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Wed 20 Feb 2008, 5:30pm–7:00pm

Where: Gus Fisher Gallery, 74 Shortland Street, Auckland CBD

Ticket Information:

  • Admission: Free

Listed by: Emma Timewell

What is creativity, and how is it possible for it to occur? One new idea may be creative, while another is merely new: what's the difference?

Creativity is the ability to come up with ideas (or to fashion artefacts) that are new, surprising, and valuable. There are three ways in which creative ideas can be generated, and the type of surprise that ensues is different in each case.

Most definitions of creativity say that it involves unfamiliar combinations of familiar ideas. On many occasions, that is true. But "combination-theories" cannot explain the deepest cases of creativity. These involve the exploration and transformation of conceptual spaces. Conceptual spaces correspond to different styles of thinking, including artistic genres (ways of painting, composing, dancing), scientific theories, and tax-systems. There are many ways - some general, some domain-specific – of exploring and changing them.

Whether an idea is "valuable" is often highly controversial, opinions differing between individuals and/or cultural groups. In some cases, science can explain why we have certain values (preferences); but usually it cannot. In either case, however, it cannot *justify* those values. In that sense, creativity must always lie beyond the reach of science. But if we want to know how it is possible for creative ideas to arise, then science can give us some answers.

Conceptual spaces, and ways of transforming them to produce new ones, can be precisely described by using concepts drawn from AI, or artificial intelligence. So can various associative mechanisms that underlie combinational creativity. The human mind is vastly richer, and more subtle, than the most powerful computers. But computational ideas are helping us to understand how human originality is possible. We can now say something specific about how "intuition" works.

Margaret A Boden is Research Professor of Cognitive Science at the University of Sussex. She is a member of the Academia Europaea, a Fellow (and past Vice-President) of the British Academy, a Fellow of the American Association for Artificial Intelligence, and a past Chairman of Council of the Royal Institution of Great Britain. She holds degrees in medical sciences, philosophy, and psychology (including a Cambridge ScD and a Harvard PhD), and three honorary Doctorates (from Sussex, Bristol, and the Open University). In the New Year Honours list of 2002 she was awarded an OBE "for services to cognitive science."

Her writing has been translated into 20 foreign languages, and she has given lectures, and media-interviews, across North and South America, Europe, India, the USSR, and the Pacific. Her latest books are "The Creative Mind: Myths and Mechanisms" (2nd edn, expanded, Routledge: 2003) and "Mind As Machine: A History of Cognitive Science" (Oxford University Press: 2006). She has two children and four grandchildren, and lives in Brighton.

Professor Boden is a Hood Fellow, sponsored by the Lion Foundation, and hosted by The University of Auckland’s Departments of Philosophy and Psychology, and the National Institute for Creative Arts and Industries.

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