Exploring the Intersection of AI and Pop Culture

Aditi Bainss
Generative AI
November 13, 2023
5 min read

The birth of Hip Hop in the 1970s Bronx sparked a musical movement that gave a voice to marginalized black communities and continues to influence the popular culture around the world today. The Star Wars premiere in 1977 reformed the otherwise dry and unrealistic sci-fi genre – setting the standard for special effects and captivating storytelling. Michael Jackson's Thriller album release in 1982 broke racial barriers and elevated Jackson to global superstar status while also revolutionizing the music video industry. The release of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone in 1997 – and the subsequent series – captivated the world and helped bring about the resurgence of reading, especially among young people.

Pop culture has always had an undeniable influence on human behavior and attitudes. It shapes how people view the world around them and can impact their values, beliefs, and even their sense of self. Pop culture is all around us, from music and movies to fashion and social media. And now, artificial intelligence is slowly beginning to imprint on pop culture. So how will these interactions influence human behavior and attitudes? Let's dive deeper.

Now Screening: Hyper-Personalized Media Content

This isn't a very recent phenomenon. Back in 2000, Cinematch – a collaborative filtering algorithm – was implemented by Netflix to offer its members a personalized movie recommendation system based on their ratings, predicting the likelihood of their enjoyment of a movie. So if you enjoyed watching a movie like Fight Club, you would most likely be recommended movies like Memento and Seven to continue watching. Fast forward a decade later, and Netflix could recommend media content to viewers and elaborate why it's making such suggestions. Category interests like 'Movies from the 1990s' and 'Critically-acclaimed Police Detective TV Shows' are just two examples of how Netflix collected data with a simple thumbs up or thumbs down rating to recommend categorical movies and TV shows.

Clearly, with the rise of streaming platforms and recommendation algorithms, AI has become a crucial component of the media landscape. These algorithms analyze users' viewing habits and preferences and then suggest personalized content, leading to a more individualized experience. However, this hyper-personalization may also lead to an echo chamber effect, where users are only exposed to content that reinforces their beliefs and interests. This can polarize society and limit our exposure to diverse perspectives.

Hyperreality is a Fashionista

MSCHF, an experimental fashion brand, released the Big Red Boots in February 2023. In their press release, MSCHF talked about how "Cartoonishness is an abstraction that frees us from the constraints of reality…If you kick someone in these boots, they go boing!". They also talked about how instead of shaping the boots like human feet, they've shaped them like…boots. Retailing for a hefty price tag of $350, these Big Red Boots look like something right out of a Super Mario video game. But what's it got to do with AI?

These boots carry much wider implications about culture, the internet, fashion, and futurism. They represent the fashion of hyperreality. Hyperreality captures the inability to distinguish reality from its representation. It is heavily prevalent in our current artificial intelligence ecosystem, where one can generate original videos of the Grand Canyon, for example, without ever having been there. This AI-generated video of the Grand Canyon might look more real to people than actual, authentic images of a person. Basically, AI-generated images and videos are increasingly becoming indistinguishable from real life – thus giving rise to hyperreality.

So now that technology has become so good at representing reality rather than implicating it, experimental fashion brands like MSCHF are bringing the implication of reality – like these cartoonish big red boots – to life.

Dancing to the Beats of AI

The most ancient way of transferring information and knowledge from generation to generation has been word-of-mouth and, by extension, songs. Bards and poets were professional storytellers employed by patrons to celebrate and commemorate key historical, political, and religious events. Over centuries, songs and music became a method for people to not do this but also communicate their thoughts, beliefs, musings, and feelings. And in modern times, songs and music are also used in marketing and advertising to sell products and services.

Now, as AI is becoming increasingly popular and sophisticated, it is transforming the way we create this music. AI algorithms can analyze vast data and create original music based on that analysis. This has led to the creation of new genres of music and the blurring of traditional boundaries between genres.

One example of AI-generated music is Amper Music, an AI platform that allows users to create custom music for their videos or podcasts. Users can input their desired mood, genre, and tempo, and Amper Music will generate a unique composition in real time. Another example is AIVA (Artificial Intelligence Virtual Artist), a program that uses deep learning algorithms to compose original classical music. AIVA has already created music for films, advertisements, and concerts and has even released a full-length album titled 'Genesis'.

While AI-generated music has the potential to create new genres and push the boundaries of traditional music, some critics argue that it lacks the emotional depth and creativity of human-generated music. They suggest that AI-generated music may lead to a homogenization of artistic expression, with music becoming formulaic and devoid of originality. Moreover, there is a concern that AI-generated music could lead to the loss of jobs for human musicians. Despite these concerns, AI-generated music also has the potential to democratize the music industry and make music creation more accessible to a wider audience. It allows for a more individualized listening experience and the possibility of creating music that would have been impossible without the aid of technology.

The Yellow Brick Road Ahead

The intersection of AI and pop culture is a fascinating area of study that highlights how technology is changing how humans interact with media and each other. As AI becomes more sophisticated, it will continue to shape and influence pop culture in new and exciting ways. From AI-generated music and art to hyper-realistic fashion imagery, we are already seeing the impact of AI on pop culture.

As we progress, we must consider the potential positive and negative effects of these changes on human behavior and attitudes. By embracing the potential of AI in pop culture while being mindful of its limitations and drawbacks, we can work towards a future where technology and culture are more inclusive, representative, and meaningful for all.

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