I work on artificial creativity. That’s my main focus of research and development. Some people fix cars, others collect dolls. I work on making machines capable of original thought. The strange thing is that I haven’t been letting it shine through on Think Artificial, mainly because I’ve been searching for the right way to talk about it. But from now on there’ll be regular coverage of this important and almost magical concept. Will computers ever be capable of invention?
Creativity is a very, very complex subject. If you think creativity only involves art, such as making music, writing, painting, dancing or something similar — you’re wrong. Or rather, you’re underestimating the idea. Surely, creativity exhibits itself very strongly amongst artists and is therefore easily associated with them, but that’s nowhere near the whole story.
When we need to fulfill a goal. Say, we’re at our uncles cabin and we want to go fishing in the lake but we don’t have a fishing rod. What do we do? Someone, somebody creative, might go outside and find a branch. Attach a string to that branch and bend a nail for a hook. Somebody else might take it a step further and decide a lousy branch isn’t enough — he wants the fat fish — and fetch a few blankets to use as a net. The third might jog to the store and simply buy a real rod.
What do each of these persons need to do this? Most will agree that we need intelligence. We need to be able to figure out a solution to our problem. But where do the ideas originally come from? Even mundane things involve creative efforts.
Creativity is invention, it’s creating things. It’s finding solutions to problems. Finding a way to catch underwater creatures involves creating something, and portraying the feeling “anger” on a canvas involves creating something. Even if you don’t have to create something physical, you’re constructing something in you’re mind — creating an idea of what you’re going to do. How are we able to create solutions that we might potentially never have seen or heard of? Moreover, how is this ability to create solutions related to intelligence?
It’s not pure logical deduction. If it were, things would be much simpler (and more boring, I daresay). People often get ideas that seem illogical to pursue, yet continue to think about them. We’re not bound by logic when we imagine. We can imagine quite illogical things. What are these mechanism, why are they here and how do they work?
These are the puzzles I try to decipher every day, in the persuit for a machine that will one day be able to help us invent new things. New machines, new spaceshuttles, computers and medication. The minds of robots, laced with creative abilities, handle unexpected situations on their own initiative.
We’ve already seen AI systems do it to some extent. We keep working on expanding these systems, and they keep getting better at it. I asked earlier whether computers would ever be capable of invention. They are.