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Studio 360: Are Computers Creative? | [Kurt Andersen]

Studio 360: Are Computers Creative?

This week, Kurt Andersen asks: can computers make art? And if so, when? Will it be any good? We’ll meet a program named AARON that’s been painting for nearly 40 years, a filmmaker who replaced her editor with an algorithm, and professor who thinks what computers need is more Shakespeare.
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Publisher's Summary

Computers have taken over an astonishing array of tasks humans used to do. They fly our planes, give us directions, recommend books, set us up on dates. But can they tell us a good story?

Then, AARON is the world’s first cybernetic artist: an artificially intelligent system that composes its own paintings. Incredibly, the system is the work of one man, Harold Cohen, who had no background in computing when he began the effort.

After that, a group of computer scientists at Brigham Young University is attempting this by feeding their program images by the thousands and describing those images. Digital Artist Communicating Intent (she goes by DARCI) recognizes about 2,000 adjectives so far, including terms like peaceful, scary, and dark. The goal is to teach DARCI to pick out those visual qualities in artwork — and ultimately, to write algorithms modeling creativity for artificial intelligence.

A new film premiered this year that is truly one of a kind. whiteonwhite:algorithmicnoir was made by Eve Sussman and her collaborators, known as the Rufus Corporation. They shot most of the footage in Kazakhstan, improvising the script and taking advantage of the Soviet Union’s once-grand utopian architectural schemes, now crumbling. (Kurt Andersen comments that the locations look as though “somebody had given Godard $250 million.”)

Next, Patrick Winston is Principal Investigator at MIT's Computer Science & Artificial Intelligence Lab. He believes that creating better artificial intelligence is not a matter of more powerful processing: we have to teach computers how to think more like humans.

Then, Harvard physicist Lisa Randall is at the forefront of the search for new theories about how the universe works. She’s especially interested in dark matter and is involved in work at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. And although her work requires complex math and work on the theoretical level, she manages to write about the universe in layman’s terms.

And finally, Kurt Andersen talked with Lou Beach, an illustrator who turned his Facebook updates into super-short stories, each 420 characters long. They are collected in the new book 420 Characters. We asked for your 420-character stories and they’ve poured in. [Broadcast Date: December 17, 2011]

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