'That's going to be a battle we all have to fight in the next couple of years: Defending our human capital against AI,' he said.
There is an ongoing conversation about saving the purity of the arts from being corrupted by technology, especially Artificial Intelligence or AI. Many writers, painters and musicians have warned the general public against it. Sting is the latest one to join the list. "The building blocks of music belong to us, to human beings," he told the BBC. "That's going to be a battle we all have to fight in the next couple of years: Defending our human capital against AI." His comments come in the context of the use of AI to clone the vocals of famous musicians. Earlier this year, DJ David Guetta added Eminem's "voice" to one of his tracks with the help of AI. Later, in April, a fake duet between Drake and The Weeknd went viral.
The latter was removed immediately after a copyright issue was raised by Universal Music Group (UMG), which is also the label responsible for releasing Sting's music. "It's similar to the way I watch a movie with CGI. It doesn't impress me at all," Sting said. "I get immediately bored when I see a computer-generated image. I imagine I will feel the same way about AI making music. Maybe for electronic dance music, it works. But for songs, you know, expressing emotions, I don't think I will be moved by it."
Just as writers have mobilized against the use of AI, the recording industry has also risen against its use. It has been done through a campaign called "Human Artistry Campaign," which said that AI companies might face copyright issues by using and training their software on the basis of commercially-released music. However, the US Copyright Office has clarified that AI art can't be copyrighted as it is "not the product of human authorship."
Not every artist and musician is against the use of AI. Pet Shop Boys frontman Neil Tennant said, "There's a song that we wrote a chorus for in 2003 and we never finished because I couldn't think of anything for the verses," he told the Radio Times. "But now, with AI, you could give it the bits you've written, press the button and have it fill in the blanks. You might then rewrite it, but it could nonetheless be a tool." When Sting was asked about Tennant's observations, he said, "The tools are useful, but we have to be driving them. I don't think we can allow the machines to just take over. We have to be wary."
The musician made these important points ahead of the UK's prestigious Ivor Novello songwriting awards on Thursday, where he was given their highest honor. "It sounds like something out of the 'Lord Of The Rings,' doesn't it? A Fellowship," the star joked. "But it's very meaningful to me to win a songwriting prize because that's what I put on my passport: I'm a songwriter."
He also spoke of leaving the band that he was a part of. "There was some risk involved," in going solo, he said, "but I wasn't risking my life or anything. I don't think in music you can have success without risk." In his career of several years, the musician has sold over 100 million albums and given global hits, and for this reason, his comments on the use of AI is an important take on the subject.