Artificial Creativity

Leonel Moura, 2003

The increasing application of bio-inspired algorithms in software and robotics is raising the debate on the possibility of the concept of Artificial Creativity. This hypothesis stems from the notion of Artificial Intelligence which is now generally accepted. In this perspective, it is assumed that certain computational processes and autonomous machines are capable of incorporating intrinsic forms of creativity that are independent of the humans that start the process.

That machines are able to create original forms and products is a proven fact. The question is to know how much of these procedures are entirely determined by the humans that create and start the process and how much is novelty incorporated by the machine itself. Hence, we must devise where the machine starts and the human ends, or, putting it another way, where the artificial begins with its self-ruling tasks.

To begin with, it should be considered that Culture is intrinsically artificial and Art, in the Greek tradition, is defined as a techné. Additionally, the idea of natural “purity” as being inherent to humans − as opposed to the “impurity” of the technological and artificial processes − is losing its relevance in these times when the natural is increasingly merging with the artificial. The human is already human-machine, a symbiotic and cyborg organism, soon to be genetically modified to become post-human and “unnatural”. In this sense to know where the natural stops and the artificial begins is a rather difficult task.

But aside from the theoretical language-games Artificial Creativity can be demonstrated by examining the practicalities of the processes themselves. There are algorithms that hold significant, random, emergent and generative procedures, and some machines, in addition to all their “mental” abilities, are capable of positioning themselves in the world, gather information, and interact with the environment according to their own interpretation of the surroundings. As a side note, we may also add that in robotics, digital and analogical components are combined, adding “biology” to the technology.

By watching these actions and their outcome, one must doubt that the only creator in the process is the one that initiates it. Uncertainty and unpredictability are the key words in processes that combine sensorial and random components, mechanisms that trigger emergent behaviours, assembly of information not previously determined and recombination and mutation factors. The global components of randomness, the decision by trial and error, the positive and negative feedbacks, the perception of the environment, and even the system’s minor errors, are all factors that substantiate the possible incorporation of non-human factors and the idea of machine autonomy.

To accept the above referred outcomes as Art, or as the result of some form of Creativity, depends on each one’s flexibility and urge to expand these concepts according to the present technological developments. The cultural evolution of the human species is punctuated by the ongoing broadening of conceptual horizons and by the capacity to accept new visions of the world and our role in it. A few centuries ago, the standard belief was that the Sun was moving around the Earth. More recently, most people thought that intelligence was an exclusive human trait. The debate around the Artificial Creativity hypothesis is therefore a demonstration of the progress of human thought. It opposes the conservative ideas to the constant search for innovative procedures that define our cultural evolution.

However, more than just a theme for intellectual debate, Artificial Creativity is a very important step in the evolution of the machines where the need to supply them with increasing autonomy and free will is critical. Artificial Creativity may be the key that will open the doors to “Artificial Consciousness”, a prospect that, when achieved, will signify that the machines gained finally the complete independence from their human creators. But this one is the next debate.