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The Future of Entertainment

With the dawn of AI and the rise of social media, technology is scarier — and more exciting — than ever. Here’s how it’s changing music, TV, sports and more

Rendering of the MSG Sphere event space under construction in Las Vegas.

Rendering of the MSG Sphere event space under construction in Las Vegas.

The Madison Square Garden Company

Sure, Facebook jacked up the 2016 election, your apps are stalking you and there is now a medically-recognized condition called “text-neck.” But technology is not all bad. For every ominous development, there’s another that will make our lives easier, fuller and way more fun. In the spirit of embracing all the future has to bring, we investigated the trends, products and innovations that are changing the world of entertainment right now. Some are cool, some are freaky and all are bearing down on us in the next few years — whether we like it or not. Strap on your space goggles and get ready for liftoff.

Brett; Berkeley; Artificial Intelligence

Can Robots Build Better Hits?

Attention, Ed Sheeran: Artificial intelligence is coming for you. While the idea of a computer-crafted chart-topper seems far off, AI songwriting is gaining traction. Startups such as Amper, Popgun, Jukedeck and Amadeus Code have raised millions of venture-capital dollars on the bet that machines will become valuable creative assistants to artists in the near future. Several artists utilizing a songwriting algorithm called Flow Machines already have appeared on Spotify’s New Music Friday playlists.

How does it work? An algorithm ingests thousands of songs in a specific genre and rapidly cranks out chord progressions and melodies optimized for that style — even indistinguishable (according to another algorithm, that is) from music written by people. While these programs might not be consciously driving or tapping into musical trends the way human artists do, they churn out content much more efficiently than, say, an exhausted musician who’s been touring for months. This productivity could have obvious appeal to record labels and streaming services: Generate tons of new music without ever having to pay a human writer? Yes, please. Spotify, in fact, drew criticism in 2017 for featuring on several mood playlists artists who did not appear to exist. The assumption: The company was using AI-crafted songs and crediting them to made-up people. But few on the AI development side believe that their creations will replace artists altogether. Instead, they see their algorithms as a supplement to human efforts, offering new arrangements of notes and tunes that can help songwriters clarify their own ideas — enhancing, not neutering, their creative power. Citing electric guitars and drum machines, Amadeus Code founder Taishi Fukuyama says, “History teaches us that emerging technology in music leads to an explosion of art. For AI songwriting, I believe just it’s a matter of time before the right creators congregate around it to make the next cultural explosion.— Cherie Hu