For the past 40 years or so, most of the brainpower in artificial intelligence research has focused on what Simon Colton calls the problem-solving paradigm. The most celebrated feats in AI Deep Blue’s win against Garry Kasparov in chess; IBM’s Watson’s victory against Ken Jennings in a game of Jeopardy!—have involved computers matching wits with humans to solve a set of cognitive challenges. Colton and his colleagues work in a different paradigm, one he calls artifact creation.
The accomplishments of the problem-solving paradigm are measurable and impressive. But as skeptics of artificial intelligence often point out, strategy games and trivia contests don’t quite strike at the heart of what it means to be human. Creative genius, on the other hand, is one of those qualities people often name when trying to explain what sets us apart. But creativity, it turns out, comes more naturally to software than most people think.