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"And the stars are projectors, yeah, projecting our lives down to this planet Earth." - Modest Mouse


2.02.2004

Creativity Requires Chaos 

St. Louis Today has a really interesting article about Stephen Thaler, CEO of Imagination Engines, Inc. and inventor of the Creativity Machine. A contractor for General Dynamics, Thaler takes responsibility for many inventions including the Oral-B CrossAction toothbrush. He has "discovered substances harder than diamonds, coined 1.5 million new English words, and trained robotic cockroaches." However, these inventions were actually all discovered by his Creativity Machine.
"His first patent was for a Device for the Autonomous Generation of Useful
Information," the official name of the Creativity Machine..."His
second patent was for the Self-Training Neural Network Object. Patent Number
Two was invented by Patent Number One."

Thaler has created a program that introduces random amounts of noise into neural networks, thereby adding the spark necessary for leaps of intuition and creativity. Traditional AI programs have usually relied on strict, rule-based logics which are too rigid to allow for real creativity. Thaler has taken cues from the noise of the human brain and how it utilizes chaotic events to break the rules and make novel connections. Oddly enough he stumbled across this idea by murdering one of his neural networks.
So after work, Thaler went home and created the epitome of a killer application
- a computer program he called the Grim Reaper. The reaper dismantles neural
networks by changing its connection weights. It is the biological equivalent of
killing neurons. Pick off enough neurons, and the result is death.

On Christmas Eve 1989, Thaler typed the lyrics to some of his favorite
Christmas carols into a neural network. Once he'd taught the network the songs,
he unleashed the Grim Reaper. As the reaper slashed away connections, the
network's digital life began to flash before its eyes. The program randomly
spit out perfectly remembered carols as the killer application severed the
first connections. But as its wounds grew deeper, and the network faded toward
black, it began to hallucinate.

The network wove its remaining strands of memory together, producing what
someone else might interpret as damaged memories, but what Thaler recognized as
new ideas. In its death spiral, the program dreamed up new carols, each created
from shards of its shattered memories.

"Its last dying gasp was, 'All men go to good earth in one eternal silent
night,'" Thaler said.


Comments:
I find this site extremely interesting. What this means is that Thaler's neural network contraptions are generating useful fibs (i.e., confabulations) via internal noise. See http://imagination-engines.com/confabulation.htm
 
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