Jun 1, 2017
Expert Voices

thy commitment, decorated with Joy, begins to speak briskly

Our expert voices conversation about computers and creativity.

Computers can trouble us with evocative nonsense — see the (machine-generated) title to this piece. Anyone who has written code knows that insanity is always close to breaking out. Yet novelty for novelty's sake is a weak image of what we truly seek: contact and communion with others.

To write a poem (or, indeed, a scientific paper) is to join a company of players: the young scientist hopes to exceed her mentor just as much as Keats did Milton. At our most creative we contest the past that others have made, and struggle to make the future over. The test of my creativity is what it enables other to do, and whether or not my patterns survive in their responses.

Computers, however, have yet to do battle with Milton, or William Burroughs, or David Foster Wallace. Facebook's algorithms seek only more clicks, not acolytes, apprentices, or conflicts with jealous disciples. One day chatbots might do more than manipulate elections on Twitter: they might, like Keats, strive to exceed our pasts and enrich our futures.

Bottom line: To be creative, computers will have to join us — and we, perhaps, them.

Other voices in the conversation:

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