We’re not to play with matches, but we’re all commanded to “play with AI.”
We’re all trying to figure out how we really feel about artificial intelligence.
Actually, I’m not.
But if you are, I think I’ve found a way for you to differentiate between the “gee whiz” feeling you get when you see ChatGPT return a coherent paragraph or a plausible short story on command—and when you see AI applied to something a little closer to your soul. I call it the AI Gut Check.®
Here’s what ya do:
Take your very favorite singer. Not the hottest singer of the moment or the latest singer you’re into, but the one you’ve loved, God help you, since you were a kid. The one whose sound and aura you will never get over on the inside, no matter how mature and sophisticated you become on the outside. The one who got in you, who made you feel understood for the first time, the one you felt you understood, uniquely, no matter how absurd or adolescent the reason.
For me, as regular Writing Boots readers know, that singer is Jim Morrison, who taught me nothing less than male sexuality itself when I was a 14 year old boy.
Well, in one of the many Morrison/Doors-related Facebook groups I discouragingly belong to now at age 54, someone posted an AI-generated voice of Morrison singing a song by one Lana Del Rey, called “Born to Die.” Here it is.
Here’s what you think about it: Wow, it sounds like Morrison! Cool! And the song’s not half bad!
Here’s what I think about it: Wow, it sounds like Morrison! Except, so the fuck what? It has absolutely nothing to do with Morrison. Not a song he did sing, not a song he would sing.
He’d be rolling over in his Paris grave, if he wasn’t still passed out.
Now: Is there some song out there that would have made such utterly perfect sense for Jim Morrison to sing that hearing an AI version would make me feel “overwhelmed,” as one of my fellow “Doorsians” (gadzooks) called the Del Ray tune? If there is, then the connection would have nothing to do with Morrison, but rather between me, and the human being who thought of the connection. Alas, I think it’d be a pretty thin connection at that.
In any case, ChatGPT denied my own temptation, because it apparently doesn’t take song requests.
But that’s the AI Gut Check®: Take your own dear soul-singer and see if you want to listen to an AI version of them, singing something else by someone else. If you do—and if you then find it a pleasure to listen to the synthetic robot tune over and over again—then you’re officially, genuinely, AI Sanguine. And we can discuss the implications of that at a later time.
But if you don’t—if that idea offends and vaguely upsets you—then you ought to reconsider your enthusiasm for having AI sully or replace or even cast its inhuman influence on other human expressions that you don’t happen to personally deeply care about. Because what if someone else does?
And just in case anyone thinks I’ve lost my sense of humor completely during my recent episode of rearrested Doorsian development—well, I didn’t have to close this post by sharing with you Jimmy Fallon’s version of Mr. Mojo singing children’s stories.