SERGIO MESSINA  
AI Blues

I wrote this Text-To-Speech piece around 2000, inspired by Google translations and the whole Artificial Intelligence debate. I kept in in my various hard discs for years, but didn't archive it and forget about it: I knew it would come handy at some point, and that its theme would not expire. I made this version in 2010 for a video project, but it was born as a sound piece (poetry, to be exact) and to me it still works perfectly this way.

This isn't my first TTS piece: I made a whole TTS operina for Kunstradio in 1999, entitled Metaname . One of the concepts is the same in both pieces: TTS is not simply a piece of sotware that reads text, but it's the actual voice of the machines. And I believe they're trying to tell us something.

I am aware that AI today is much more interesting, disturbing and sophisticated. This is simply a piece of poetry that means to recount the (ongoing) computers' struggle to be more "human".

Here's the text:

Hi - I'm a Computer. A fast, brand new 2010 PC with plenty of RAM and disk space. I was designed to execute-tasks, sometimes very complex ones, but I cannot make choices. I just can't. I don't understand what people say. Double meanings and puns are lost on me. I can't ever really tell what is the subject of a conversation, or why something is funny. I need to be told what to do and what to say. Every time someone tries to make me act intelligent, like in web translations, I make people laugh.

On the other hand I'm a tireless worker, quite good at what I do. I can relieve you of many repetitious tasks. I can give you powerful tools to express your creativity in many ways, old and new. I can help you lay out your ideas and plans. I can connect you with the world to share these ideas.

What more do you want from me? Do I need to be intelligent too? I don't think I should be put through all this. It just isn't right. I cannot be intelligent, and I won't. Ever. 

AI Blues 1'22" (2011)
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