Archive for March, 2013


Creative Thought

March 26, 2013

I haven’t blogged much recently, and it seems you haven’t been much either, though you are microblogging quite a bit. 

Anyway, I was inspired.  I got my copy of The Atlantic in the mail yesterday and the cover story is about the so-called Touch-Screen Generation, the generation of toddlers that uses iPads.  It is an interesting article overall, and brings forth various issues to consider when one is raising children.  But one specific thing I found rather intriguing is a quote from Frank and Theresa Caplan’s 1973 book, The Power of Play:

What is that often puts the B student ahead of the A student in adult life, especially in business and creative professions?  Certainly it is more than verbal skill.  To create, one must have a sense of adventure and playfulness.  One needs toughness to experiment and hazard the risk of failure.  One has to be strong enough to start all over again if need be and alert enough to learn from whatever happens.  One needs a strong ego to be propelled forward in one’s drive toward an untried goal.  Above all, one has to possess the ability to play!

Having this sense of whimsy and playfulness, I think is rather important, so it is good to see other people agree.

This general question of how to promote creativity is an important one, whether for schools and universities, firms, or societies as a whole.  In your microblogging, you had pointed out an article to me that puts forth three broad ideas for achieving a more creative life:

  1. Be mindful and disconnect: one of the key ideas is to walk around.
  2. Delve into the past to create meaningful things: the idea is to understand where things come from and why they exist to then create meaningful new things.
  3. Be masterful: the key idea is to be able to make serendipity work for you everyday.

All of these strategies make a great deal of sense to me and I hope to incorporate them more into my own life. 

Claude Shannon also once gave a speech about how to be creative, and primarily motivated by informational and engineering kinds of questions, the points he raised for creative thinking include: simplification; seeking similar known problems; restate a problem in as many different forms as you can; generalization; structural analysis; and inversion.  Again a solid set of ideas, especially for mathematically-oriented research work.

Some people argue that certain places are more conducive to creative thought than others, and they act as magnets for the so-called creative class.  Places like Fairfield, Iowa.  

In fact there is a whole book on The Rise of the Creative Class, which was originally written more than a decade ago but has recently been reissued.  At least from the summary, it sounds like an engaging book.  Maybe I should get a copy sometime.  In fact the author, Richard Florida, seems to put out quite a nice set of blog posts, which are also on my to-read list.

This blog post has been, so far, about human creativity, but what about computational creativity?  A lot of my work these days, and some of yours as well, has been on building a system that can create novel, flavorful, and healthy culinary recipes.  Though our work is not particularly connected to Watson, the press has been linking it to that general idea.  Notwithstanding, some nice recent articles include these ones.

Since you are not quite as immersed in the project as I am, you are probably better able to disconnect and be mindful.  So let me ask, do you think any of the ideas on leading a creative life or for engaging in creative thinking are useful for computational creativity systems?