In a recent op-ed for BBC, Eric Schmidt – then chairman of Google, now chairman of Alphabet – wrote about what's next for Artificial Intelligence technology and how he sees the industry developing.
Schmidt, pretty obviously writing from atop Google's shoulders, talks about the capacity of machine learning to evolve and benefit long-term projects such as speech recognition and smart automation.
An interesting yet unsurprising topic that Schmidt remarked upon was AI's relationship to music. He spoke on the need for machine learning to work more closely with music services of the future to build smart systems capable of learning from and responding to their environment (vis-à-vis their consumers):
"In the future, we need to do even more blending of AI research with solving real-world challenges. In the next generation of software, machine learning won't just be an add-on that improves performance a few percentage points; it will really replace traditional approaches.
To give just one example: a decade ago, to launch a digital music service, you probably would have enlisted a handful of elite tastemakers to pick the hottest new music. Today, you're much better off building a smart system that can learn from the real world – what actual listeners are most likely to like – and help you predict who and where the next Adele might be.
As a bonus, it's a much less elitist taste-making process – much more democratic – allowing everyone to discover the next big star through our own collective tastes and not through the individual preferences of a select few."
Although there was no name-taking or direct accusations, Apple Music – which launched earlier this summer – seems to check a lot of the boxes Schmidt condemned. Google's primary mobile rival boasts the features Schmidt reprimands in his article — its flagship radio show, Beats 1, markets its uniqueness through the "handpicked" selections of longtime music tastemakers like Zane Lowe, Ebro Darden and Julie Adenuga.
For Schmidt, phrases like "handpicked" and "custom curated" imply an elite tastemaking process that turns finding and listening to new music an undemocratic process. Apple's retort to this, we assume, would also be fairly predictable: in a world of computer-generated tastes and preferences, there is still the need for a little authenticity.
Schmidt is no stranger to Apple — he left the company's board of directors late in the summer of 2009 due to a conflict of interests regarding its rising competition with Google.
Google, naturally, has its own response to Apple Music, focused much more heavily on AI and automated predictions.