Most people feel that creativity involves an illogical imaginative force. The ancient Greeks and Romans believed that the act of creation came from divine inspiration, while Aristotle wrote that all creative genius must contain a hint of madness. So it seems odd to discuss creativity in the context of computers, which are distinctly sane and not at all divine.
However, ideas are changing. Contemporary theories of creativity define it as the ability to perceive the world in original ways and to find patterns and make connections. All things that sound a little more achievable for a computer.
Here we take a look at some of the most fascinating examples of algorithmic art and its applications.
Musical pioneer and composer Brian Eno creates generative music that can be downloaded as an app.
"Can machines make music?" he wondered. Scape and Reflection came from his explorations of that question. Scape allows users to assemble their own musical building blocks which respond intelligently to one another, while Reflection is an "endless and endlessly changing" composition that's soothing and eerie.
Glitch art is created from a glitch or error in a computer system. This collision of chaos and perfection creates a startling conflict. For example, in Postcards from Google Earth artist Clément Valla exhibits original images from Google Earth that present the planet as a strange, deformed thing; this art can be seen as a metaphor for the ways computers have altered how we see our surroundings.
Once Google opened the source code for its Deep Dream computer vision program, these hallucinogenic images began appearing everywhere. The software is designed to detect faces and other patterns in images, then enhance what they see. The oft-observed resemblance between the resulting images and LSD-induced hallucinations is interesting – it suggests that there may be similarities between artificial neural networks and certain layers of the visual cortex.
Some people already do. Norwegian design studio Neue create generative brand identities based on elements of their clients' stories. For example, the logo for the Norwegian Academy of Music is inspired by an infinite soundwave and derived from real sounds on the college's premises and the dynamic logo of Visit Nordkyn uses live meteorological data in order to change with the elements, just like the peninsula itself.
It would be foolish to regard creativity as an exclusively human phenomenon: computers have provided us with the tools to recreate and reimagine our world; it's time we started thinking outside the box.