Will AI replace DJs?
In life, there's not many things that replicate the feeling of being at a party that is going 'off', with a DJ who has the feel of the crowd, and is leading everyone on an epiphanic journey. That shared experience is unlikely to go away anytime soon.
DJs fit into the category of entertainers, who as this site maintains, are generally safe from displacement by AI. Indeed many of the same arguments which are valid for comedians, YouTubers, singers and TV presenters, can equally be applied here.
DJs are personalities, often with a following or brand. Such roles are highly resistant to AI displacement, even if some effects may be felt eventually.
DJs - The Human Touch
Looking at it practically, the role of a DJ goes beyond merely selecting and playing music. DJs are responsible for understanding their audience, gauging their mood, and adapting the music accordingly. This requires a unique blend of intuition, music knowledge, experience, and empathy qualities, that are inherently human, and thus far, remain out of reach for even the most advanced AI.
A good DJ can sense the feel of a crowd and through experience and non-verbal cues, can tell which tracks are going down well and which aren't. They can shift the style or genre, drop a crowd favorite or two, or pump the crowd up with their own energy. While there are ongoing projects to enable robots and AI to read human emotions, generally by looking at and analyzing their faces, it's a fairly unique and niche set of cues that define whether a crowd is having a good time at a party. Not really a scenario that will be high on the list of commercially attractive opportunities for AI businesses.
Staying on top of music trends, knowing how to operate and get the most out of a diverse range of equipment, socializing with the promoters afterwards, are all very tough human qualities to displace.
Would we even want robot DJs?
Like other entertainers, most humans wouldn't want robot DJs. We have that already - it's called Spotify. If we're spending money to go out to a club or a music festival with our friends, we'd feel pretty duped if there was an android up on stage spinning the tunes, unless of course it's a novelty act that we willfully signed up for.
Basically we're used to seeing a human behind the 'decks', and we like it.
But could a robot DJ take off?
Technology-wise it's perfectly reasonable to assume a future, perhaps around 2030-2035, when humanoid robots, powered by AI, are seen in more and more places, and in more and more scenarios. There will of course be many 'firsts' - the first robot runway model, the first robot lifeguard, the first robot comedian. And without doubt the first robot DJ.
It's possible that as humans we grow to accept this, particularly as younger AI and robot-native generations come along, and you can make the argument that DJs in particular are a role where we might actually want a DJ we can 100% control - who can switch moods on demand, who doesn't seethe at the mention of a song request, and can be trained on all of the audience's favorite tracks in advance.
But in practical terms, hiring a robot DJ will literally be more expensive than hiring a human DJ, for at least the first few years they appear. They are going to need a small crew to get them there, set them up in front of the equipment, troubleshoot any issues, and make sure they work when they need to. Again this might make sense for a novelty at a large festival, but it would be far simpler and less costly to just hire a DJ.
Imagine attending a party headlined by an AI robot DJ. The AI might be able to flawlessly mix tracks and produce perfect transitions, however the lack of a human doing the work would render the experience sterile, devoid of spontaneity, and any kind of legitimate human reaction towards the crowd - which fundamentally is the core of what makes live music experiences exhilarating.
It could be a fad for a while, and there might be one or two robot DJs in future who gain something of a following, but the experience of virtual stars historically, is littered with failure after failure. We are going to want to hang on to certain human things in an age of AI, and I personally think DJs will be one of them.
DJs have been with us since the dawn of radio in the 1920's, more than a hundred years ago. They connect with us on a uniquely human level, through our shared love of music, and in some cases banter.
Humanoid robot DJs will be a thing, around 2030-2035, but they are unlikely to replace human DJs for some time after that. Indeed there's a strong argument that there will always be a role for personality-led DJs especially.
What is arguably more likely is that we tire of attending parties featuring a DJ, as some new kind of experience comes along. But I wouldn't bet money on that personally. People have been enjoying parties featuring music, for tens of thousands of years.
Conclusion: Safe | Time Period: 20-25 years