‘Artificial Intelligence’? No, Collective Intelligence.

Produced by ‘The Ezra Klein Show’

A.I.-generated art has flooded the internet, and a lot of it is derivative, even boring or offensive. But what could it look like for artists to collaborate with A.I. systems in making art that is actually generative, challenging, transcendent?

Holly Herndon offered one answer with her 2019 album “PROTO.” Along with Mathew Dryhurst and the programmer Jules LaPlace, she built an A.I. called “Spawn” trained on human voices that adds an uncanny yet oddly personal layer to the music. Beyond her music and visual art, Herndon is trying to solve a problem that many creative people are encountering as A.I. becomes more prominent: How do you encourage experimentation without stealing others’ work to train A.I. models? Along with Dryhurst, Jordan Meyer and Patrick Hoepner, she co-founded Spawning, a company figuring out how to allow artists — and all of us creating content on the internet — to “consent” to our work being used as training data.

[You can listen to this episode of “The Ezra Klein Show” on the NYT Audio App, Apple, Spotify, Amazon Music, YouTube or wherever you get your podcasts.]

In this conversation, we discuss how Herndon collaborated with a human chorus and her “A.I. baby,” Spawn, on “PROTO”; how A.I. voice imitators grew out of electronic music and other musical genres; why Herndon prefers the term “collective intelligence” to “artificial intelligence”; why an “opt-in” model could help us retain more control of our work as A.I. trawls the internet for data; and much more.

You can listen to our whole conversation by following “The Ezra Klein Show” on the NYT Audio App, Apple, Spotify, Google or wherever you get your podcasts. View a list of book recommendations from our guests here.

(A full transcript of this episode is available here.)

Credit…Boris Camaca

This episode of “The Ezra Klein Show” was produced by Annie Galvin. Fact-checking by Michelle Harris. Our senior engineer is Jeff Geld, with additional mixing by Aman Sahota. Our senior editor is Claire Gordon. The show’s production team also includes Rollin Hu, Elias Isquith and Kristin Lin. Original music by Isaac Jones. Audience strategy by Kristina Samulewski and Shannon Busta. The executive producer of New York Times Opinion Audio is Annie-Rose Strasser. And special thanks to Sonia Herrero and Jack Hamilton.

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