Margaret Boden, a master at bring ideas from artificial intelligence and cognitive science to the masses, has done it again. In The Creative Mind: Myths and Mechanisms (published by Routledge, 2003), she has produced a well-written, well-argued review and synthesis of current computational theories relevant to creativity. This book seems appropriately pitched for students in survey courses and for the intelligent lay public. And if ever there were a topic suitable for bridging the gap between researchers adh the layperson, this is surely it: What is creativity, and how is it possible? Or, in computational terms (the terms that Boden argoes ought to be applied), what are the processes of creativity?
We believe that in order to analyze creative reasoning, one needs a theoretical framework in which to model thinking. To this end, we propose using a computational approach rooted in case-based reasoning. This paradigm is fundamentally concerned with memory issues, such as remindings from partial matches at varying levels of representation and the formation of analogical maps between seemingly disparate situations—exactly the kinds of phenomena that researchers up to, and including, Boden have highlighted as central to creativity.
Our research suggests that creativity is not a process in itself that can be turned on or off; rather, it arises from the confluence and complex interaction of inferences using multiple kinds of knowledge in the context of a task or problem and in the context of a specific situation. Much of what we think of as “creativity” arises from interesting strategic control of these inferences and their integration in the context of a task and situation.
These five aspects—inferences, knowledge, task, situation, and control—are not special or unique to creativity but are part of normal everyday thinking. They determine the thinkable, the thoughts the reasoner might normally have when addressing a problem or performing a task. In a specific individual, more creative thoughts will likely result when these pieces come together in a novel way to yield unexplored and unexpected paths that go “beyond the thinkable”.
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