4 Apr 2009

Criteria for Computer Creativity. Johnson-Laird's Computer and the Mind, Ch 14, "Creation"

by Corry Shores
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P. N. Johnson-Laird

The Computer and the Mind:
An Introduction to Cognitive Science

Chapter 14: Creation

Johnson-Laird will advance a computational theory of creativity. His thesis is that creative processes are computational.

A Working Definition of Creativity

Johnson-Laird proposes three characteristic properties of creativity.

1) "like all mental processes, it starts from some given building blocks. One cannot create out of nothing."
2) "the process has no precise goal, but only some pre-existing constraints or criteria that it must meet." "One creates within genres or paradigms, and even the creation of a new genre must meet certain criteria."
3) "a creative process yields an outcome that is novel for the individual, not merely remembered or perceived, and not constructed by rote or by a simple deterministic procedure." If we multiply two numbers and get a figure we never considered before, that is not creation. It cannot be deterministic like calculation. (255b-d)

But the results of creative behavior may not be truly original. For, others may have considered the idea before you. "What is valuable about a creative process is that its results are judged as striking, brilliant, and not banal." "And they will never be predictable." "The products of creative mental process themselves are not predictable." (256a)

Creation as a Process that is not Deterministic

Consider, for example, Picasso as he is painting a particular picture. At any moment, there are probably several alternative brush strokes that he could make - all of which would yield a perfectly recognizable Picasso picture. (256bc)

Whatever it is that defines Picasso, it does not "legislate for just one possible brush stroke at each point in the pointing process." That would make creativity deterministic.

Yet, some argue that the arbitrary decisions Picasso made were governed by peripheral causes such as muscle twitches, the wind's direction, and so forth. [This would be like Hume's notion of secrete causes. See §288 of his Treatise.] However, we can still argue that even if there are deterministic causes, the mind might be "determined" to make its arbitrary decision according to "the mental equivalent of flipping a coin." (256d)

Rather than take a stand on all the possible interpretations, Johnson-Laird will merely state that "a theory of creation must allow for more than one possible continuation, and cannot state how the decision is made amongst them. Hence, by definition it will not be deterministic. Real computers are deterministic, but they can simulate arbitrary choices." (257a)

Johnson-Laird, P. N. The Computer and the Mind: An Introduction to Cognitive Science. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1988.

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