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Electronic Musician | Composer

Researching a Concept Album

The idea behind the album Aniagiasi started almost three years before it was completed.  In fact, only one of the thirteen final tracks was even completed in the first 6 months of the process.  That initial piece seemed to share concepts of a book I was reading, some movies I had recently seen, and ideas in articles I was finding in business news.  This concept was artificial intelligence (A.I.).  While writing some new music with this concept in mind, I came across three acronyms for the stages or types of A.I.  These were A.N.I. for Artificial Narrow Intelligence, A.G.I. for Artificial General Intelligence, and A.S.I. or Artificial Superior Intelligence.  Combining these three acronyms is what gave the album its name… Aniagiasi.

Cultural Influences

I don’t think it would be all that challenging for someone to name a number movies or novels on the topic of Artificial Intelligence.  I am sure you are thinking of those very references right now.  The Terminator, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Blade Runner, and The Matrix are all part of a long list of films that have long been a part of pop culture.  From one of my recent favorites Ex Machina (2014) all the way back to Metropolis (1927), movies have explored the concept of A.I. and its impact on humanity.  But all of this was created for entertainment… right?  None of these concepts are possible in our lifetime, or that of our children… are they?  Those questions led to a lot of reading and YouTube rabbit holes, which all helped shape every single piece of music written for the album.  Below, you will find an ordered list of the tracks along with a short synopsis on the idea behind them.

The Ideas Behind the Music

  1. Bletchley Park: The album starts with a reference to Alan Turing and the “codebreakers” whose work was paramount in the Allies war efforts during WWII.  The need to decipher German’s ‘Enigma’ code led to amazing innovations which laid the foundation for computers and “thinking” machines.
  2. The Busy Child – Ani: One of the key pieces to my research was the book Our Final Invention: Artificial Intelligence and the End of the Human Era by James Barrat.  This is where I found the concept of “The Busy Child” which the author uses to explain the curiosity, development and unknown results of a new form of intelligence.  This track explores those initial moments of awareness and the events that immediately follow.
  3. Cogito Ergo Sum: Cogito ergo sum is a Latin philosophical dictum by René Descartes. Its translation, “I think, therefore I am” seemed a fitting concept in the exploration of artificial intelligence. For the album Aniagiasi, it helps shape the emerging concept of a self aware mind – be it human, or artificial!
  4. Eurisko: This is another concept which I read about in Our Final Invention.  The word itself means “I discover” and it is the name given to an A.I. project developed by Douglas Lenat.  Eurisko was one of the first recursively self-improving systems and it had tremendous success in a role-playing game called Traveller TCS.  It gained a legendary status for its ability to easily win against any human players who challenged it.
  5. Deep Blue: On February 10, 1996 a chess-playing computer developed by IBM won its first chess game against Garry Kasparov, a chess grandmaster and world champion.  That first match would see the mind of a human triumph over machine.  But in a rematch one year later, the tables turned when a heavily upgraded Deep Blue bested Kasparov in six games taking the match in May of 1997.
  6. Mapping the Mind: There are numerous theories on how artificial intelligence will be achieved.  One of these is the concept of digitally mapping the human mind and uploading into a computer or computational device.  If the source of the intelligence is a human mind, would it also then have “human” thoughts and/or memories?
  7. The Busy Child – Agi: Here we pick up “The Busy Child” concept once again with A.I. having an intelligence equal to that of the human mind.  There are some audible references to the Eurisko track and this is intentional.  There will be many questions about A.I. when it is able to match the thinking speed and versatility of the human mind.  Hopefully this is something we are prepared for.  When thinking about this brief future moment, I found myself envisioning humanity on the cusp of a technological coin flip.  I can only hope we are prepared to deal with the weight of either outcome.
  8. Deep Learning: This is a reference to a type of software which attempts to copy the activity that occurs in the layers of neurons in the neocortex.  The neocortex is what makes up 80% of the human brain where the “thinking” occurs.  I took a deeper dive into the concept by reading Ray Kurzweil’s book How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed.  I would like to share a quick aside here on how this project has come full circle.  For many years I have written music on my Kurzweil K2000 synthesizer and I also used it to record much of the music for Aniagiasi.  The inventor of this musical instrument is none other than the same Ray Kurzweil who is now a renowned futurist and leader on artificial intelligence and the coming singularity.  Cue the Twilight Zone music…
  9. Neural Network: A neural network is what allows deep learning.  It consists of possibly millions of simple processors which are all densely interconnected.  It is tied to the same deep learning concept where the neocortex in the human brain can be simulated by hardware and software.
  10. Do You Dream: This is a definite nod to the movie Blade Runner and, more specifically, the book which served as its inspiration… Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick.  Hopefully listeners find this piece eluding, but not in anyway comparable, to some of the music written by Vangelis for this classic film.
  11. 2045: Event Horizon: Here we are back to the predictions of Ray Kurzweil in regards to the advancement of technology.  Basically, technology is improving at an exponential rate in terms of speed, size and cost of computation.  In other words, technology is getting faster, smaller and costing less so, over time, we can map technological advancement on a predictable curve.  This curve, according to Kurzweil, predicts that a computer will pass the Turing Test around 2029.  From there, it will rapidly accelerate to the point when we arrive at the singularity or event horizon.  This is when the advancements in technology fundamentally change the world and humans will go through the greatest evolution since the expansion of the frontal lobe.  It could also be the time when computers are far superior to humans… ASI.
  12. The Busy Child – Asi: This is the third and final chapter of the Busy Child concept.  This piece explores the concept when technology’s intelligence is far superior to our own.  The music in this piece is meant to be bolder and more cinematic here.  Not necessarily in a threatening way, but in a way that demonstrates an unstoppable force, way beyond that of human control.  This is an difficult thought to consider.  Not because the A.I. will consider us a threat, but rather that it will not consider us at all.  Much like we do not generally consider the ant.
  13. Epilogue: The Infinite Unknown: The final track and Epilogue to the album was actually the first piece written.  It served as the starting point for research and musical ideas which shaped the final product.  There is a positive feeling in this piece because, ultimately, I think the future is going to be an exciting time.

Thank you for visiting and I hope you enjoy the album as much as I enjoyed creating it.

Bryan Nord Administrator

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