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17.01.2023, Words by Billy Ward

Nick Cave denounces AI songwriting as a "grotesque mockery of what it is to be human"

"Algorithms don’t feel. Data doesn’t suffer..."

Nick Cave has launched a scathing attack on songwriting using artificial intelligence, calling it "bullshit" and a "grotesque mockery of what it is to be human".

The Bad Seeds singer addressed the growing number of fans sending him songs written "in the style of Nick Cave" by ChatGPT, a chatbot software that uses AI to generate human-like text at the request of the user. 

The singer revealed his feelings towards the growing interest around AI songwriting on his blog The Red Hand Files, responding to a submission from a fan called Mark who sent him an algorithmically generated set of lyrics. 

"Since its launch in November last year many people, most buzzing with a kind of algorithmic awe, have sent me songs ‘in the style of Nick Cave’ created by ChatGPT. There have been dozens of them. Suffice to say, I do not feel the same enthusiasm around this technology," he writes. 

"I understand that ChatGPT is in its infancy but perhaps that is the emerging horror of AI – that it will forever be in its infancy, as it will always have further to go, and the direction is always forward, always faster. It can never be rolled back, or slowed down, as it moves us toward a utopian future, maybe, or our total destruction. 

"Who can possibly say which? Judging by this song ‘in the style of Nick Cave’ though, it doesn’t look good, Mark. The apocalypse is well on its way. This song sucks."

Cave went on to highlight the need for human emotion in songwriting, stating that AI algorithms will only be able to mimic or replicate lyrics but "cannot create a genuine song".  

"Songs arise out of suffering, by which I mean they are predicated upon the complex, internal human struggle of creation and, well, as far as I know, algorithms don’t feel," he continues. "Data doesn’t suffer. ChatGPT has no inner being, it has been nowhere, it has endured nothing, it has not had the audacity to reach beyond its limitations, and hence it doesn’t have the capacity for a shared transcendent experience, as it has no limitations from which to transcend.

“ChatGPT’s melancholy role is that it is destined to imitate and can never have an authentic human experience, no matter how devalued and inconsequential the human experience may in time become."

Nick Cave confirmed earlier in the month that he's started work on a new Bad Seeds album. 

You can read the letter in full here

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