• Pfhorrest
    3.1k
    Creativity seems to be popularly held to be some kind of non-deterministic, random process of some kind of magical, metaphysically free will, but I hold that that is not the case at all. I hold that there really isn't a clear distinction between invention and discovery of ideas: there is a figurative space of all possible ideas, what in mathematics is called a configuration space or phase space, and any idea that anyone might "invent", any act of abstract "creation" (prior to the act of realizing the idea in some concrete medium), is really just the identification of some idea in that space of possibilities.

    It would be possible in principle to set out on a deterministic process of mechanically identifying every possible idea, though as that space of possibilities is likely infinite this process would likely never finish identifying all of them. Watching the output of such a process would not feel like watching a creative genius, though, even though the process would be continually spitting out new, previously unidentified ideas. But neither would watching the output of a process that generates (or picks from out of the possibility space) new ideas completely at random, however.

    That, I hold, is because it is not the determinism or randomness of the process of invention or discovery that makes it "creative" in a way that would be called such by audiences watching its output. Rather, it is a specific feature of the process, which requires that the process be at least partly deterministic, that grants the appearance of creativity.

    That feature is that the invented or discovered idea must be recognizably similar to previously known ideas, and yet also noticeable different from them. That alone is only the bare minimum of creativity, however: something that is just like something else with a slight twist will be rightly called only a variation on a previous theme and not especially creative. However, something that is completely unlike any prior work will seem so random, out of context, and therefore unapproachable, that audiences will be unable to appreciate it. The kind of new ideas that seem really creative are the ones that make apparent the structure of the space of possibilities, connecting and re-contextualizing previously known ideas.

    If two genres of some medium are well-known, for example, with many variations on the same theme, and then a new work of art is made in that medium that blends elements of both genres in a way that shows them both to be the ends of a longer spectrum of genres, then that will be seen as very creative. It will also open up the potential of still further creativity later, as other works located along that same line in the space of possibilities can then have the context of that spectrum to anchor them, to give them purpose in filling in the unexplored regions in the middle of that spectrum and beyond its known ends. If one such spectrum of possibilities is already known, and a new work can bridge between it and ideas that lie off of it in such a way as to expand the spectrum into a new dimension, suddenly even more structure in the space of possibilities is made apparent, and even more opportunity for further creativity is opened up.

    In relating already known ideas to each other across a space of previously unexplored ideas, new works can give further context and significance to existing ones and draw context and significance from them, and it is that process of connection and contextualization, not mere nondeterministic randomness, that constitutes creativity.
  • Luke
    1k
    "Discovery" implies that every idea already exists, just waiting to be found. Whereas "invention" implies that an idea did not previously exist. I'm averse to the idea that all ideas already exist.
  • Janus
    9.3k
    The words that ideas are expressed in already exist, so the words are perhaps rightly thought to be in some sense discovered, but I think more aptly should just be said to be used. The arrangement of the words, though, and/or the ideas expressed by that arrangement, could well be uniquely novel, and in that sense could be said to be inventional not conventional.
  • Pfhorrest
    3.1k
    I'm not sure what more I can say in response to this that wouldn't just be repeating something from the OP, but I'll try.

    Surely every possibility is already possible, right? There is some (infinite) set of things that are possible, and by discovering that something is possible, we don't thereby become the cause of its possibility; it was already a possibility, we just found it among that infinite set of possibilities.

    What I say "idea" here I'm talking about roughly a picture of some way that things might be; a possible state of affairs. All of those possible states of affairs, those ideas that could be had, are already possible; when we "come up with" an idea, we may feel as though we're inventing something, but as the thing we're "coming up with" is just a possibility, and all the possibilities were already possible, then really we've just discovered something.

    That doesn't mean we can't have been the first person to discover it, or the first person to write it down, or the first person to popularize it. But that's just like it's possible for someone to be the first person to walk upon a new land, or the first person to map that land, or the first person to settle that land; despite all of that, the land was still already there. Finding it didn't cause it to come into being.
  • javra
    1.1k


    Even when granting that infinite possibilities eternally exist (if I'm not misunderstanding your claim), there is yet a limited, and hence finite, set of what can be, or else is, actual—limited both by time and space when addressing physical givens; yet again quite arguably limited existentially when addressing metaphysical givens (such as can be argued for actual, rather than what we epistemically consider to be possible, laws of thought).

    We as sentient beings not only discover possibilities but actualize realities (not reality in the singular; rather real events or states of affair in the plural). Our actualization of some such realities is then an act of invention, else stated of creation—for the actualization did not exist prior to our instantiation of it nor would it have existed as it does without our instantiation of it. Artists, for one example, are known for and expected to accomplish such feats. Yes, some of the actualized art was discovered by the conscious artist (e.g., the notion that a statue was already preformed within the marble or wood comes to mind); but, generally speaking, creation, and hence invention, played at least an equal role in the artwork’s manifestation—and hence in the idea(s) the artwork conveys. In this example, the artist caused their artwork to come into being.

    So it’s known, I’m in no way disagreeing with the notion that we are bound by a limited, finite, set of both physical and metaphysical actualities (rather than possibilities) which we hold the capacity to discover. In other words, I agree that we are bound by reality (in the singular). Yet given these existential boundaries, there is nothing to evidence that we as individual sentient beings, and as collectives of such, do not also create actualities—and thereby cause them to come into being.

    You’re right, though. Creation of X translates into the causal origination of X—even when this creation is influenced by myriad givens. And such causal mechanism, when address without bias toward its being or not being, can logically neither be that of randomness nor of a full determinacy.
  • Pfhorrest
    3.1k
    We as sentient beings not only discover possibilities but actualize realitiesjavra

    Yes, but the production of an idea in a concrete medium is not usually what we take to be the act of "creativity": it's the coming-up-with of ideas themselves. This is why I wrote...

    ...any act of abstract "creation" (prior to the act of realizing the idea in some concrete medium)...Pfhorrest

    ...in the first paragraph. It's that mental creativity that's the topic here, not the physical production of those ideas in concrete artistic (etc) artifacts.

    I'm contesting the seemingly common notion that such mental creativity can only come from sort of non-deterministic process, the likes of which (for instance) could not possibly ever be programmed into an AI. I'm arguing that abstract creation is indistinguishable from discovery, either way it's just plucking an idea out of the abstract space of possibilities, and the determinism or randomness of that "plucking" process is completely irrelevant: it's a specific pattern in the (at least adequately determined) process that constitutes the thing we call creativity.
  • Luke
    1k
    Surely every possibility is already possible, right? There is some (infinite) set of things that are possible, and by discovering that something is possible, we don't thereby become the cause of its possibility; it was already a possibility, we just found it among that infinite set of possibilities.

    What I say "idea" here I'm talking about roughly a picture of some way that things might be; a possible state of affairs. All of those possible states of affairs, those ideas that could be had, are already possible; when we "come up with" an idea, we may feel as though we're inventing something, but as the thing we're "coming up with" is just a possibility, and all the possibilities were already possible, then really we've just discovered something.
    Pfhorrest

    You seem to be conflating possibilities and ideas. You say that there exists an infinite set of possibilities and that an idea is a possibility (or a possible state of affairs). You say that "coming up with" an idea is the same as "coming up with" a possibility, and that both of these are just the discovery of a possibility.

    However, a significant difference between ideas and possibilities, I believe, is that an idea cannot exist without someone first thinking of it, "coming up with" it, writing it down, or popularising it, unlike possibilities which exist regardless and may never be thought of.
  • Pfhorrest
    3.1k
    I'm using "idea" as something like "mental picture of a possibility".

    We can think of the "coming up with" process as something like nature photography, then. All the stuff you're taking pictures of is already out there. The photographer just goes out and picks a specific part of it to capture. (This isn't to denigrate photography at all; I've just been sorting through my own photography for my portfolio just a moment ago). This thus blurs the lines between "making" and "finding" something, between "invention" and "discovery". I'm not saying there's only one and not the other; I'm saying there really isn't any difference between them when you get down to it.
  • Luke
    1k
    This thus blurs the lines between "making" and "finding" something, between "invention" and "discovery". I'm not saying there's only one and not the other; I'm saying there really isn't any difference between them when you get down to it.Pfhorrest

    And I'm saying that may be true only if you conflate ideas with possibilities.
  • Pfhorrest
    3.1k
    I just said I'm not conflating them; one is like a picture of the other.

    ...and then after collapsing invention vs discovery into a distinction with no difference, I'm talking about what makes for a "creative photograph", so to speak. One could mechanically go about taking every possible picture in order, but we wouldn't find that creative. One could (we can imagine at least) teleport the camera around randomly taking pictures at random, but we wouldn't find that creative either. What then makes for a creative "photograph" (idea)?

    The rest of the OP, which nobody seems to have gotten to yet, is all about that.
  • Luke
    1k
    Unless someone "takes" the photograph - which is the analog of "coming up with" the idea - then no ideas/photographs can exist.
  • Pfhorrest
    3.1k
    Sure, but what we're talking about is how the content of the ideas gets there. What you're talking about is trivially true and I'm not contesting it at all.
  • javra
    1.1k
    I'm contesting the seemingly common notion that such mental creativity can only come from sort of non-deterministic process, the likes of which for instance could not possibly ever be programmed into an AI.Pfhorrest

    Yes, I get that. I was intending to present a viable possibility of creation in fact being such a form of non-deterministic process. Of course, in a fully deterministic worldview, both the novel idea and the manifestation of it in physical realms will be fully deterministic. Creativity, or creation - of an artifact or of the idea(s) that are used to actualize it - however specifies that that which creates X will originate X of its own momentary being. And, again, such causal mechanism (when not rejected on grounds of determinism) can neither be random nor fully deterministic.

    As to strong AI, I'm of the opinion that were such to ever be actual, it would necessarily then be endowed with the same causal ability of creation that we humans are sometimes quite apt at.

    But if your approaching the issue from a preestablished worldview of determinism, the viable possibility I'm mentioning will be denied a priori due to the confirmation bias of the worldview held. Question then becomes one of whether determinism is the only viable possibility. But I don't want to argue this at present.
  • Pfhorrest
    3.1k
    I’m not arguing for determinism, but rather for the irrelevance of either determinism or non-determinism.
  • Luke
    1k
    What you're talking about is trivially true and I'm not contesting it at all.Pfhorrest

    I think you are contesting it. You're effectively saying that ideas can only be discovered and cannot be invented, because ideas are possibilities, and the set of possibilities already exists. I refute that ideas are equivalent to possibilities.
  • Pfhorrest
    3.1k
    As I said before, I’m not saying that ideas are only discovered not invented, but that there is no sense to be made of any distinction between discovery and invention.

    There is a sense to be made of the difference between the abstract content of an idea and the concrete having of an idea by a person. That is the nature/photograph difference. That’s what you say I’m conflating, but that difference is a trivial one that I take for granted and am not talking about at all. I’m only taking about the content of the ideas, which I’m saying is like the content of nature photographs.
  • Luke
    1k
    There is a sense to be made of the difference between the abstract content of an idea and the concrete having of an idea by a person. [...] I’m only taking about the content of the ideas,Pfhorrest

    The "concrete having of an idea by a person" is not relevant to whether ideas are discovered or invented? Or you're not interested in this question despite the discussion title?

    It seems you've made your mind up anyway:

    What I say "idea" here I'm talking about roughly a picture of some way that things might be; a possible state of affairs. All of those possible states of affairs, those ideas that could be had, are already possible; when we "come up with" an idea, we may feel as though we're inventing something, but as the thing we're "coming up with" is just a possibility, and all the possibilities were already possible, then really we've just discovered something.Pfhorrest
  • Janus
    9.3k
    What seems possible to us, is just anything we can coherently, and with logical consistency, imagine. But those possibilities aren't "out there" somewhere to be discovered.

    As I said before, I’m not saying that ideas are only discovered not invented, but that there is no sense to be made of any distinction between discovery and invention.Pfhorrest

    Sure you could say someone discovers novel ideas in themselves. But that doesn't mean they were already there.
  • apokrisis
    5k
    It would be possible in principle to set out on a deterministic process of mechanically identifying every possible idea,Pfhorrest

    I think the hole in your argument is that creative thinking involves both this deductive reasoning (from the general to the particular), but more importantly, that inductive leap from the particular to the general.

    We have to hazard some guess as to a deeper principle that may account for a variety of outcomes - a pattern generator that then generates the patterns.

    And that step involves a kind of non-computational insight where instead of using information, we are seeking to erase it. What can we do without, rather than what do we have once we have crunched every possibility?

    That is what biological brains find easy to do. A Bayesian style of reasoning where we make guesses about the information that would reduce our uncertainty. We are looking at the world and trying to model the deeper processes generating its ever changing variety.

    Biological brains aren’t geared for deductive reasoning at all. What you describe as a mechanical process of computing every outcome of some formal language is indeed only something that came on to the evolutionary scene when humans developed grammatical speech as a cultural learnt habit.
  • Gregory
    1.7k


    The British empiricist would applaud you. Most scientists would say "your not in the business" . Scientists, to explain further, often don't like philosophy because it tries to categories their processes of thought. I like philosophy though and I do that all the time.
  • Gregory
    1.7k
    As a teenager i read the section on Reason in the 1960's new Catholic Encyclopedia. It said animals ( who "do not have reason") can understand how to stack boxes in order to reach something. But only reason (a higher speculative faculty) can make a car where the relation between gas and motion is not empirically obvious. I don't find this a refutation of the OP. Just an interesting note
  • Pinprick
    385
    I'm contesting the seemingly common notion that such mental creativity can only come from sort of non-deterministic process, the likes of which (for instance) could not possibly ever be programmed into an AI.Pfhorrest

    I like to emphasize that creativity often involves acting, or thinking, irrationally. Consider the creativity of conspiracy theories for example. They are often very creative and irrational explanations for some event or phenomenon. I think this is the issue with AI being creative. AI’s must follow a code; their programming. If you think of their programming as a representation of rationality/reason, then you see the issue. They cannot act irrationally, or against their programming. Humans are seemingly able to do this. My guess as to why would be that our programming (our DNA) is flawed, so to speak. We don’t always follow the rules or act rationally. We may not even do so most of the time. Humans are more like open-ended questions; there’s more than two ways to respond, whereas AI’s options are necessarily limited by their programming, and are therefore only capable of responding in a limited number of ways.

    I'm arguing that abstract creation is indistinguishable from discovery,Pfhorrest

    To me, discovery means not changing whatever it is you found. So like you say, part of creativity is simply finding an unusual idea and expressing it, but if someone finds two ideas, and then combines/synthesizes them to form a new idea, that seems different than just discovery.
  • Forgottenticket
    200
    The invention vs discovery seems like the older arguments for the existence for God or at least the Platonic ideals.
    There is a first cause, and since from first cause all ideas and mind came so first cause must necessarily have ideas and mind otherwise things may be coming out of nothing.
    If you believe you're discovering stuff in the data rather than inventing stuff then you may as well say where did the stuff come from. And then the philosopher comes to believe that it eternally existed.
    That in itself is a hard problem. I don't think we are evolved to answer it. But as far as creativity goes, it's obviously a social term because there are people who are "uncreative" and do the opposite. Derrida was absolutely correct you can deconstruct most terms by looking at their opposite.
  • Gregory
    1.7k
    The

    I think it was John Searle who asked if a software program was doing addition or "quaddition". He was trying to argue against the emergence of reason from pure matter, but I think the argument works against him. You can fill in the blanks. We don't know what AI could do
  • Pfhorrest
    3.1k
    The "concrete having of an idea by a person" is not relevant to whether ideas are discovered or invented?Luke

    Only the distinction between that and the content of those ideas is not relevant. Of course any idea is had by someone, but bringing that up has nothing to do with where the contents of those ideas “comes from”. I’m just saying that distinguishing between “coming from the person” (invention) and “coming from the world” (discovery) makes no sense when were talking about ideas; they amount to the same thing.

    Consider just things like numbers, even just the counting numbers. There are an infinite quantity of counting numbers: 1, 2, 3, etc forever. There will always be some number in that series that nobody has counted up to yet, that nobody has had any reason to instantiate in any concrete way. Does that mean that such a number doesn't exist yet? Are there not actually infinitely many counting numbers, just because we can't ever finish counting to infinity? NB that that would mean there is such a thing as "the biggest counting number", and which number that is would be constantly changing, as people count up to, and so "invent", new numbers.

    I'm not asking about the status of abstract objects here, just saying that, in whatever sense it is that we mean when we ordinarily say "there are infinitely many counting numbers, even if nobody has counted to them yet", there are likewise already infinitely many ideas available to be had, even if nobody has actually had them yet.

    Like numbers, consider different mathematical structures. Take complex numbers like "i" for example. Was that invented, or discovered? I think there's no sense to be made of any difference there: the possibility of doing math involving two-dimensional quantities (which is all complex numbers are) was always there, and someone was the first person (recorded by history to which we have access) to "come up with" the idea of doing that, but to ask whether that person "invented" or "discovered" complex numbers is a nonsense question, because those amount to the same thing.

    As every imaginable thing, every idea, can in principle be rigorously described if we care to do so, and so made equivalent to some mathematical structure, this principle that mathematical structures are equally "invented" and "discovered" applies to all ideas.

    those possibilities aren't "out there" somewhere to be discovered [...] Sure you could say someone discovers novel ideas in themselvesJanus

    That this language of "discovery" doesn't make a lot of sense (where were they sitting, waiting to be discovered?) goes to my point that in the context of abstract ideas there isn't any difference between "invention" and "discovery". I am not saying that there is no invention, only discovery. I'm saying that neither of those, in senses distinguishable from each other, really works as applied to abstract ideas. In that context, they are the same thing, indistinguishable; we equally make and find ideas, kinda both, kinda neither.

    What you say about finding patterns, rather than just extending them, sounds like it's very much in line with what I say creativity is in the OP. It's not just enumerating on instances of an existing pattern or structure, and it's not just random possibilities unconnected to any structure, but rather it's finding/making new/previously-unknown structure in the abstract space of possibilities, contextualizing and connecting those possibilities to each other in a way that gives them meaning.

    Consider the creativity of conspiracy theories for example. They are often very creative and irrational explanations for some event or phenomenon. I think this is the issue with AI being creative. AI’s must follow a code; their programmingPinprick

    Conspiracy theories are often the result of over-eager pattern matching. Often times, there really is a pattern, and the conspiracy theorists just get it wrong. See for example alt-right nutbars who think The Jewish International Bankers control the world because of a laundry list of reasons... reasons that actually point at a pattern of the failures of capitalism. They're seeing signs a real pattern that's there, but falsely attributing it to a racial, individual-conspiratorial issue (a handful of evil Others working together to intentionally keep Us down) instead of a class-based social-structural issue (a handful of fortunate people selfishly doing what most people would do in their position because the rest of us let them get away with it).

    Computers can do pattern recognition. They can even (mostly) do bad pattern recognition: I asked Google Lens to identify a bush the other day and it told me it was a "plantation", then I asked it to identify a flower and it told me it was "marine life". And have you seen things like Google Dream? Google would make a great conspiracy theorist. It'll take a lot of work to make it less "creative", and better capable of critically weeding out its flights of fancy.

    To me, discovery means not changing whatever it is you found. So like you say, part of creativity is simply finding an unusual idea and expressing it, but if someone finds two ideas, and then combines/synthesizes them to form a new idea, that seems different than just discovery.Pinprick

    But the possibility of combining those two ideas was already "there", in whatever sense the possibility of the simple ideas were "there" too.
  • Gregory
    1.7k


    1) are you an empiricist like Locke?

    2) isn't the working energy in the human intellect what this thread is about

    3) are you talking about just humans? Could dolphins have pure creative imagination?
  • Pfhorrest
    3.1k
    I am broadly an empiricist, but I don’t know in what way you mean like Locke specifically.

    I don’t understand your second question.

    But no, this isn’t just mean to be about humans specifically, but a specific function of intelligence more generally.
  • Gregory
    1.7k


    Thanks for the honest reply. I think Leonardo da Vinci would disagree with your thesis. And maybe dolphins lol. A math teacher of mine wrote a paper saying that angels naturally think with calculus, while humans have to learn it. Don't underestimate the gods either. Enough said. I hope I didn't disrail your conversation
  • Luke
    1k
    The "concrete having of an idea by a person" is not relevant to whether ideas are discovered or invented?
    — Luke

    Only the distinction between that and the content of those ideas is not relevant. Of course any idea is had by someone, but bringing that up has nothing to do with where the contents of those ideas “comes from”. I’m just saying that distinguishing between “coming from the person” (invention) and “coming from the world” (discovery) makes no sense when were talking about ideas; they amount to the same thing.
    Pfhorrest

    It's not relevant only if you assume the pre-existence of ideas. As I said in my first post to this discussion, "discovery" implies (or connotes) the pre-existence of ideas, whereas "invention" requires someone to be the originator of those ideas.

    It seems you are attempting to re-define invention as discovery, i.e., to assert that any case of invention is actually a case of discovery. I doubt you would agree to the reverse: that any case of discovery is actually a case of invention, as this would imply, e.g., that Wiliam Herschel "invented" Uranus, or that Californians "invented" the gold in them thar hills. In order for your attempted re-definition of invention to work, one first needs to accept or assume the pre-existence of ideas. I don't accept that; someone needs to come up with those ideas.

    Consider just things like numbers, even just the counting numbers. There are an infinite quantity of counting numbers: 1, 2, 3, etc forever. There will always be some number in that series that nobody has counted up to yet, that nobody has had any reason to instantiate in any concrete way. Does that mean that such a number doesn't exist yet?Pfhorrest

    All of the numbers pre-exist in the sense that mathematics is algorithmic; the numbers simply "fall out" of the algorithm, e.g. "n+1". What similar algorithm exists in order for us to "discover" the supposedly pre-existing ideas of the Mona Lisa or the toaster?
  • Gregory
    1.7k
    The idea that a thing is a thing does not come from the senses
  • Pfhorrest
    3.1k
    It seems you are attempting to re-define invention as discovery, i.e., to assert that any case of invention is actually a case of discovery. I doubt you would agree to the reverse: that any case of discovery is actually a case of invention, as this would imply, e.g., that Wiliam Herschel "invented" Uranus, or that Californians "invented" the gold in them thar hillsLuke

    No, I’m saying that in the case of abstract objects like ideas, it makes no sense to differentiate invention from discovery. Not that invention goes away and only discovery is left; discovery is every bit as problematic when it come to abstract things as invention is. Your talk about planets and gold is missing the point: there is a difference there, in concrete cases. But not in abstract ones.

    What similar algorithm exists in order for us to "discover" the supposedly pre-existing ideas of the Mona Lisa or the toaster?Luke

    Trivially, one could mechanically iterate through every possible series of brush strokes on the canvas (more clearly illustrated if we think of a digital image and iterate through every possible series of pixels) and eventually get the Mona Lisa. Likewise one could iterate through every possible arrangement of atoms and eventually get a toaster. Or instead one could randomly throw together brush strokes or atoms until eventually one got the thing in question — like the infinite monkeys with typewriters producing the complete works of Shakespeare.

    But neither of those processes would actually seem like creativity, which is the main thrust of my OP if we can get past the more trivial opening comments. It is not the determinism or the randomness that makes for creativity, but something else aside from that issue—something I already covered in the OP.
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