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Thread: Last Night an Algorithm Saved My Life

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2018

    Default Last Night an Algorithm Saved My Life

    I guess it was only a matter of time, but Spotify are apparently testing an auto-mixing function that involves an algorithm mixing and beat matching tracks in a playlist. You have to wonder whether we're eventually going to render ourselves obsolete in every possible area. A future where people book and pay to see specific algorithms rather than DJs would be intriguing.

    The new feature, which was reported by Music Ally, beatmatches two tracks when shuffle is engaged and crossfade is switched off—this indicates that an algorithm is performing mixes in real time rather than playing back a previously recorded mix. The new behaviour was found in the Drum & Bass Fix playlist on the desktop version of Spotify. It's not yet known if other playlists are part of the test.

    A Spotify spokesperson did not offer details when contacted by Music Ally for comment, saying, "We are always testing new products and experiences, but have no further news to share at this time." The streaming giant introduced a similar function, called Party Mode, to its mobile app back in 2015.

    The news comes at a time when startups like Pacemaker are courting streaming services with artificial intelligence DJing apps, which automatically beatmatch Spotify playlists into a smooth mix. The thinking is that, if DJ mixes are made directly within a Spotify playlist, then royalties can be properly distributed. Meanwhile, companies like Dubset offer a means to identify and pay rights-holders without replacing human DJs with artificial intelligence.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2008


    that is interesting but I'll always trust a human's taste over an algorithms

    cue up some Westworld, VR, transhumanist, strong AI or whatever thing here about what constitutes a human, but still

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    North East London


    Quote Originally Posted by version View Post
    You have to wonder whether we're eventually going to render ourselves obsolete in every possible area.
    Well except listening to the mix itself :-)

    This makes a lot of sense I think if you listen to stuff on playlists and aren't able to mix stuff up for whatever reason (talent, because you are driving or doing something else when you listen, etc).

    People will still pay to see DJs though because that is a different experience...

  4. #4


    you can imagine a world in which there is little human intentionality, just various algorithms and recommendation systems clustering users together and making suggestions for them - it would be a kind of maddening horror, everyone isolated, the appearance of meaning but the total absence of it beneath the surface

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  6. #5


    there was an article on youtube kids not so long ago that gave off some of this creepy-AI vibe:

    What I find somewhat disturbing about the proliferation of even (relatively) normal kids videos is the impossibility of determining the degree of automation which is at work here; how to parse out the gap between human and machine. The example above, from a channel called Bounce Patrol Kids, with almost two million subscribers, show this effect in action. It posts professionally produced videos, with dedicated human actors, at the rate of about one per week. Once again, I am not alleging anything untoward about Bounce Patrol, which clearly follows in the footsteps of pre-digital kid sensations like their fellow Australians The Wiggles.

    And yet, there is something weird about a group of people endlessly acting out the implications of a combination of algorithmically generated keywords: “Halloween Finger Family & more Halloween Songs for Children | Kids Halloween Songs Collection”, “Australian Animals Finger Family Song | Finger Family Nursery Rhymes”, “Farm Animals Finger Family and more Animals Songs | Finger Family Collection - Learn Animals Sounds”, “Safari Animals Finger Family Song | Elephant, Lion, Giraffe, Zebra & Hippo! Wild Animals for kids”, “Superheroes Finger Family and more Finger Family Songs! Superhero Finger Family Collection”, “Batman Finger Family Song — Superheroes and Villains! Batman, Joker, Riddler, Catwoman” and on and on and on. This is content production in the age of algorithmic discovery — even if you’re a human, you have to end up impersonating the machine.

    Other channels do away with the human actors to create infinite reconfigurable versions of the same videos over and over again. What is occurring here is clearly automated. Stock animations, audio tracks, and lists of keywords being assembled in their thousands to produce an endless stream of videos. The above channel, Videogyan 3D Rhymes — Nursery Rhymes & Baby Songs, posts several videos a week, in increasingly byzantine combinations of keywords. They have almost five million subscribers — more than double Bounce Patrol — although once again it’s impossible to know who or what is actually racking up these millions and millions of views.

    I’m trying not to turn this essay into an endless list of examples, but it’s important to grasp how vast this system is, and how indeterminate its actions, process, and audience. It’s also international: there are variations of Finger Family and Learn Colours videos for Tamil epics and Malaysian cartoons which are unlikely to pop up in any Anglophone search results. This very indeterminacy and reach is key to its existence, and its implications. Its dimensionality makes it difficult to grasp, or even to really think about.

    We’ve encountered pretty clear examples of the disturbing outcomes of full automation before — some of which have been thankfully leavened with a dark kind of humour, others not so much. Much has been made of the algorithmic interbreeding of stock photo libraries and on-demand production of everything from tshirts to coffee mugs to infant onesies and cell phone covers. The above example, available until recently on Amazon, is one such case, and the story of how it came to occur is fascinating and weird but essentially comprehensible. Nobody set out to create phone cases with drugs and medical equipment on them, it was just a deeply weird mathematical/probabilistic outcome. The fact that it took a while to notice might ring some alarm bells however.

    Likewise, the case of the “Keep Calm and Rape A Lot” tshirts (along with the “Keep Calm and Knife Her” and “Keep Calm and Hit Her” ones) is depressing and distressing but comprehensible. Nobody set out to create these shirts: they just paired an unchecked list of verbs and pronouns with an online image generator. It’s quite possible that none of these shirts ever physically existed, were ever purchased or worn, and thus that no harm was done. Once again though, the people creating this content failed to notice, and neither did the distributor. They literally had no idea what they were doing.

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