HERE’S my theory of the week: surrounded by ever-more plausible digital fakes, we are going to start lusting for the real, the live-performed, the inimitable.

My evidence? Well, let’s start at the simulated end of things. They just pulled a convincing-sounding “fake Drake” song from the streaming services (the music biz is trying to stop songwriting robots from “training” themselves on their archives).

The World Photography Awards also gave a prize this week to a quirky vintage photo, whose maker revealed it was entirely a product of AI, then withdrew himself from the competition.

Smart software is mimicking voices so precisely it can either pose as a relative, scamming your gran on the phone — or it can preserve her voice after her passing, reading bedtime stories to her granddaughter. Inevitably, celebrity and public faces – from movies to politics, Keanu to Zelenskyy – are being digitally mapped on to satires, porn and counter-propaganda. The regional conflict hasn’t yet been triggered by the faking of a provocative speech from a geopolitical player ... but it’s being predicted.

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Just as impactfully, LLMs (large language models) are beginning to fake – and very convincingly – the jobs of researchers, project managers, copywriters, coders... These machines will leave a few from those professions in post. Their job will be to surveil and manage a tireless army of simulated bureaucrats, in offices emptied of humans.

At this point, it’s easy to imagine yourself as the screamer on Edvard Munch’s bridge, turning away in panic at the lurid torrents of plausible text behind you. (And I haven’t even mentioned the currently stalled advance of the “metaverse”, which promises an integrated virtual universe for all these phantoms). But what does the screamer turn towards?

Many forecasters expect there’ll be a huge demand for the accessibly natural, in products, services or experiences – as ever, Scotland has almost an embarrassment of riches here. I suggest another reaction to the fakeness of everything – which could be the craving for public intimacy; for the undeniable reality of performance and performers, the sweat running down arms, backs and walls.

I predict this, because, as a working musician, I’m seeing signs of it every time we go out. Probably the most obvious indicator of change is the advent of the Thursday night gig. My brother Gregory and I have been scratching our heads about this, weekend music warriors in small, arty venues as we are. The other odd, though welcome, factor is how epiphanic these gigs have become. Audiences – and ours are of a Certain Age – completely up for a transcendent experience, eyes shining like headlamps.

We think we have some answers. Firstly, it’s a post-Covid thing. There is a reliable chunk of our audience whose weekend now starts on a Thursday rather than a Friday night, because they’ve negotiated (or been offered) a four-day working week.

And my guess is that’s because of the deep cultural shifts that the pandemic has triggered. People feel that they want more “life before death”. No one will be regretting that they didn’t put more time in at the office.

So at the very least, that means waking up on Friday morning with a happy hangover, some tinnitus and clips of gig video in your fuzzy head.

I also sense a little desperation. Who knows when we’ll be driven back indoors by the next bio-error or bio-disruption? Enjoy yourself, as The Specials once admonished us. It’s later than you think.

I heard a podcast the other day which lamented how badly musical theatre audiences were behaving in the aisles – as if they’d forgotten how to do so during lockdown. I suggest a different lockdown explanation, which also connects with the cost of living crisis. The big night-out is rare enough these days; audiences are demanding the right to get as much out of them as possible.

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I predict that the lurking digital fakery of our coming public lives will add an even richer significance to the living, sweating gig. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t believe this needs to turn gigs into folky, Luddite middens, where we see each other without TikTok filters.

WE have a standard break-the-ice line at our Hue And Cry gigs. “Just to say, folks, it’s a very strictly enforced rule about your use of smartphones to capture material from the performance. If you DON’T record your favourite songs, and if you DON’T put it up on the Hue And Cry socials, you are chucked. Is that understood?” Big grins all round. The point being gently made is this: if we’re in charge of our technology, you can be in charge of yours.

But even our music tech on stage can be more tentative than overbearing. We’re trialling some songs from our forthcoming EDM record at gigs these days. My brother Greg is insistent: he must build the grooves and textures of these songs from the waveform upwards (“instead of sticking a thumb drive in a laptop, and dancing away in Lycra”, as he bearishly puts it).

Like the album we’ve made, on stage we meet the machines – moogs and arpeggiators – halfway. Depending on the weather, these boxes of valves and transistors will give us their reading of the music of the spheres. Then we extract melodies and even words from their awesome pulses. (Literally awesome: Nasa’s deep-space signals from planets and quasars don’t sound that much different.)

This is all about physical constraint – electricity pushing through wee, specific assemblies of glass, plastic and wires. Not about some infinity of digital possibilities. We’re using technology as furniture, or sculpture. Each gizmo as exactly designed as a skinned drum or a bone flute.

We’re all here together, humans and tech, in these slightly odiferous rooms. What we’re not is a superfake, generated from an inscrutable algorithm on some giant server, whirring in the coolness of an Icelandic cave.

As is my wont, I think this lust for reality and presence extends beyond questions of trends and tastes in our leisure habits. Unaccustomed as I am to quoting Henry Kissinger on any damn thing, I can’t deny that he recently put his finger on our profound anxieties about the coming fakeworld, in his Project Syndicate column: “What happens if this technology cannot be completely controlled? What if there will always be ways to generate falsehoods, false pictures and fake videos, and people will never learn to disbelieve what they see and hear?

“Humans are taught from birth to believe what we see and hear, and that may well no longer be true as a result of generative AI.

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“Even if the big platforms, by custom and regulation, work hard to mark and sort bad content, we know that content once seen cannot be unseen”.

No doubt Kissinger is worried as to whether the big, traditional institutions of power and money will retain any credibility, in such an ontologically dodgy world.

The rest of us, less blood-spattered, might see in this the possibility for a reinvigoration of community power. Where we move at the speed of trust, making decisions that are anchored in face-to-face interaction and experience. And where we use radical technology to amplify that humanity, not simulate and manipulate it.

So there’s the theory. In a Scotland which is not short of gigs, halls, community spirit, democratic vigour – and performing musicians – shall we test it?