- The Creativity Code: Art and Innovation in the Age of AI by Marcus Du Sautoy
by Marcus Du Sautoy
BELKNAP PRESS OF HARVARD UNIVERSITY PRESS, 2019. 312 PP.
The ubiquity of AI in contemporary life forces us to reckon with the transformative capabilities of technical systems that afford new information practices. Yet to do it correctly is to not lose sight of both the deeply human and profoundly mathematical aspects of these assemblages. Marcus Du Sautoy's latest offering, The Creativity Code: Art and Innovation in the Age of AI, succeeds in its attempt to explain AI from an analytical, mathematical perspective for the layperson, and it provides readers with a personal qua scientific narrative about how the march of mathematics and the marvel of thinking machines are closely interwoven with historical and sociotechnical elements. This book is not overly technical and draws upon well-known cases in the history of mathematics and computing in order to further the reader's understanding of both the subject and the innately creative contexts that paved the path for the ubiquity of contemporary AI.
Du Sautoy examines the classical algorithmic "imitation game" from which the Turing test derives and cogently argues instead for the use of the Lovelace test, which compels computers toward creativity, as a more effective and strategic alternative. This position is developed with a history of algorithms using a frame of relationality that brings these human-machine assemblages to the fore. While Du Sautoy does explain how AI computation is superior to human cognition in the realm of games such as Go and Chess, he remains understandably skeptical about a computer's capacity for categorically human-like creative independence.
Du Sautoy's analysis takes a step back from the physical materiality of AI systems; instead, he directs his focus toward a human-machine relational frame in order to argue for what qualifies as creative intelligence. Chapter 4 introduces the "matching algorithm," formulated by 1962 Nobel Prize winners David Gale and Lloyd Shapley, which set the stage for today's widely used algorithmically sorted suggested content. However, Du Sautoy argues that their Nobel-worthy puzzle still subsists from incomplete and inconsistent human input: "Modern algorithms that run our dating agencies are built on top of the puzzle that Gale and Shapley solved. The problem is more complex since information is incomplete. Preferences are movable and relative, and they shift from day to day. But essentially, the algorithms are trying to match people with preferences that will lead to stable and happy pairings" (57). Here, Du Sautoy suggests that we implement relational aspects of decision-making, which are at the heart of creative constructions and imaginative choices afforded in instances of incomplete, "movable and relative" information. In a broad stroke, he uses this platform to propose how qualified intelligence that does not [End Page 221] simply choose but rather creates choices from relative preferencing can be categorized as a competitively embodied intelligence, whether organic or not.
Much of the core discussion in this book focuses on a mathematical apologia that seeks to discern the relationship between art and mathematics. For Du Sautoy, the key juncture is ludic: both art and mathematics are, essentially, games to be played. Both must be played out in order for the result to be seen. While deductive reasoning dominates in social terms, the surprisingly creative nature of play and interplay ensures that a degree of abductive surprise will always be present in the act of creation. At the same time, Du Sautoy gives careful attention to the quotidian role of logos in society as a way to logically prove that which is difficult to rhetorically argue. In the section "Origins of Proof," he evokes Aristotelian and Euclidian experimentations of numerical axioms, where increasingly complex societies gamify forms of governance through the analogous treatment of numbers: "The beauty of the game is that, even though we are trying to capture how numbers and geometry work, we can view the whole game symbolically. . . . The Greeks were not content to say [the] interesting connection between...