AI: Artificial Imagination?

Can we teach computers to think creatively?

Most of us are fascinated by creativity. New ideas in science and art are often hugely exciting – and, paradoxically, sometimes seemingly “obvious” once they’ve arrived. But how can that be? Many people, perhaps most of us, think there’s no hope of an answer. Creativity is deeply mysterious, indeed almost magical. Any suggestion that there might be a scientific theory of creativity strikes such people as absurd. And as for computer models of creativity, those are felt to be utterly impossible.

But they aren’t. Scientific psychology has identified three different ways in which new, surprising, and valuable ideas – that is, creative ideas – can arise in people’s minds. These involve combinational, exploratory, and transformational creativity. The information processes involved can be understood in terms of concepts drawn from Artificial Intelligence (AI). They can even be modelled by computers using AI techniques.

The first type of creati

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