"The Morrissey had the right melodrama in his limbs, and his voice was strong
and pained. I was at Gramercy Theatre in Manhattan to see a Smiths tribute
band. I tried to get Morrissey’s acid yodel in my throat, to sing along. I am
human and I need to be loved / just like everybody else does.
But it didn’t
feel right to copy a copy.
Most tribute bands don’t practice outright impersonation, so the way this
fake-Smiths singer captured everything
about Morrissey was messing with my
mind. I’d hoped to be able to savor the music’s maudlin glory without the
headache of the flesh-and-blood Morrissey, who seems to have aligned himself
with white supremacists. The contempt in Morrissey’s lyrics and politics was
presumably not native to Seanissey, as the tribute singer called himself.
Seanissey’s performance probably didn’t, as they say, “come from a bad
place”—or a misanthropic place, or a far-right place, or even a vegan one.
What place did it come from? I’ve had this no-there-there anxiety with ChatGPT
dozens of times. When it uses idioms like “in my life”—when it doesn’t have a
life—I go cold. Likewise, to invest into Seanissey, a gentle Manhattanite who
happened to sing and dance as Moz did, the passions that were first aroused in
me by the Smiths 30 years ago felt like a bad emotional bet.
Maybe AI that aims to seem human is best understood as a tribute act. A tribute
to human neediness, caprice, bitterness, love, all the stuff we mortals do
best. All that stuff at which machines typically draw a blank. But humans have
a dread fear of nonhumans passing as the real thing—replicants, lizard people,
robots with skin. An entity that feigns human emotions is arguably a worse
object of affection than a cold, computational device that doesn’t emote at
When I got home, stuck in an uncanny valley scored with Smiths Muzak, there was
an email from Andrew Goff, widely considered the greatest Diplomacy player of
Via Future Crunch
*** Xanni ***
Chief Scientist, Xanadu
Partner, Glass Wings
Manager, Serious Cybernetics