Punk rocker Jenny Toomey takes stand against AI music

The long-held promise of Artificial Intelligence was that machines would do all the drudge work and we would be left to create. In this AI-enabled utopia, assembly, construction, and hard labor of all kinds, as well as boring sorting and filing and such, would be handled by smart machines while we painted pictures, wrote poems, and sang songs together.

Well, AI — or what currently passes for it – against all of its future folklore is threatening the already precarious livelihoods of artists in many fields. 

Former punk-rocker and indie label co-founder Jenny Toomey, the Director of the Ford Foundation Catalyst fund, has taken a stand against AI, likening it to the file-sharing wave of the early 2000s. Toomey's long been an advocate for artists online, and in her recent piece for Fast Company, she writes,

The way I see it, in 2000, Napster was the equivalent of ChatGPT. Napster's CEO Shawn Fanning was on the cover of Time and Newsweek and, depending on your perspective, digital file sharing was the end of the world or a pathway to limitless freedom and opportunity. The promises from tech CEOs of that time—including Fanning, MP3.com's Michael Robertson, and Rhapsody's Rob Reid—were likewise utopic and mission-driven, in much the same way that CEOs exalt the possibilities of AI today.

Much to the glee of CEOs, label heads, gatekeepers of creative pursuits, and other people who don't want to pay for art, AI can make images, write poetry, and yes, compose songs. It can also impersonate human voices and their likenesses. However, artists now have to compete with them, and we all still have to do our own laundry, too.

Previously: AI is either going to save us or kill us. Or both.