Rebels, Creativity and Artificial Intelligence
Posted on: July 11, 2012 | Individual Creativity
Editor’s note: Piero brings an interesting perspective on creativity. He was trained as a mathematician, but has worn many hats in both the art and science worlds. He was the head of the Artificial Intelligence Center at Olivetti based in Cupertino, California, he started one of the earliest e-zines…in 1985 and has taught at both Harvard and Stanford. Piero is likely most famous for his prolific writings on rock, jazz and avantgarde music. Some of his writings include,“A History of Rock and Dance Music” (2009), “A History of Jazz Music 1900-2000″ (2007), “A History of Popular Music before Rock Music” (2007), and, “A guide to avantgarde music”. We look forward to his posts and insights into creativity, creative process and creative links between diverse fields.
By Think Jar Collective member Piero Scaruffi
The original Artificial Intelligence program envisioned machines capable of answering questions as well as human experts.
The Web and the search engines have changed the very nature of “intelligence”. Now you can find the solution to a problem through a simple web search: chances are that you will find a page that gives you the solution. In other words, you don’t need to “think” anymore. You just “search”. A search yields the same result that intelligent machines were supposed to deliver (simulating human expertise). The “intelligence” lies in the billions of pages that millions of people have created about all sorts of specialized knowledge. Sheer quantity has achieved what “machine intelligence” failed to achieve.
However, there is still a fundamental difference between a human being and a machine. The machine cannot answer the simple question: “Who will be the next president of the USA?” The dumbest human being can formulate an opinion in a few seconds and justify it. It is, of course, wildly inaccurate, but “accuracy” is not what defines human intelligence. Human beings can formulate an opinion even without having the competence and the skills to do so.
The original Artificial Intelligence program envisioned machines capable of behaving like humans. That idea of “intelligence” is not what is uniquely human. We can indeed build “intelligent” machines, i.e. machines that perform as well as humans. But the real issue is whether they are also conscious of being intelligent. Consciousness has become the new “litmus test” of “artificial intelligence”: yes you can build a better chess player than the world champion, but does it know that it is playing chess?
One should even go beyond consciousness and focus on creativity. What has created the exponential gap between the human species and all other species is a vastly higher degree of creativity. Some animals (or even all animals) may be intelligent and to some degree conscious. However, none come close to the kind of creativity that humans have displayed over the centuries.
Creativity is the truly unique feature of Homo Sapiens. It’s not intelligence (even a thermostat can be said to be intelligent) and it is not consciousness (probably most primates and maybe mammals have some kind of consciousness), two “things” which incidentally are also very difficult to define and to study: it is creativity that makes the difference, and creativity is easier to measure and study.
What makes us so much more creative is an innate impulse to be different from previous generations. Humans are the only species whose children “rebel” against the lifestyle of the parents. In all other species the children live the exact same life of their parents.