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Creative AI: Can Computers Create?

Posted July 28, 2015 9:01 AM by Hannes

Artificially intelligent systems are capable of many human-like behaviors. At least on a surface-level, they can think, learn, speak, read, and simulate emotions. The convergence of human and machine behavior has led to the well-worn ideas of the Singularity and possible machine superintelligence.

Those uncomfortable sharing their headspace with a machine purport that computers will likely never be capable of one of our most human traits: creativity. Creativity seems random, messy, and subjective, three attributes not easily grasped by computers. Creative AI research, while interesting and promising, has provided more questions than answers; namely, "What is creativity, and who's capable of it?"

Creativity is "the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, [and] interpretations," according to Random House Dictionary. Given that computers essentially analyze fairly standard rules, patterns, and relationships, a truly creative one seems unlikely. Creative works are often described as "novel" and somehow valuable or useful; without direct human input, this is a monumental challenge for AI.

These hurdles haven't stopped researchers from trying, though. Lior Shamir, a computer science professor at Lawrence Technological University, developed algorithms that identified similarities between works of Jackson Pollock and Van Gogh and correctly ordered all thirteen Beatles LPs chronologically based on audio and visual samples. Because computers aren't adept at handling discrete pixel and frequency data, Shamir converted each visual or audio sample into thousands of numerical values that were fed into a pattern recognition system. Shamir's music understanding programs are based on an earlier project that analyzed 15,000 whale songs to identify that whales communicate using different dialects depending on their geographical origins.

While analyzing creative works might seem much simpler than actually producing them, automated painting and composing software programs have been used for decades. AARON, a program created by Harold Cohen in the mid-'70s, is hand-coded to produce artworks (like the one below) in a specific style. Even Cohen is quick to point out that AARON isn't creative, though: it simply follows procedures outlined by its programmer, who is the true artist. Returning to the definition of creativity, AARON follows the rules rather than transcending them. More complex painting robots are becoming common, although these still seem to be merely going through the motions.

If true artistic creativity seems outside the reach of AI, what about the experimental kind? Assuming Pasteur's assertion that "in the experimental fields, chance favors the prepared mind," a data-loaded processor would be much more likely to stumble upon a scientific breakthrough than a messy human brain.

AI research seems peculiarly unconcerned with the philosophy of the work, with practical solutions trumping abstract ideas: an application that works will naturally form the basis for an abstract theory. Many in the field point to aviation as a good example: it took building a working flying machine to answer the century-long debate asking "Can we, and should we, fly?"

So is there a useful application for creative AI? Music recommendation engines used by iTunes and streaming music services would certainly benefit from creativity breakthroughs. Although in a subjective sense, I wouldn't find an hour of identical-sounding music very appealing.

Image credits: The Academic Minute | Stanford University

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#1

Re: Creative AI: Can Computers Create?

07/28/2015 11:17 AM

I'm going to go out on a limb and say that for now or in the future, the answer is yes. I think creativity is bringing together past experiences and applying them to analogous situations. I don't think there is anything magical about what the human brain comes up with. Anything complex enough that it cannot be easily understood will appear to be "creative".

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#2

Re: Creative AI: Can Computers Create?

07/28/2015 12:41 PM

Can a computer differentiate between a genuine Jackson Pollock work and a well used painters tarp?

Would a computer be able to determine whether a work created by an elephant with a brush in its trunk was creative or not?

Would computers get into heated arguments over whether a work was creative and conceptualize the "DM" in a work?

Would computers forge art works with such skill as to fool even the most accomplished art appraisal computers?

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#3
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Re: Creative AI: Can Computers Create?

07/29/2015 7:18 AM

Your first line cracked me up! Thanks.

Here's another one....Can AI create jokes or be witty?

Can AI tell you to F off or call you a C at the right time and make it either vindictive or endearing according to tone and circumstance?

AI sarcasm next.

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#4
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Re: Creative AI: Can Computers Create?

07/29/2015 8:23 AM

All these are nuances of communication and the experience of being human and reacting with other humans in our environment. I believe it is something a machine could learn.

As for jokes, try telling a joke to a foreigner whose native language is not your own. It pretty much falls flat. They're just as intelligent, but share a different language and culture.

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#5
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Re: Creative AI: Can Computers Create?

07/29/2015 10:33 AM

"As for jokes, try telling a joke to a foreigner whose native language is not your own. It pretty much falls flat. They're just as intelligent, but share a different language and culture."

Yup, just ask Brits and Germans about the other culture's sense of humor. The general concensus you'll find is:

  • Brit: "Germans have no sense of humor."
  • German: "Brits rely on silly wordplay all the time, they don't know how to tell a PROPER joke."

Obviously both are exaggerated stereotypes, but that's the perception. Wen it comes to humor, we'll need to start by teaching the AIs about how a joke can be 'funny-always,' 'funny-once,' or 'funny-never,' to take a cue from Heinlein in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.

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#7
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Re: Creative AI: Can Computers Create?

07/29/2015 10:45 AM

One would "Die laughing" the other would kill you for laughing.

I noticed certain entries in "Caption This" as indicating cultural differences in the conception of humor.

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Re: Creative AI: Can Computers Create?

07/29/2015 11:08 AM

Although one class of joke I've found to be universal: the "Dumb <other hair color>"/"Dumb <other ethnicity>"/"Dumb <other class>" joke. Those seem to translate across cultural bounds incredibly well, or the version you're telling has an equivalent in the other culture, like how 'Redneck jokes' in America resonate well against 'Mantawitz jokes' in Germany, or how 'Idiot Upper Bureaucrat jokes' in Japan match up well with 'Upper-Class-Twit jokes' in the UK. And EVERYONE likes to take pot shots at 'Joisey,' even the East Frissians. As long as keep track of where you are and don't make a mistake like telling 'Polish jokes' in Warsaw, you can get a laugh from almost anyone, Government Agents and Royal Palace Guards excluded, of course, they all have their sense of humor surgically removed before service.

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#12
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Re: Creative AI: Can Computers Create?

07/30/2015 9:24 AM

So, the "Joke that won the war" would have no effect on an AI?

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#14
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Re: Creative AI: Can Computers Create?

07/30/2015 11:45 AM

"Wenn ist das Nunstruck git und Slotermeyer? Ja! ... Beiherhund das Oder die Flipperwaldt gersput. "

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#15
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Re: Creative AI: Can Computers Create?

07/30/2015 11:46 AM

Didn't crash the forum, so I guess ... Nein.

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#16
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Re: Creative AI: Can Computers Create?

07/30/2015 11:50 AM

If that translates: Did you know Hitler's dog has no nose? Really? how did it smell?

Terrible!

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#17
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Re: Creative AI: Can Computers Create?

07/30/2015 12:03 PM

I tried two online translaters that translated them identically into quasi german english giberish.

How did you score your morbidly vivid translation?

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#18
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Re: Creative AI: Can Computers Create?

07/30/2015 2:35 PM

He copied the subtitles from another part of the sketch:

Video: (Hitler giving a speech)

Hitler (in subtitles): My Dog Has No Nose!

Video: (Crowd shot from speech)

Crowd (in sumtitles): How Does It Smell?

Video: (Hitler again)

Hitler (in subtitles): Terrible!

The original 'joke' text is a mix of German and German-sounding gibberish.

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#10
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Re: Creative AI: Can Computers Create?

07/30/2015 4:57 AM

So, culture needs to be codified first.

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Re: Creative AI: Can Computers Create?

07/30/2015 6:50 AM
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#6
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Re: Creative AI: Can Computers Create?

07/29/2015 10:34 AM

"Can a computer differentiate between a genuine Jackson Pollock work and a well used painters tarp?"

Can PEOPLE consistently tell the two apart?

(You knew SOMEONE was going to go there.)

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Re: Creative AI: Can Computers Create?

07/29/2015 11:20 AM

Considering the AI most likely would be equipped with a spectrometric gas Chroma photographer and would be able to analyze the paint composition and using a database of paints used by Jackson Pollock, be able to come to a conclusion. Meanwhile, the other AI's have drifted away, having to be "somewhere else".

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#20
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Re: Creative AI: Can Computers Create?

07/31/2015 7:45 AM

I remember seeing a biopic about Pollock, and if memory serves he started his splattery painting after being inspired by spilled paint or something like that. That could've been dramatic license, though.

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Re: Creative AI: Can Computers Create?

07/31/2015 7:47 AM

That's a good point--the question seems to be "Can a computer be (subjectively?) critical of seemingly non-logical data?"

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#13

Re: Creative AI: Can Computers Create?

07/30/2015 10:17 AM

I think AI will always be based in "logic", and I also think that creativity does not always follow logic. I built a stone wall with my backhoe - because I could - no logic involved - just a "fun" thing to challenge my skills.

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Re: Creative AI: Can Computers Create?

07/30/2015 8:15 PM

It may not necessarily be based on logic. Artificial neural networks can do some interesting things. A three layer network can learn the "right" answer, given enough examples.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artificial_neural_network

One school of thought is that most of "human nature" is basically automatic or instinct with the conscious part of the brain (like a politician) taking credit, explaining after the fact. Studies with brain waves have shown a distinct pattern when a decision to act was made that occurs a fraction of a second before the conscious mind "decided".

http://www.world-science.net/othernews/150623_consciousness.htm

So, if this is true, the real intelligence is a subconscious neural network with an overlying "interpreter" which explains why it "decided". This interpreter is a logic machine that can make inferences and do math, slower than a computer. It's not a "free will" like it thinks but a "free won't", vetoing actions that may be driven by instinct but are not acceptable in a civilized society. It's sort of like a manager of a big company that has no idea what the workers do.

I guess what I'm thinking is that to create AI, we need both the neural network that comes up with the right answer from experience and training and is the source of creativity, and an overlying "supervisor" to work with it's output (claiming credit, of course).

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#22
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Re: Creative AI: Can Computers Create?

07/31/2015 11:01 AM

Something I have thought about, is the progression of the image in "art" from the simple cave drawing to the images now. Is it that all that was needed in the beginning was a simple one dimensional image to convey a thought or was it a human need to embellish the image that caused the progression?

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