Apr. 24th, 2012

You know those warehouses where you can join and become a member and then go use the space, and everyone else is using the space at the same time, so you feel like you're really productive? I was at one of those.

The guy next to me had a cello.

"I've created the best music ever," he said to me, "I mean it. I have developed an algorithm for measuring the complexity of music, and tested it extensively with existing music. Then I figured out ways to make the music more and more complex and surprising -- I used neural networks to develop musical scores that are maximally interesting."

I continued working on the transcranial magnetic hobby-horse that I've been cobbling together.

He looked at me expectantly, waiting for my reply.

"You know," I said, "psycho-acoustics researchers have proposed a different model for music preferences. I mean, some of it is just familiarity -- we like songs that we've heard before, as long as we get a little time between listenings so we don't get oversaturated. We like them even more if we can associate them with emotional experiences in our lives. And we like rhythms that feel like they go off-rhythm and then overcorrect themselves a little bit, because that's how we keep time ourselves. But here's the other thing. Each person wants music that is slightly interesting to them, but not so interesting that it's totally unpredictable. Someone who listens to simple melodies will like a slightly more complex melody, but will find anything beyond that totally jarring and staticky. Someone who listens to really complex melodies will like a slightly more complex melody, for them, but will find songs that are too simple to be boring. If something is incomprehensible, it doesn't matter how much it's technically better -- people won't enjoy it."

"So that's why everyone hates my objectively superior music!" he declared happily, "It's too good for them. Their displeasure is proof of my superiority!"

I shuffled awkwardly. "Oh, um, I have no idea. I just realized that ignoring you wasn't working, so I was hoping to distract you with a change of subject."

"Well, it didn't work," he said petulantly.

So I sprayed him with ink and swam away quickly in disguise as a poisonous lionfish.

Oh, also I was a mimic octopus (Thaumoctopus mimicus) all along. I should have mentioned that.



May 2012

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