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Eminent alumni register for innovative doctoral degrees in AI and music

- Wits University

Twins and Wits alumni, Arthur and Charles Goldstuck, veterans of tech and music respectively, have registered for unique PhDs at Wits.

Wits VC Prof Zeblon Vilakazi with digital twins Arthur left and Charles Goldstuck 600x300

Arthur Goldstuck leads World Wide Worx, a South African company that guides the intersection between technology, society and business. As a Wits student in the early 1980s, Arthur was sports editor and music editor for the Wits student newspapers. He holds a BA from Wits.

Charles Goldstuck is founder and Managing Partner of GoldState Music, a private investment firm with offices in New York and Orlando that invests in the music sector. Charles is founder of The Sanctuary recording studio and music academy and Executive Chairman of TouchTunes Interactive Networks. He holds BCom and BAcc degrees from Wits.

The Goldstucks discussed their PhD proposals at an alumni event at the Wits Club on 8 April. The Lunchtime Conversation with Arthur and Charles Goldstuck focused on their unique research topic, How is AI affecting the global music industry and how do we keep up with all the changes?

Dr Adam Pantanowitz, Director of the Wits Innovation Centre (WIC) and the Angela and David Fine Chair in Innovation was MC. Pantanowitz said that Wits is an extraordinary place where alumni punch above their weight and where a PhD opportunity has been created that is truly transdisciplinary and at the fringe and nexus of two different [but related] vocations.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to AI

 Arthur Goldstuck, who cites comic book creators as “the most creative visionaries”, is editor of PC Review, South African correspondent for Billboard, and an award-winning author of 20 books, including The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Internet (1995). In his most recent book, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to AI (2023), he reveals nuggets including, amongst others, that:

  • Data is the heart of AI
  • AI is all about the user experience (and un-knotting this experience)
  • If it’s mechanical or digital, AI can automate it
  • AI can boost productivity and jobs.

“Is music different?” he asked. This is one of the questions his PhD aims to answer.

 Arthur’s PhD proposal explores The success factors for the use of AI in music creation in Africa versus global. He will interrogate if there is a framework for success in AI in the massive music market, and how it applies/differs in Africa versus elsewhere.

He will undertake a comparative analysis of AI in music and in business. An evaluation of success factors will culminate in a blueprint to envisage and translate that future and prepare the world for the futures to come.

Arthur writes in his proposal: “Here is where the creative arts, and especially music, can play a massive role in the dissemination of the possibilities of technology by shedding light on the success factors for AI in creativity – that is, not for the technology itself, but an understanding, appreciation, and motivation for what it will take to be successful. In short, we will see the first glimpses of the success factors in the use of AI in music creativity in Africa.”

The relevance of AI to music rights owners

Charles Goldstuck invests a lot in music and is currently building a music rights business. This is why it’s important for him to understand the implications of AI.

“I have an obligation to understand what AI might mean for the investments I might make,” he said. “And there’s no easy way. This is unchartered territory. Not a single investor has yet asked 'how is AI going to impact my investment?'.”

Charles’ PhD will explore AI transitions in the music industry. He will examine the requisite conditions for the legitimization of AI across the music industry, and the likelihood of widespread consumer adoption. His research will be conducted across four main topics of focus:

  • Preservation of intellectual property rights
  • Global AI framework policy efforts: collaborations between major right owners, tech platform partners, and policymakers
  • Demand shifts in music consumption
  • The implications of AI for music rights owners.

The research aims to culminate in a comprehensive analysis of the relevance of AI to music rights owners.

Charles says, “For me personally, we multitask day in day out. We very rarely have the opportunity to reflect, to think more deeply, and what I miss over the decades is this. And now we have the construct to do it. This [PhD opportunity] is just a fabulous reminder that all is alive and well on Wits campus – the unorthodox in academia!”

African event horizon in AI aspiration and imagination

Cross-disciplinary scholars in the arts and computer science in conversation with digital twins Arthur and Charles Goldstuck 600x300

A panel discussion featured discussants including the Goldstuck twins and their research supervisors and advisors Pantanowitz; Dr Lucienne Abrahams of the Wits LINK Centre; Christo Doherty, Associate Professor in the Wits School of Arts (WSOA); and Benjamin Rossman, Professor in the School of Computer Science and Mathematics.

These cross-disciplinary scholars unpacked the Goldstucks’ doctoral topic and provided insights into the future of Innovation and AI at Wits

Abrahams discussed the concept of an “event horizon” – the digital transformation of Africa. She remarked on the differing interpretations of interdisciplinarity and how this unique PhD in AI and music seeks “to dig deeper, to find the invisible layers.” She questioned why there isn’t interdisciplinarity at school level.

Doherty said that the creative arts deal with fundamental humanity and human qualities like emotions and creativity. “A project like this combines interdisciplinarity and takes aspiration further,” he said. “This continent has the greatest and largest emerging youth and it’s also where most music comes from.”

Rossman said that AI is the fastest growing field in human history and emphasised the importance of thinking of what this means for music. “If we want to navigate what the future looks like, what better way than to bring together this crazy multidisciplinary team? I couldn’t imagine doing this without these thought leaders,” he said.

Professor Zeblon Vilakazi, Vice-Chancellor and Principal, who began brokering this unique research with these eminent alumni over a decade ago, said that doctoral research in the fields of AI and music “holds immense promise in advancing Wits’ vision as a leader in the field of AI and reaffirms our commitment to innovation and excellence.”