be created and replace the old ones. So, at best this would really require a re-skilling rather than a redundancy of people.

I also was of the mind, that like the World Economic Forum, some of the skills required going forward were creativity, innovation and emotional intelligence. Now I am not saying this is not the case, but from reading Part 1 of the book, I am taken aback to discover that these skills are not exclusive to being human – AI is tackling these skill sets as well. And I must admit I find that incredible! The example that is used in this section of the book and brought it home for me, was the computer programme, EMI, created by composer David Cope – and the fact, that apparently, the computer programme can create new compositions of music, thus generate creativity. Now critics seem to argue whether this is actual creativity, as it is a computer, but this really got me thinking. Coming from the theatre world of acting and dancing, I thought would it find AI creative in these fields? And I have to admit, yes to a degree – I mean look at the films, ‘Polar Express’, ‘Avatar,’ and tv series ‘Westworld.’ I mean, ‘Polar Express’ is still a favourite in my house and my son and I get up every time to psydo-tap dance with the waiters every time. But I would not want to watch an AI dance or act on stage – or rather I certainly would not spend the money or the time to go to the theatre and see a robot do ‘Swan Lake’, for example. I just don’t see the point. The reason why I like to see live theatre, especially ballet, is because I know the dancers have had to go through a heck of a lot to achieve what they are doing on stage, and to make it look seamless and beautiful. I would definitely not care to see a robot do that, even if they were a robot of Carlos Acosta or Natalie Osipova because it would not be the same. I want to see the human conquering the challenges that making that level of art requires, and the same would go for acting – what is the point of watching a robot on stage. But on screen, somehow that does not seem to matter so much. Maybe this is because the screen is already several steps removed from reality. I mean the famous saying goes “Its TV or It’s the movies, not real life.” And when the kids or someone says, ‘why did x do/say this?’ And the answer is ‘because it said so in the script.’ Whereas in the theatre, maybe someone said or did something because it was in the script, or maybe it wasn’t and they forgot their line, or something else happened that prompted that to happen.

So, maybe that is where I draw the line and where the line will be drawn in future. AI is ok for the screen (whatever screen that is) but not for real life art. So then that begs the question of what does this mean for live art – will it become more accessible for the wider public (which it has seriously struggled to do – tickets to ROH are still outrageous and making the shows available on screen, just is NOT the same)? Or will it become even more exclusive because that is the art of humans vs art of robots, and hence be more rare and more sought after? Will this be one of the divisions of society’s future, further fulfilling the current rhetoric of the ‘have’s and have not’s’?

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