Slave to the Algorithm: Have We Killed the Artist?

Why human creativity still computes.

Published by: Muse by Clio
Written by: Yusuf, Ntahilaja
Date: 13/03/2023

Today’s world is all about numbers, numbers and more numbers.

As data comes to rule our perception and shape our values, it increasingly fragments the beauty that lies in the intangible, the unquantifiable, the essence that makes us human. Looking through the lens of soccer, music and film, we can see the full effects.

In soccer, the demands of today's game have replaced artists with athletes. The result? A game where fewer players make moves on their own. Systems have taken over, dictating a hyper-efficient efficient style of play, with more control in the hands of managers.

There are benefits to this, as competition increases and the gap between bigger and smaller teams begins to narrow. The Premier League and recent FIFA World Cup serve as examples. But is it worth the sacrifice? While systems winnow out mediocre players, elite performers are are now few and far between.

You see fans judging players on Twitter based on their scoring stats. But this ultimately ignores the greats whose contributions can't be so easily quantified, players who are artists on the pitch. Take Andrés Iniesta, arguably a Mount Rushmore contender for midfielders and a big contributor to Barcelona and Spain's most successful era. Iniesta won't go down as one of the greatest scorers, but few players can match his overall impact.

Teams are being trained to play within a system, shrinking the window for up-and-comers to express their imagination and perform outside the box. Cesc Fabregas, one of the greats, recently pointed out, "All the coaches now talk about the pattern of play. I'm not against it at all... But special talent is dying because of it. From a very young age, boys are being told what to do. Before there were positions but you could move more. These things are being lost."

The same basic principle applies to music, an industry dominated by streams and sales, leading to less space for niche artists. Numbers don’t reflect quality, but they dictate label rosters and playlists. The result? An era of projects that have less replay value. No wonder the indie scene is seeing a resurgence. We've also seen artists take risks in order to evolve their sound, as with Lil Yachty's latest album "Let's Start Here," where he explores an experimental psych-rock vibe.

Artists are pressured to constantly feed TikTok. Some musicians have spoken against this, with FKA Twigs, Charli XCX and Halsey calling out their labels.

Then there's the film industry. We live in an era where familiar action formulas receive big budgets as they promise the best box-office. The result? Fewer nuanced, thought-provoking features that encourage deep reflection. This has, however, led to streaming platforms grabbing market share, as independent houses like A24 offer less homogenous fare and spike in popularity.

So, there's an upside, with renewed exploration beyond the conventional. In search of something different, consumers look to the global horizon, seeking entertainment and diversion from fresh sources.

Grassroots soccer, youth teams and the women's game have gained popularity. In music, previously staid listeners groove to Afrobeat, Amapiano and Latin American sounds. As for film, regions like Korea and Spain are enjoying a renaissance. Films like Everything Everywhere All At Once—which might have languished in obscurity a few years back—attract fans and kudos worldwide.

Perhaps In our search for rich entertainment, we're growing to understand that our horizons shouldn't have been so narrow in the first place.

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