On Computational Creativity

A recent discussion with a friend, Ramya, on the topic of Computational Creativity got me thinking. For sure my views will change in the course of time, but at least I would have penned down - and safely stored - my initial views that I may come back in a month or so and chuckle at my naivety.

A nice question that Ramya asked was not the standard "Could computer programs even be capable of creativity?" (which is IMHO a completely philosophical discussion and I side an author a work I read - it entirely depends on how you define creativity), but rather, "Why would you want 'creative' programs in the first place?". Computer programs that detect or comprehend things that humans can do (like how programs can detect handwriting, or pictures, etc.) are immensely useful to us, it helps simplify a lot of routine work.

If you look at the point of human existence as an elaborate ploy to create things (and subsequently destroy them), as I do, "creative programs" seem like a step in the opposite direction. Does "creativity" have any meaning to us if it doesn't involve our own ingenuity? Or in other words, do we appreciate "creations" because of the mystery in their happening (as we do with nature or other artists?). I think not - what difference should it make whether creative arts produced by a "computer" or anyone else. Of course, computational creativity is hardly good enough to actually be appreciated (except in art, where there are some really good results ("Aaron the Painter" and Wikipedia).

My interest in the topic is purely academic, and the preceding discussion is more or less for amusement. To me computational creativity has 4 raisons d'etre:

  1. To better understand the process of creativity.
  2. In all likelihood we will find that computational methods can not produce human-like output (perhaps it is foolish to think they should be human-like - perhaps it's output is "better" - though I doubt it), and we rejoice our uniqueness and awesomeness and go own with our inane item songs and pointless reality shows and whatnot.
  3. To exercise our own creativity in creating something capable of "creativity"
  4. (My favourite) To take our own creativity to the next level. What new majestic works of art would be we be capable of if we had help in our planning and execution? Could we plan or design a grand musical tapestry at a high level and fine tune computationally "created" output generated?

A concluding note, it often seems eerie how we categorically dispel any sense of "self-importance". We are not at the centre of the universe, we are nothing but evolved monkeys (amoeba even), we are largely made from the same chemicals that make up lipstick and Garry Kasparov could be defeated by a computer program...