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Richard Gilder Graduate School - American Museum of Natural History ​thank you everyone it's great to be here I since sustainability is a major challenge century and it's not going to happen because we wanted to happen or because we feel good about it it requires creativity where is the creativity going to come from creativity is a distinctly human quality we think of it as the quality that distinguishes us from the animals and certainly from the machines but I want to argue that the way to sustain human creativity and to magnify human creativity and to keep vibrant communities of human creators going is to embrace more not less automation and to embrace the idea that computers themselves can be creators that work with us as collaborators now creativity is powerful but fragile it rarely happens when we want it to happen it's lightning that strikes at the whim of a fickle muse and we want to coax the muse to do with when we need it it's hard to be creative on a schedule so for a very long time psychologists and creative practitioners have studied ways to systematize creativity how to put creativity at our fingertips how to put the muse on a leash how to bring creativity when we need it there are various methods of doing this I guess the most popular and most widely known is brainstorming where you put a bunch of people in a room and you get them bouncing ideas off each other I guess TEDx and Ted is a modern version of brainstorming brainstorming works because it allows people to suggest ideas in a non-judgmental context people bring the ideas it's the stone soup of creativity but it's not as powerful as we want it to be because it doesn't actually deal with the process itself of creating ideas to be truly creative and to systematize real creativity we have to drill down into the structure of ideas and talk about how new ideas are formed not how to treat them when they are formed this is a very common practice go to any cinema showing a Hollywood movie and you will see the results of combinatorial creativity you've all seen Avatar right it's Dances with Wolves in space maybe it's better than dancing wolves maybe it's not maybe it's Pocahontas in space it's certainly a famous film in space lots of films work this way you say it didn't I see this before isn't this a classic western set in space or at sea or on top of a mountain now Hollywood does this instinctively they reuse the bits of past ideas that have worked and proven themselves to work in the past and creative practitioners and scientists have studied how this process of reuse works and they formalized it so Fritz Viki a Caltech astronomer developed morphological analysis which is a way to identify the morphemes of past ideas and to allow you to recombine them and to evaluate the combinations gennady out Schiller a Russian inventor studied thousands of patents to see what the key idea in each was and came up with a system he called trees he was Russian in English it's called tips theory of inventive problem-solving and again both of these procedures allow you to be creative or help you to be creative by giving you lots of tables and charts and look up it's a bit like playing Dungeons & Dragons actually um or using a spreadsheet big companies love it Boeing uses it they they have these big trees days and they report good success with it ok so this kind of thing works but it's not just companies and engineers and accountants that use these techniques the 20th century was the century in which art became the most abstract that ever was but it was also the century in which art became the least mysterious it ever was because artists looked for ways to at least semi automate the production of new ideas why they were really interested in producing more and more and or art but they were terrified of repeating themselves and they were terrified of succumbing unconsciously to cliche so they came up with a whole bunch of tricks and rules and random techniques to generate candidate new ideas from Duchamp with his urinal which is widely considered the most influential piece of art in the 20th century and probably the most useful to Andre Breton to I Rene Magritte to Dali who used the same idea generation techniques as Thomas Edison to we'll bill Burroughs may be the weirdest of them all which is saying a lot really he developed a cut-up technique which is where you cut up a text and you randomly recombine it and you seek out the random recombinations that have surprising meanings it's very popular technique and it was really brought to the fore by this guy or at least my representation of this guy David Bowie David Bowie is famous for using the cut-up technique it generates or he uses it to generate possible ideas for the lyrics and the songs which is why the lyrics and his songs are so weird right so Ziggy Stardust and the spiders from Mars he gets these ideas because he's trying to avoid cliche we're all slaves to cliche that's what it means to be human cliche works that's why it's so popular but we want to avoid cliche when we're being creative so you cut up these ideas you recombine them and you take the filter you have to do a lot of filtering to take the ones that work in fact Bowie had some software written for him he calls it the verba sizer which sounds like an exercise machine and it does his cutting up but he's in control he's the creator because he has to select and throw away 99% of the combinations that don't work we heard earlier about IBM's Watson okay a good deal smarter than John Watson Sherlock Holmes friend good deal


smarter than Sherlock Holmes as well it beats the world champions at jeopardy which is not the greatest title to have because it's a game show it's not exactly the Fields Medal or the Nobel Prize but still major significant breakthrough for IBM it answers questions now Picasso famously said computers are useless they can only give you answers and you know what he's right he was right he's dead sorry to break the news to some of you um computers can look up Google is a great for giving you answers it's not so good at telling you what to do next if we want computers to be creative we have to consider them as more than answer finders but has question generators and they have to pose interesting questions good art doesn't provide an answer it asks a question same thing about good movies good books they make you think so this feel I'm talking about which we call computational creativity is both the logical descendant of AI it's a branch of AI but it's also the stepson of modern art because in computer science were always using ideas that were invented somewhere else first why because we're studying the the processes of thoughts and people have been thinking for thousands hundreds of thousands of years it is incredibly hard to have a genuinely truly original new idea in AI because someone's thought of it before because we're clever species so computation creativity you can think of it as the next step and things like the cut up instead of having a piece of software like the verba sizer which generates possibilities for someone like David Bowie to filter using his human mind we get the computer to generate the possibilities and do to sell critiquing and the filtering and to say this is a really good idea because it's not just a tool it's a creator but we have to be careful if we train our computers on Convention and to recognize when something is not conventional then it won't recognize true creativity or it will treat true creativity as an error we need to stop focusing on the surface and we need to start focusing on the inner workings of human creativity we need to study humans and see how humans are creative and the trance for that cognitive working into algorithms on a computer this has a nice benefit because by understanding humans to make computers creative we can understand how humans are creative and algorithmic terms which can help humans be more creative as well we want creativity on a computer to expand human horizons to ask the questions that humans don't ask because we're enculturated not to ask them or were too polite not to ask them or because we don't consider them as options or because we can't see ourselves from the outside in computers can do all of these things they're not human so let's respect the fact that are not human treat them like anthropologists from another planet allow them to look at what we're doing give them knowledge about humans but don't try to make them human their value comes in not being human but being able to engage with humans so a good computer creative computer program can look at human behavior and see the silliness in it or see the interesting parallels between different facets of human behavior and report on them they can make interesting analogies metaphors ironic observations and looked at us from the outside in I find out a remarkable thing for a computer to do and it only happens when we don't treat computers as minimis or as fake people but as creative others right so basically what we want is we want our computers to compliment us not replace us it's not about faking it's about co-creation right now would the Beatles have been better if there were two John Lennon's instead of Lennon and McCartney certainly wouldn't have been better if there were two Paul McCartney's I'm pretty sure of that and even one Ringo Starr is debatable right but creativity often arises from the conflict between people with different agendas and different goals so we want our computers to be different from us so that we get this conflict of respect or is conflict of perspective that sparks new ideas and at the same time we should note that the the myth of the lone genius has held my creativity studies for a long time because we're still in thrall to the idea that creativity comes from some superhuman person in a garret it comes from social interaction no matter how lonely the creator he or she has benefited from interacting with others so we need to make our computers social beings not humans but social beings that know how to interact with humans and benefit from the interaction so I we often get inspiration from the problems from others or the concerns of others even if they have different goals chants conversations crossed messages crossed wires ambiguities misconstrued all of these problems our computers have we're dealing with humans are actually stimuli and for creativity if we harvest em in the right when use in the right way so even the fact that I a computer without a great deal of knowledge is pretty dumb we can use that dumbness to our advantage when it comes to making the computer help us be creative now the city is a great metaphor for creativity you push people of different backgrounds and agendas together we can't get our computers to be creative you're sitting on a laptop or a desktop in the office we need to get them into the city of course I'm not talking about putting them into robot bodies I'm talking about virtual cities I think Twitter is a great virtual city for our computers to live in here's an example of a wonderful bot is not my bot but it's on the on Twitter called pentameter on it creates poetry by taking the random and tweets of other people and pairing them up it then meet formal constraints of poetry so it tweeted these despair recently I'd rather be a river than a lake this whole semester is a big mistake now each of those tweets on their own is boring but together it becomes quite interesting there's an emergent poetry there and it's using bilborough's cut-up technique in a very clever way there's no knowledge there's no one sinan here imagine what we could do if we added


something as powerful as Watson to these simple techniques on Twitter where social interaction gets magnified it's very democratizing for creativity because Mill burrows was a trust fund kid his dad supported him while he made his cut-ups got him out of jail when he needed to be bail that helped him get published we don't have that advantage but on Twitter it's a level playing field for all of us to be artists producers critics and it's a level playing field for our machines as well if your machine or you is doing something good you'll attract followers and they'll favorite your outputs doesn't matter whether you're a machine or a person in fact a great deal of the intelligent content or the creative content on Twitter is produced by machines right now and people knowingly follow those accounts because they know they're machines and they're sick of listening to humans here's my boss metaphor magnets I won't bore you with it you can go look it up on Twitter if you like it generates metaphors and analogies about the human condition that pumps the mad about one every hour sometimes it's offensive it's mostly toll provoking I think I hope people seem to like it and it uses a lot of world knowledge here's a version of it called metaphor mirror that instead of just randomly generating its metaphors in a null context gets inspired by the breaking news stories on Twitter so when it sees the BBC talking about UK's inflation rate remained at zero last month it starts generating this one here how about a positive optimists become a negative pessimist what if they were to run out of optimism develop misgivings and become negative peasants it reacts to the news with metaphors that encourage you to see the news from a different perspective and believe me more and more of the news that you're going to get on the web is going to be written by machines and it may even be better than the stuff you're already getting let me finish by saying some of you maybe many of you will have heard the cassandra' like dire predictions from famous scientists and industrious lately saying that is the genie that will destroy us all if we let it out of the bottle you've heard Stephen Hawking his software was getting upgraded his software which is the version of the stuff that predicts his next word the stuff that you have in your mobile phone was being upgraded so the media asked him do you think this will destroy us all Stephen and he said yes I think it will are you really worried about AI destroying the world if you do you're overestimating AI and you're under estimating the human brain and its ability to adapt to changing circumstances right when CERN I built a large Large Hadron Collider some people worried that it would create a black hole that would suck the whole world into nothingness and the physicists laughed at us now's our chance to laugh at the physicist because they don't really know what they're talking about when it comes to AI having said that and let me finish with this slide our computers will not be the end of us they'll be the making of us because they will be co-creative partners that will extend what it means to be human and will embody what it means to be human even after were gone I'm not gonna speculate why we'll be gone maybe Apes will be our masters maybe we'll have gone to another planet but you know what there's so many robots already on Twitter producing really interesting outputs I don't use Twitter myself I just let my computer get on with it it saves me a great deal of time and I think a lot of people would like that just a view Twitter as some kind of Cirque de Soleil that you can watch occasionally not have to actually get your hands dirty which when we're all gone these Twitter BOTS will still be working representing what it means to be human by then I hope it's the best of us right now it's not really the best of us but our computers can be receptacles for the best of us sustaining what it means to be human in the meantime magnifying where it means to be human but always preserving what it means to be human and I think that is the ultimate sustainability thank you very much Iona College, New Rochelle.

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