Creativity at the Metalevel AAAI-2000 Presidential Address
Buchanan, Bruce G., AI Magazine
Creativity is sometimes taken to be an inexplicable aspect of human activity. By summarizing a considerable body of literature on creativity, I hope to show how to turn some of the best ideas about creativity into programs that are demonstrably more creative than any we have seen to date. I believe the key to building more creative programs is to give them the ability to reflect on and modify their own frameworks and criteria. That is, I believe that the key to creativity is at the metalevel.
It is a widely held view that creative thought is a necessary part of the complex of behaviors we use to define intelligence. In the AAAI-1998 Presidential Address, for example, David Waltz said that creativity is a key topic for AI research because it is an essential element of human intelligence (Waltz 1999). If it truly is necessary, then it must be addressed for a resolution to the philosophical questions about whether machines can think. As Dartnall puts it in the Encyclopedia of the Philosophy of Mind,1 if creativity is a human process that cannot be described mechanistically, then human minds cannot be symbol-manipulation machines.
From the point of view of an experimentalist, Al is the perfect medium for understanding creativity because implementing ideas in computer programs gives us the means to test these ideas. Therefore, I discuss some of the empirical work in psychology and experimental work in AI and what it seems to tell us about methods for building machines capable of creative activity.
I first note the obvious: There is no consensus, just considerable ambiguity, about what we call creative behavior or what is involved in this behavior.2 In everyday speech, gifted people who create new ideas, new works of art, new music, and so on, are said to "think outside the box," "break the rules," "revolutionize the field," "think intuitively," "think different," and "change the way we think."
Psychologists use much the same kind of language but with longer words. They say that creative people "think in uncharted waters" (Lee  quoted in Taylor , p. 118), "go off in different directions" (Guildford  quoted in Taylor , p. 119), "destroy one Gestalt in favor of a better one" (Wertheimer , quoted in Taylor , p. 118), suppress conscious thought to let preconscious material emerge (Bellak 1958), arrange old elements into a new form (Koestler 1964; Harmon 1956), and add to the existing stored knowledge of mankind (Newell, Shaw, and Simon 1958).
These six samples of early psychological studies of creativity represent different aspects of creative behavior that have subsequently been studied and elaborated on (see, for example, Taylor ). They also represent different aspects that made their way into contemporary models of creativity in computer programs. I have deliberately highlighted older work to underscore the fact that psychologists have been interested in understanding creative work at least since the 1950s; a recent overview with many personality traits associated with creative people (and an extensive bibliography) is in Dacey and Lennon (1998). Sternberg (1988a) surveyed people to see what kinds of characteristics they (we) actually associate with creative behavior. Six major elements turned up: (1) lack of conventionality; (2) the recognition of similarities and differences and the making of connections; (3) appreciation for and ability to write or draw or compose music; (4) flexibility to change directions; (5) willingness to question norms and assumptions; and (6) motivation and energy.
Editors of a recent volume entitled Creativity and Madness (Panter et al. 1995, p. xiii) encapsulate much of the earlier writing by psychologists:
Creativity is the ability to bring something new into existence, by seeing things in a new way. Those who have this in the greatest degree are considered geniuses, and …
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Publication information: Article title: Creativity at the Metalevel AAAI-2000 Presidential Address. Contributors: Buchanan, Bruce G. - Author. Magazine title: AI Magazine. Volume: 22. Issue: 3 Publication date: Fall 2001. Page number: 13+. © 2009 American Association for Artificial Intelligence. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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