Creativity is the Mistakes You've Made

We are drawn to edges, to our own / parapets and sea-walls -  'Apart', Robin Robertson 

The human mind is able to produce fantastic explanations before all the evidence is in. It's messed up like that.

It also may be the most valuable asset we have. Discussing this unique human ability in context of artificial intelligence, philosopher David Deutsch, explains why knowing, and its contribution to innovation, can't be reduced solely to precedent.


What is needed is nothing less than a breakthrough in philosophy, a new epistemological theory that explains how brains create explanatory knowledge....

Epistemology is a branch of philosophy that deals with the nature of knowledge.

Unfortunately, what we know about epistemology is contained largely in the work of the philosopher Karl Popper and is almost universally underrated and misunderstood.... For example, it is still taken for granted by almost every authority that knowledge consists of justified, true beliefs and that, therefore, an [artificial intelligence] must include some process during which it justifies some of its theories as true, or probable, while rejecting others as false or improbable.... The prevailing misconception is that by assuming that ‘the future will be like the past’, it can ‘derive’ (or ‘extrapolate’ or ‘generalise’) theories from repeated experiences by an alleged process called ‘induction’. But that is impossible...

...the truth is that knowledge consists of conjectured explanations — guesses about what really is (or really should be, or might be) out there in all those worlds. Even in the hard sciences, these guesses have no foundations and don’t need justification. Why? Because genuine knowledge, though by definition it does contain truth, almost always contains error as well.

What's so fascinating to me is that knowledge on this account isn't the ability to make predictions based on the past. It isn't inducted, only. Rather, it's an ability to create new explanations that aren't warranted by any known precedent. Those explanations may of course ultimately prove to be wide of the mark.

Or not.

But in contrast to any artificial intelligence (so far!), the human mind, by incorporating error, knows what it knows. And if artificial intelligence is ever to approach the human prowess for developing useful explanations, it will according to Deutsch have be tolerant of misinformation and of ambiguities, the sand-in-the-gears for any generative process based solely on logic.

Deutsch calls this ability to "violate predetermined constraints" and to transcend the past, "creativity." It's the very thing the IdeaFestival celebrates year after year. His essay may be found here.

Stay curious.


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Image: Geoff Oliver Bugbee