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Machines Can Do Almost Anything For Us. Just Don’t Ask Them To Be Creative.

Posted by: 22. September 2014

Auto-correct is to spelling errors and good grammar as verification software is to programming mistakes and part accuracy.

Though there is no shortage of computer programs that will find our mistakes, as yet there are none that can write best-sellers or come up with a great invention.  

AI, or Artificial Intelligence, is the area of science working on achieving both these creative feats and thousands more like them. But what is it about the creative process that has stymied computers? Or maybe the better question is what IS creativity and why aren’t there any creative writing, thinking, or design apps for my smart phone?

Dictionary.com’s definition of “create” is:  1. to cause to come into being, as something unique that would not naturally evolve or that is not made by ordinary processes.  2. To evolve from one’s own thought or imagination as a work of art or an invention. 

As in the definition above, inventors, entrepreneurs, artists, performers, scientists, engineers, and other imaginative, interesting, and okay, yes… creative types, all display certain qualities and characteristics that might be considered God-like.  Being regarded as creative is a high compliment that most of us would like to be known for.  Creative people are also often thought to be unique, intelligent, thoughtful, special, talented, or even genius. Some people have it and some don’t, though I think everyone has a creative seed wanting to sprout within them.  Though they were invented and designed by creative people, neither computer, nor software program has ever been able to produce a truly original idea. So what makes this God-like quality so easy to identify, yet so difficult to replicate?  

Think, Higgs particle, aka the God particle, to appreciate why the quality of human creativity is, as yet, beyond the grasp of computers and software.  The Higgs particle is an elementary particle, like a photon or electron, which gives mass to other particles. Its recent discovery at the Hadron Collider at CERN in Geneva, Switzwerland was long sought, very difficult to detect, remains extremely elusive (it exists for less than a septillionth of second), explains a long missing piece of how the universe works, and more importantly, how it may have been formed.  So what does the Higgs particle have to do with… creativity?  The Higgs particle was the missing piece of the puzzle, the creative spark, the Big Bang!

There’s just something about the individual creative process that’s hard to put a finger on.  And maybe until we can, machines won’t be able to produce original, creative ideas.  But we know creativity when we see it and doesn’t it partially explain what it means to be human?  If software running on a computer can finally ignite the creative spark, the Singularity (point at which computers can actually learn, think, and create) might be to Artificial Intelligence what the Higgs particle is to the creation of the universe. 

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