The Loh Down On Science

Survival of the Funkiest

"Roll over Beethoven," indeed!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science, and On The Origin Of S. . .ssssongs.

Meet Robert MacCallum, from Imperial College London. Bucking conventional thought, he asked: Can music be made without a musician?

To find out, he built DarwinTunes—an online system that plays a hundred random sequences of beeps, buzzes, and trills. Visitors rate each on a scale from “Can’t Stand It” to “Love It.” The top ten choices make like pop stars and hook up, creating little remix offspring. Then the process repeats, generation after generation.

Over 7,000 people tested it.

What happened?! Just listen! Here’s DarwinTunes at 0 generations . . .

After 150 generations . . . catchy!

But at 600 generations . . .

A song was born! Without a creator. Just a picky environment where entities live or die—like in nature. It’s survival of the funkiest.

Which is no reason, kids, to stop practicing the piano. Nice try, though.

The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, with 89.3 KPCC Pasadena, California. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

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