Can computers be creative?
The paintings are pleasing to the eye
Creativity is one of those things which makes humans so special.
But could there ever be a day when computers are composers, theoretical
physicists, or artists?
There are already a number of projects in artificial intelligence that try to
recreate creativity in computers. Harold Cohen has spent his whole career
designing a program called Aaron which creates original works of art.
"We've barely scratched the surface of machine intelligence," says Mr Cohen.
He has given the program a knowledge base full of information about how people
look and how their bodies move. The program also understands composition,
brushwork and how to paint.
Aaron plays with these thousands of interrelated variables to create works of
Some say this amounts to creativity. Aaron's paintings look like art. They're
pleasing to the eye, drawing emotional response. Some pictures have even been
displayed in art galleries.
"Aaron is creative with a small "c" but not creative with a big "c". You can
do creative basket-weaving or creative candle-making," says Mr Cohen.
"The problem is we don't know if there is a continuum between creative with a
small "c" and creative with a big "c"
"If there is a continuum, then I think Aaron is a good deal more creative than
creative basket-weaving," he argues.
"If, as I suspect, they are two different things, then Aaron is not creative
and I don't yet know of any program that can be."
Who is the artist?
Mr Cohen has given Aaron the rules, albeit very sophisticated rules with some
Is Aaron any more creative than other random generation programmes?
"I wrote the program; the program does the pictures," says Mr Cohen.
"Am I the artist or is Aaron the artist? I don't know how to answer that."
Perhaps it's fairer to say that Harold Cohen is the artist. But the art here
is the program, not the end product.
Model of an artist
Harold has created a model of the artist at work providing an insight into the
workings of an artist by formalising the creative process.
Working in a similar field, Viennese researchers are teaching a computer to
play like a human pianist, finding patterns in the performance of real
In other words, they are reducing a creative event to a sequence of rules.
It is getting harder all the time to tell where man stops and machine starts.
So the question is whether we assume that there will forever be a core of
human attributes, like creativity, which will never be taken on board by
--- --- --- --- ---
Useless hypotheses, etc.:
consciousness, phlogiston, philosophy, vitalism, mind, free will, qualia,
analog computing, cultural relativism, GAC, Cyc, Eliza, cryonics, individual
uniqueness, ego, human values, scientific relinquishment, malevolent AI,
We move into a better future in proportion as science displaces superstition.
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