Will.i.am on the Weird Future of Entertainment and His Problems with Modern Hip-Hop
â€œWhat the fuck is a mirror in 2038?â€ says Will.i.am. â€œThatâ€™s old-school technology, bro.â€
Anyone still thinking ofÂ Will.i.amÂ as just a hitmaking producer-rapper is decidedly 2000-and-late, at least as far as Silicon Valley is concerned. Though his Puls smartwatch was far from a success back in 2015, heâ€™s still taken seriously by venture capitalists, who have reportedly provided more than $100 million in funding to his company, I.am+ â€” which is working on a personalized artificial-intelligence assistant. Here, he shares his vision for the future of entertainment and more.
How will home entertainment be different in 20 years?
In 2038, itâ€™ll be, â€œWhatâ€™s a TV? My wall is a freaking display in itself!â€ The only reason you have to buy a TV is because the builder of the house didnâ€™t make the walls screens! The only reason I have to buy a scale is because the contractor didnâ€™t make the floor weigh me! The only reason I have to buy mirrorsâ€‰.â€‰.â€‰.â€‰like what the fuck is a mirror in 2038? Thatâ€™s old-school technology, bro. Everything should be screens! Then you have privacy issues, but thatâ€™ll be solved.
Do songwriters need to fear AI programs writing music?
A song is a song, regardless if itâ€™s made by a person, a machineâ€‰.â€‰.â€‰.â€‰whatever. Thereâ€™s a lot of wack human music! [Laughs] But what do you mean by â€œwritingâ€? If Iâ€™m making music and I talk to an AI [device], and I was like, â€œYo, give me a shuffle pattern, and pull up a bass line, and give me a Bootsy Collins feel.â€‰.â€‰.â€‰.â€‰â€
Well, AIâ€™s are writing from scratch â€” they fed one the Beatlesâ€™ catalog and it wrote a â€œnewâ€ Beatles song.
Thatâ€™s not writing yet. Thatâ€™s an algorithm. Itâ€™s a player piano. Somebody had to write the freaking sheet for the player piano to play it.
Many people are scared about AIâ€™s potential in general. Are you?
AI investment is surpassing HI â€“ human intelligence â€“ investment. Thatâ€™s something we should be concerned about: AI as a system that you live on. Regulations have to come in before we get there.
Hip-hop is the dominant form of popular music on the planet. How long will that dominance last?
Whatâ€™s the number-one sport on the planet? Soccer, because anyone can play it. The problem with hip-hop is everybody could do it. It doesnâ€™t take much fucking skill right now to make hip-hop. Itâ€™s become the lowest-hanging fruit. Itâ€™s no longer about Rakim-level, Nas-level, not the deep, metaphorical simile shit. Out of respect for the Nases of the world, letâ€™s not call it hip-hop. Letâ€™s say thatâ€™s rap. But instrumental music is going to be the next biggest shit.
The John Coltranes, the Stan Getzes, the Jimi Hendrixes, the musicianship. Thatâ€™s the only way to prove intelligence or taste: demonstrating your artistry. Right now weâ€™re competing human on human, and eventually weâ€™ll be competing human on machine â€“ the moment thereâ€™s a fucking AI mumble rapper [laughs]â€‰.â€‰.â€‰.â€‰itâ€™s inevitable, bro! Like, the reason whyÂ Star WarsÂ isÂ Star WarsÂ is because the Jedis kept the machines in check.
So youâ€™re saying weâ€™re going to need Jedi-level musicians to beat the machines?
Yeah, yeah. AndÂ TerminatorÂ was like the absence of Jedis. Thatâ€™s where humans lost.