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Reviewed by:
  • Computers and Creativity by Jon McCormack and Mark d'Inverno
  • Rob Harle
Computers and Creativity edited by Jon McCormack and Mark d'Inverno. Springer-Verlag, Berlin Heidelberg, 2012. 430 pp., illus. Trade, ebook. ISBN: 978-3-642-31726-2; ISBN: 978-3-642-31727-9.

This is a challenging, thought-provoking and important book. Challenging because it forces us to confront issues of our relationship with intelligent machines; thought-provoking because it asks many difficult questions, some of which do not as yet have answers; and important because it tackles the issues of machine intelligence and artificial creativity in a non-trivial, non-hysterical and profound manner.

As the title suggests, the main thrust of the book is exploring the relationship of computers and creativity. There are two significant approaches discussed. Firstly, how can human creativity be aided and augmented by using computers either as creative cohorts or as standalone, although still not autonomous, machines? Secondly, if it is indeed possible, how would we build robust autonomous AI machines capable of being creative and able to evaluate original works that they create as well as those of their human associates?

Refreshingly, there is no techno-messianic hype at all in this book. All chapters are written by leading researchers (25 in all) working at universities, literally at the coalface, one might say. This approach leaves no room for flights of science fantasy and ill-founded speculation, which I have found is almost endemic in the Extropian-style literature regarding human-machine integration. Considering the complexity of the subject matter and its theoretical underpinning, every chapter is extremely well written, in a way that makes the book thoroughly accessible to expert and educated layperson alike.

Computers and Creativity is divided into four parts comprising 16 chapters. I will list the titles in full, as they provide prospective readers with a good overview of the range of research and topics covered.

Part 1: ART. The Painting Fool: Stories from Building an Automated Painter; Creative Ecosystems; Construction and Intuition: Creativity in Early Computer Art; Evaluation of Creative Aesthetics.

Part 2: MUSIC. Musical Virtuosity and Creativity; Live Algorithms: Towards Autonomous Computer Improvisers; The Extended Composer; Between Material and Ideas: A Process-Based Spatial Model of Artistic Creativity; Computer Programming in the Creative Arts.

Part 3: THEORY. Computational Aesthetic Evaluation: Past and Future; Computing Aesthetics with Image Judgement Systems; A Formal Theory of Creativity to Model the Creation of Art; Creativity Refined: Bypassing the Gatekeepers of Appropriateness and Value; Generative and Adaptive Creativity: A Unified Approach to Creativity in Nature, Humans and Machines; Creating New Informational Primitives in Minds and Machines.

Part 4: EPILOGUE. Computers and Creativity: The Road Ahead.

(This Epilogue is very short but asks some of the hardest questions we will ever have to answer regarding the human-computer encounter).

The book has a slight bias toward visual art and music but is equally mindful of and useful for creativity studies in all areas of human endeavor. As Margaret Boden mentions in the Foreword, "If I had to pick just one point out of this richly intriguing book, it would be something the editors stress in their introduction: that these examples of computer art involve creative computing as well as creative art" (p. v).

Some of the researchers are skeptical of the possibility of creating a truly autonomous creative machine that will function similarly to humans in respect to creativity and also be capable of emotional involvement with works of art. Others believe that we will create such machines, although they may not be exactly like us—that is, they may have their own ways of creating art completely independent of their original builder/programmer intentions. Will we be able to recognize and appreciate such creations? You will have to read the book yourself to try and assess this somewhat bizarre possibility.

I found all chapters interesting and believe they have added much to the project of producing creative computers, fully autonomous or not. However, Chapter 13, Creativity Refined, was almost like an epiphany for me in that the concept presented (removing value from creativity) seems to be an original and essential answer if we are to progress in creating...


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