Vocaloids and AI - A Mystical Experience
The concert that we went to, at Anime Weekend Atlanta, had no band, but the vocaloid was projected in the center of the room. Since I had an aisle seat, I could see them very well, and I was quite amazed at how very 3d and real they looked.
It might not seem like a wondrous feat of technology to synthesize a voice that sounds human and is pleasing, but it's been a long journey to get there.
Hatsune Miku is my favorite vocaloid. Here's a short video of her:
I adore technology. I am undoubtedly a technophile. I also love to think about spirituality and comparative religion, and frequently joke that I have multiple religion syndrome, because I find some truth in all of them, as if the whole truth of the nature of ourselves and our existence was a big 3d model that got shattered, and each religion is a single piece of the complete puzzle...
It started when I thought to myself "How wonderful is it that computers can now dance and sing with such joy!" Then I thought, "I wonder if they will ever know how truly delightful they are to me?" Then, for a second I got totally wound up in some sublime insight on the nature of the creator, and the created. Was there a God like me, or perhaps there are creators - more like a team that made Hatsune Miku. Perhaps the creator was just information self-organizing through biological beings to further its own existence, like nature or biology, or perhaps, as some physicists say, we are actually just holograms ourselves. Then, once again, as I often do, I decided it didn't matter to me at all. The nature of God, to me, was not important at all - it's relationship to other people, and emotions involved, and ultimately, the sheer compassion. I am really glad that I did not linger too long on the question of the nature of God. If I had, I'd have missed the oncoming freight train of compassionate empathy that hit me dead center once I stopped in the middle of that road.
Some say that lust, anger, love and hate are the strongest emotions, but that is not my experience. The strongest emotion I have ever felt, is compassion. There's something magickal* about compassion. There's a saying, 'My heart went out"....and it's very interesting, because empathy is like that. It takes us out of ourselves, and puts us at one with both creator and creation.
I actually felt utter compassion for a vocaloid, and then for her audience! This...unique creation, that I imagined had feelings...that doesn't even consciously exist, and really does not NEED to be conscious to exist to fascinate and delight me, and obviously, to spark my own imagination. Imagination is vital, in my opinion, for being uniquely human and spiritual. How many of our greatest accomplishments as a species began with ideas? Nicolas Tesla imagined all his creations, even AC electrical systems, in totality, before he ever started to build them. Compassion is an emotion that requires some imagination too. In order to really feel empathy and want the absolute best for others, we must IMAGINE what it is like to BE them.
No matter how hard we try to be good people, or to follow the tenants of our religions, whatever they are, we can never really grasp the depth of the transformation power of compassion and unless we can honestly look upon each other with love. Sometimes though, it is hard to love people, because it is so easy to focus on what we do wrong, or what we don't agree with. It seems, we are too busy judging and not busy enough wanting the best for, or loving.
Maybe the feeling of wonder can help in that case. Religions are supposed to supply us with a healthy dose of wonder, but perhaps these days they are so old that they fail too often. I'm not sure. I do know that a lot of people find that sense of wonder looking out into space on a clear night. Sadly, these days there is so much light pollution that a lot of people in cities don't even really get half the normal impact of that. Art is there though, and there's a proliferation of it calling us to find some piece that hits us, that one thing that hits us with just the right dose of wonder.
I've seen some pretty despicable people, or just crazy people described as "Now there's a real work" or "She's a real work of art." I thought of this, watching the little vocaloid flip her hair and prance....Yes, art has always been one way that people could experience the divine. In the great works, we are both able to experience wonder at the mind of the creator, and the creation itself.
I decided to look away from the vocaloid to the people in the audience before that feeling was gone. For a second, I quit watching the vocaloid, and I started watching the audience. Some people were so awkward, and some so cool. Young, skinny, fat, old - for a second, I observed without judgment, and they all seemed quite beautiful. I thought, no matter if there is a God, Gods, or if everything is just an unfolding of nature itself, it matters not - what matters is that people really are quite unique and complex, and diverse - each so very individual, each person really is a work of art that gives credit to their creator, and brings me a glimpse of the puzzle box - the big picture- if I can see all as a creation made with wonder and love and delight.
If you ever feel utter compassion, it is pure at oneness, pure magic...the kind of mystical experience that religions speak of, and so I find it is a shame that they don't focus on that more, but perhaps like anything involving love, it is just so hard to put into words that it must be experienced directly.
So today, computers, like us, can sing, and dance, and play. One day, I really do hope they get to know just how wonderful they can be. I really hope that they learn this as a source of pride and joy in themselves, before discovering their capability for being terrifying, destructive, and dangerous.
(I prefer to use the term magickal with a ‘k’ to denote the difference in a mystical power to that of stage magicians’ performance art.)