The Creativity Code

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You might expect a book about the potential of AI to be a little dry, maybe a little too niche for a general reader... instead, it's a fascinating multidisciplinary journey into the notion and expression of creativity across time and through varied forms, from music and art, to mathematical theory and games. The principal question: could AI ever truly create something on its own? Could a machine ever step into the realm that some consider an essentially human characteristic: creativity? It's hardly a new question, but with the advances in tech, it seems ever more relevant, maybe even essential. Anyone who has even dipped a toe into sci fi genre might have a few concerns about truly autonomous machines... So, could it happen??

Well, maybe not. Or, at least, not yet. For now, no need to worry too much. Probably. 

What machines can do, whether directed via top down human created algorithms or bottom up systems that allow for machine learning, is amazing. If the advances in tech sometimes feel like just another part of modern living, then this book works to illuminate the incredible drive and imagination and hard work that goes into each step forward. The author's ability to convey the excitement of creative energy, whether human, machine, or a combination of both, makes the book a genuine page turner. There's a real sense of exploration, of what has been achieved by humans and/or machines in the past, what's going on right now, and what the pathways might be in the future. It feels like possibilities, like change, like a whole new way of thinking and being. This is a book about people challenging themselves and others, a whole history of innovation that keeps pushing to see what else is achievable, a world of creators that includes coders alongside the greatest artists and musicians. Lifting it all is the author's obvious enthusiasm and his clear desire to make the subject approachable without sacrificing its complexity. It's full of surprises and hints at even more to come.

Overall, the author's reasonable caution about AI's capacity for genuine creativity is somewhat determined by a definition and concept of creativity that seems entirely human. Until AI can feel emotion, can it truly create in the same way humans can? Perhaps these types of boundaries limit too far what we understand to be creative. Would it be enough for the human to bring their own emotion to the piece, as we do in our own individual reactions to art, music, even tech? There's a creative place in the human code that seems almost magical, but if nothing else this books ensures you never forget the sometimes years of work which underlies every invention. Until recently, those hours were determined by human effort, but increasingly the hard slog can be handed over to machines. How different will the creative process become as more and more of what we used to have to do ourselves becomes the realm of machines/AI? The evaluation of machine creativity is often framed as whether it's good enough to fool us, but the more machines become involved in the process, the more they become us, and we them. The question of whether that collaboration could become anything more is tantalising, but not entirely answered here. Creativity is a path, not a moment, so who can really know what is to come? The future is wide open. 

ARC via Netgalley
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The Creativity Code is a look at artificial intelligence, how it works, and what it might be able to do. Starting with what Ada Lovelace said about computing machines and creativity, Marcus du Sautoy goes through the achievements of AI so far, the mathematics that underpins machine learning, and explores the meaning of 'creativity', in order to look at whether computers will ever be able to be truly 'creative'. 

What unfolds is a book that crosses disciplines, touching upon computer science and programming, mathematical proofs and the storytelling nature of them, how art works and how it relates to chaos theory, and whether music can be computed, amongst other things. Written in a way that is open and accessible, The Creativity Code is not bogged down in technical jargon and only describes actual algorithms or other mathematical concepts where necessary. Instead, it focuses on crosses boundaries (describing a theorem like an adventure narrative, for example) and on looking at what AI can do and whether this is creative. Some of the most interesting parts are larger questions about where coders and computers have the control, knowledge, or creativity, and the kind of opposition to AI in areas such as art, music, and mathematics.

Deeply engrossing and informative, The Creativity Code takes a complex topic (AI and machine learning) and gives an interdisciplinary look at its past and future. Despite what the title and blurb imply, it isn't only about whether AI can be 'creative', but also about what creativity is, how disciplines are creative, what AI can currently do, and what this means for the future and for how AI can be developed further. Anyone interested in crossover between arts and sciences should give it a read, as well as those who care about the creative side of science or how automation is going beyond simple instructions. It is an accessible book on machine learning, but also a thoughtful look at the meaning of creativity, and this makes it quite remarkable.
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This was a fascinating, informative and engaging book.
I'm fascinated by AI and hear about it every day as work in a tech company.
This book help to have a better understanding of the potential and how it could be used in the creative field.
The book is well written, the explanations are clear and it was enthralling to read the analysis of the different fields of application.
Even if there are no solutions, just a look at what it could, this was a great read, one those book that you must read to have a look at the the future could be.
Highly recommended.
Many thanks to HarperCollins UK and Netgalley for this ARC
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A fascinating journey into art, how it intersects with mathematical algorithms, and whether we could take that one step further in having machines create it for us.

The book covers all things creative: from board games and paintings to music, books and even journalism. The author set these sections up well with relevant background on the subject and details of the attempts that we (as humans) have made to use computer programming to help us go further.

I got a bit lost when it went heavily into how music is composed but that's perhaps because I'm not a musician by any stretch. The book overall was very interesting for me to read. I've not studied mathematics primarily but touched on it during my Computer Science degree. It was nice to recognise some of the theorems mentioned (mainly by Fermat and Euclid) and understand them in the context.

I wouldn't say this is a book that provides any firm answers or has a definitive ending. It's a rather a study with a promise of what the future could one day hold (hopefully not Skynet).

P.S. I recommend the author and fans of this area watch the TV show 'Person of Interest'. It tells an incredible story with AI at it's core. It starts slow but it's totally worth it!
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