As published in The County Times (countytimes.somd.com)
By Ronald N. Guy Jr.
A modified bookshelf sits prominently in an inviting
living room that is otherwise decorated with memorabilia spanning 40 years of
D.C. sports history. On the shelves are
hundreds of vinyl records; some are new but most are old, several even older
than their present owner. Conditions
vary from pristine (great survivors of an untold provenance) to the “well
played”, the latter population delivering that warm, snap-crackle-pop through
the speakers as they spin across a needle delicately navigating ancient surface
I have trouble explaining my affinity for these
records. And as a writer, my struggle
for words is bothersome. On the surface,
it makes no sense. I could compile all
of these albums in no time – click here, click there and boom…they are on my
phone, tablet or computer in digital form.
Access would easy and from anywhere.
The sound would be crisp and clean.
The total acquisition cost would likely be less. Storage - simple.
So why would I choose to attend countless records
shows, hunt down record stores in every town I visit and sift through stack
after stack of dusty vinyl just to assemble this swelling mass of music
I don’t know. But
I can hypothesize. And Sports
Illustrated (SI), the once great must-read magazine for sports fans, provided a
fantastic data point for my contemplation.
Life moves fast, so in case you missed it (I did), SI recently
faced heat for getting caught using content generated by Artificial
Intelligence (AI). The content not only
did not disclose it was computer generated, it was attributed to a human author
– a person who does not exist in carbon form.
When sleuths confronted SI, it did what many exposed people and entities
do now: deny, divert and embrace victimhood.
SI’s official response was it used a third party for content and was
duped themselves. Ah, so SI wasn’t being
disingenuous, it was incompetent. That
makes things so much better.
Spineless SI aside, AI content isn’t coming, it’s here
and is poised to spread. Disclosure of
its use, at least by professional journalistic forums (there’s no hope for
social media), is critical. From there,
consumers will decide its fate and proliferation. As a sports writer, is it threatening? Somewhat.
It is difficult to comprehend how pernicious it could be. But human writers should gladly accept the
challenge. I believe sports fans will
always want content – good content, not lazy, slap-it-together generic poo - generated
by a fellow human. It ensures accuracy
and source-authenticity; and, if a piece is well-written, I refuse to believe
that a machine can adequately capture and convey the intricacies of and human
emotions generated by a sporting event. For
example, if you’re telling me a machine can properly communicate the passions
of degenerates at Philadelphia Eagles games, I ain’t buying it.
Gut instinct (something AI doesn’t have): at the end
of the day, most people will tolerate some AI for basic information, but will
continue looking to other humans for deeper meaning and more thought-provoking
stories. I think – hope – the same will
apply to other artforms. AI-generated
movie scripts and scores, faux lip-synched “live” concerts, hologram shows
(ABBA, KISS) and macro, AI-generated pop songs have their place, I suppose
(being kind). But brass tacks: how much
ultra-processing can the soul stand?
Which of course circles back to those vinyl records. Why the allure? They represent the music’s original intended
form. Led Zeppelin’s “IV”, Rolling
Stones’ “Exile on Mainstreet”, Stevie Wonder’s “Innervisions” weren’t meant for
a digital format. An MP3 of Aretha
Franklin’s “Respect” piped into your brain via ear buds will never be an
adequate substitute for holding an original album in your hands while the
record spins and you work up a sweat dancing in your living room. Records are music’s version of the local
vegetable stand and farm-to-table food. It's
as good as it gets. Digital music files
are like facsimile autographs and frozen pizza.
And much like frozen pizza has its place (especially
at 2am), AI will no doubt become a regular source for sports information. Let’s just hope it’s never more than
niche. Everything in moderation,