In 2040, human beings and machines will reach an event horizon and will be forever integrated and evolutionarily linked in what is called “The Singularity.”
Humans will have computers the size of blood cells swimming in their brains that can download an entire encyclopedia in a nanosecond. No, this isn’t a plotline for another terrible Terminator sequel; it is actually a futuristic theory from inventor Ray Kurzweil. Kurzweil—the son of a musician and composer father and a visual-artist mother—has invented a slew of amazing machines, including the Kurzweil keyboard and a reading machine for the blind (endorsed by Stevie Wonder).
According to Kurzweil, analysis of exponential relationships that exist in the study of the booming onslaught of modern-day technological advances will eventually lead man and machine into a symbiotic force. Evolution will no longer be a biological process that takes eons, but an instantaneous change putting humans in full control of their destiny, relegating conventional learning methods to the archaic.
Kurzweil also suggests that we will all reach a state of immortality through machine-created editing of our DNA. After studying up on this eccentric though exceptionally intelligent individual, who is, in fact, a musician, my mind started to ponder how this aforementioned technology would change the way we all learn, play and create music.
What if all of my life’s study of music and thousands of other musicians' struggles could be shortened to a second? What if I had decided to trade countless hours with a guitar and metronome and saved up my pennies to purchase the new “Paul Gilbert Version 2.0,” available for instant brain download?
I would now have the ability to sound just like my hero, Gilbert, and would have no problem tearing up some of his most terrifying licks. An issue would occur when all my friends wanted the same thing and downloaded it too; now everyone on the block is Paul Gilbert. Not a biggie; I will just download the new Bach app and get a more sophisticated grip on harmony and counterpoint.
Wait, all my neo-classical buds figured that one out too! OK, I’ll just download the Atonal composition app directly to my brain and no one is going to sound like me, and all this musical expertise only took me 20 seconds. Now I have all eternity to show off to my friends and perform wrestling moves on my cat! If playing music is just about the destination, I wholeheartedly believe this is all wonderful—but it's not. What about the identity of the player, the musical thumbprint of the individual that only you can create?
What about the blood, sweat and tears that have carried you to this very moment and drawing from those experiences your spontaneously create something uniquely yours? To reach out and grab the listener's attention is about as human of a desire as anything I can imagine. The hours logged in for practice all week, was it more then just the physical ability you developed or was it something meditative and perhaps cathartic? If so, great! Now get off the damn computer and pick up your friggin' guitar!
Shawn McGovern is a GIT graduate and sought-out guitar instructor in Providence, Rhode Island, and Los Angeles and may be contacted through his site, shawnmcgovern.com.