The December 2022 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

Close bar

Computers Shown More Creative Than Humans

UC Santa Cruz professor David Cope has been working on software, called Emily Howell, that generates original and modern music. Using algorithms that mathematically mixes, recombines, and alters musical combinations, his music can often convincingly mimic the styles of the great classical composers such as Mozart and Bach. So if a machine can be as creative as we are, is a "soul" really needed to be artistic?

1 min read
Computers Shown More Creative Than Humans

Photo: Catherine Karnow/Miller-McCune

UC Santa Cruz emeritus professor David Cope has for 20 years been working on software, called Emily Howell, that generates original and modern music. Using algorithms that mathematically mixes, recombines, and alters musical combinations, his music can often convincingly mimic the styles of the great classical composers such as Mozart and Bach.

That said, his work has generated a hostility from those who believe creativity is something a machine could never have, arguing that only humans can compose music with 'liveliness' and 'soul'. What I particularly find interesting about the article Triumph of the Cyborg Composer is that it shows the strong prejudices we have against anything that belittles the meaning and spirituality of our lives. The world is flat, earth is the center of the universe, and we all have souls that can't be bestowed onto robots.

What attracted me to this article wasn't the enjoyable music examples by Emily Howell that you can download, but this precursor to the modern-day Spanish Inquisition us robot creators and AI researchers will perhaps one day face.

    "We are so damned biased, even those of us who spend all our lives attempting not to be biased. Just the mere fact that when we like the taste of something, we tend to eat it more than we should. We have our physical body telling us things, and we can't intellectually govern it the way we'd like to," he says. In other words, humans are more robotic than machines. "The question," Cope says, "isn't whether computers have a soul, but whether humans have a soul."
The Conversation (0)

The Bionic-Hand Arms Race

The prosthetics industry is too focused on high-tech limbs that are complicated, costly, and often impractical

12 min read
Horizontal
A photograph of a young woman with brown eyes and neck length hair dyed rose gold sits at a white table. In one hand she holds a carbon fiber robotic arm and hand. Her other arm ends near her elbow. Her short sleeve shirt has a pattern on it of illustrated hands.

The author, Britt Young, holding her Ottobock bebionic bionic arm.

Gabriela Hasbun. Makeup: Maria Nguyen for MAC cosmetics; Hair: Joan Laqui for Living Proof
DarkGray

In Jules Verne’s 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon, members of the fictitious Baltimore Gun Club, all disabled Civil War veterans, restlessly search for a new enemy to conquer. They had spent the war innovating new, deadlier weaponry. By the war’s end, with “not quite one arm between four persons, and exactly two legs between six,” these self-taught amputee-weaponsmiths decide to repurpose their skills toward a new projectile: a rocket ship.

The story of the Baltimore Gun Club propelling themselves to the moon is about the extraordinary masculine power of the veteran, who doesn’t simply “overcome” his disability; he derives power and ambition from it. Their “crutches, wooden legs, artificial arms, steel hooks, caoutchouc [rubber] jaws, silver craniums [and] platinum noses” don’t play leading roles in their personalities—they are merely tools on their bodies. These piecemeal men are unlikely crusaders of invention with an even more unlikely mission. And yet who better to design the next great leap in technology than men remade by technology themselves?

Keep Reading ↓Show less