Keynote: Georgina Born
Recomposing ‘externalities’: Ethical and political challenges to creative AI music
For some time, certain valuable developments in electronic and computer music have questioned instrumental perspectives driven by an ‘innovation’ telos and positivistic methodologies of human-computer interaction in which technologies are figured through ‘command and control’ or stimulus/response paradigms as ‘tools’ for ‘application’ by a reigning human author-subject. Informed by critiques of these paradigms, the kinds of systems created in response have taken forms such as instantiating a ‘nonhierarchical… subject-subject model of discourse’, entailing ‘communication between two subject intelligences’, where the ‘tool’ is rendered capable of ‘the expression of personality, the assertion of agency, the assumption of responsibility and an encounter with history,memory and identity’ (Lewis). Alternatively, or perhaps complementing this, the very interactive system has been extended conceptually via the notion of an ‘audible ecosystem’ that is ‘in continual exchange with the surroundings and with its own history’ (Di Scipio). Here, feedback between machine, human, musical activity and external environment spreads out from performance, work, ‘text, or software, to become enmeshed in further flung social and material networks'(Green). In this paper I build on these responses but urge the creative AI music community to go further – to extend how the system is conceived and empractised. In a famous 1998 paper, the great STS scholar Michel Callon probed what he called ‘economic externalities’ to point to the way that the science of economics frames its object, the economy. Callon’s prescient aim was to highlight how, routinely, the economy is framed so as systematically to absent from calculation its actual impact on, for example, the environment from which raw materials are drawn and in which toxic waste materials are dumped, or the labouring subaltern populations extracting the raw materials or assembling the silicon chips at the very basis of lively economic markets. It is the countervailing, Callon-esque attention to bringing those ‘externalities’ back into how we understand and calculate economic – but also social and cultural – processes,impacts and costs that I want to transpose into AI music, asking: what would it mean for artistic practices, and what kinds of ethical and political challenges are thrown up, once the AI music community redefines the boundaries of its activities and brings what are now deemed to be unfortunate ‘externalities’ associated with AI into view as fully part of its own responsibilities? And inline with the conference themes, how would our ideas of authorship and performership but also the ‘work’ be extended and redefined in this radical light?