Cracking Creativity with Computers: How AI is Learning to Write, Paint and Think


We will let you down. Despite all the buzz and all the sensational claims, a machine learning algorithm cannot beat Picasso!

In this great chat, Marcus du Sautoy, the author of The Creativity Code and Oxford professor, discusses with John Tornhill (Financial Times - Tech columnist) about cracking creativity with computers.

Here's what we retained:

  1. AI can help humans to find new ways to unleash creativity.

We believe that we are at the pinnacle of creativity but we aren't. There are unlimited ways in which human creativity can express itself. The good news? AI can help to dissipate the clouds over the next creativity peak standing in front of us!

  1. AI has already exhibited an extraordinary level of creativity in a number of different famous examples.

While there's consensus among scientists about the inability of an AI algorithm to replace human creativity, in very specific problems, Machine Learning models have "invented" novel ways to solve them.

The most notorious is the "Move 37" in the Alpha go game against World champion Lee Sedol. As a consequence of that revolutionary move, we play go on a completely different way.

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Less Artificial intelligence and more Augmented Intelligence.

AI is moving towards more cooperation between humans and machines, it is not mere replacement.

This is especially interesting for complex tasks where the machine can't operate on its own yet and the human is struggling on its own. Fascinating opportunities in this area of human-machine interaction.

  1. How many types of creativity?

Marcus provides these three categories of creativity, that it is helpful to keep in the back of your mind for your next creative project!

  1. Exploratory - take something and push it to the extreme (e.g. Bach).

  2. Combinatory creativity - apply the style of one composer to another, or mix elements of different styles (e.g. fusion cuisine).

  3. Transformational creativity - break the rules, have a moment of genius!

  4. Computers and AI struggle being creative with text.

Despite what you might think, for a computer, it is easier to create from scratch a realistic image than a piece of text.

In fact, with text, you have to deal with a lot of nuances, while music and images are easier to create because they are full of patterns that can be replicated.

For instance, think about humor: it mixes presentation, performance skills with linguistic ambiguity and deep understanding of human psychology. Not so easy for a computer!

Listen to the episode on Overcast

Our Suggestions for further reading

  • buy The Creativity Code book, seems really good ( 4.27 / 5 Goodread score, v high but only 42 votes)

  • check out some examples of "Artificial Creativity" in the deep dream tools

  • know more about the key technology behind Artificial Creativity, watch this short YouTube Video about GANs (Generative Adversarial Neural Networks)