Creative Machines

Damien Broderick (
Sat, 25 Jan 1997 10:56:27 +1000

David Musick meditated on mechanising creatitivity. Here's a little something:

Perhaps we too easily assume that people are utterly different from
machines, even neural networks. Can't we do something no machine ever
displays - break free of set patterns, act creatively? In THE CREATIVE MIND
(1990), Margaret Boden, professor of psychology and philosophy at the
University of Sussex, denies this. As deft with musicology, romantic poetry
and the history of science as with computational psychology, she gives such
complacent prejudice short shrift. Creativity, she notes, implies a
capacity to jump free from a set of constraints into a surprising
`impossible' solution. To a modest extent, computer programs have already
done this. They've rediscovered laws of physics using the rude data and
heuristics available to scientists in centuries past, written passable jazz
(though not poetry), found unexpected solutions to mathematical puzzles.

A simple example (too smug, too hasty, I got it wrong): if ABC changes to
ABD, what will MRRJJJ become? What does XYZ turn into? A smart program
named Copycat has provided a range of solutions. Answers: since ABC maps to
123, ABD equals 124; hence JJJ becomes JJJJ, yielding MRRJJJJ (not, say,
MRRJJD or MRRKKK, let alone MRRKKKK). And XYZ: XYZZ? XYY? XYA? Maybe.
But clever Copycat saw that A maps onto Z. Running backwards, we get WYZ.
Elegant. Is that artificial mind creative, or what?

Damien Broderick