Refreshingly, Du Sautoy is open about his doubts when evaluating the new AI. He asks: “Why do I still feel that anything to match human creativity is still way beyond the reach even of these amazing new tools?” At times, he casts AI as “the ventriloquist’s dummy providing the mouthpiece for our urge to express ourselves”. As he sees it, the creative heavy lifting is often being done by the programmer or the audience, and not the program itself. A strength of his analysis is that he manages to find a middle way between hype and anti-hype... It is also a conclusion that was available to Du Sautoy from the armchair, before he embarked on his enjoyable, circuitous journey: it turns out he didn’t need AI to reach his destination after all.
in his fascinating exploration of the nature of creativity, Marcus du Sautoy questions many of those assumptions. The Oxford mathematician, who is as adept at explaining complex theories in prose as he is on television, argues that so much of what we consider to be creativity consists of super-smart synthesis rather than the flash of inspiration sparked by falling apples. Fake it until you make it is not just the mantra of self-help gurus but also the basis of computational creativity.
Indeed, Du Sautoy assembles an eclectic array of evidence to show how that’s happening even now. It’s more than 20 years since the computer Deep Blue beat Garry Kasparov at chess, but a far more significant achievement — chronicled by Du Sautoy like a thriller — is in the Chinese game of Go, where you try to surround your opponent’s pieces on a 19x19 square board. Mastering the near-infinite complexities of that game was believed by many mathematicians to be beyond any machine’s capacity. Yet three years ago one called AlphaGo, invented by the British-born genius Demis Hassabis, not only beat the 18-times world champion Lee Sedol by four games to one, but also demonstrated the capacity to learn from, and counter, Sedol’s tactics even as games were in progress.
Du Sautoy is rightly cautious about the grander claims made for AI... He is always trying to judge whether or not AI is “creative”, and his standard for creativity feels unsophisticated and defensive... But The Creativity Code is only partly a book about AI art. It is as much about how AI thinks and how it does mathematics — du Sautoy’s own special subject. And on these topics, he is thoughtful and illuminating... he lets fall a cascade of fascinating snippets.
If you've been blithely thinking, as I have, that creativity is beyond the scope of Artificial Intelligence, this compelling book might overturn your vision of the future. Delving into recent developments in AI, as well as how algorithms work and the mathematical rules that underpin them, du Sautoy examines the question of the human creativity code and whether it will be cracked once machines have learned enough about how our brains respond to the art, music and words that move us. It is also a book about what it means to be human.