Recently, someone asked Can computers be programmed to be creative? on Philosophy SE. The answers seem to be divided into two competing theories:

  • If creativity is defined by the ability to create an artistic artifact, both machines and humans can be creative.
  • If creativity is defined by the "process" being used to create the artistic artifact, then humans can be creative, but machines are not creative because they do not follow the specific "process" that humans use.

It seems that the first definition of creativity ("ability to create") is more plausible to me than the second definition (which seems to worry about "implementation details" too much), so I lean towards that. However, there are many processes in the real world that can also create artistic artifacts. We can imagine a sunset being declared as pretty and beautiful and inspiring (and in fact, many artists have painted pictures of sunsets). The sunset would seem to be "creative" then. There are, of course, other examples (diamonds, flowers, etc.), but nature does seem to be able to create. Therefore, is it "creative"?

It, of course, seems like a repugnant conclusion to me to declare all of nature to be creative, since it would devalue the very idea of creativity. But, it seems to be logically consistent with the idea of treating machines as being creative too. It might even be a "purer" form of creativity, since humans are responsible for building and programming machines (and thus could influence the final output), but cannot reliably control or shape nature.

Does a person who supports "machine creativity" have to accept "natural creativity" as well? Or is there a distinction between the artistic artifacts of the machines and the artistic artifacts of nature that can lead to one to accept the possibility of "machine creativity" while denying "natural creativity"?

  • humans "cannot reliably control or shap nature"? we do it all the time. some of the elements of the periodic table are human inventions, I believe. cloning, gene editing, etc. sorry this was supposed to be a comment.
    – user20153
    Oct 1, 2016 at 15:30
  • re: "artistic artifact". can you give a single instance of a machine producing such an artifact? if a machine were to produce a lovely painting, I would be strongly inclined to either give credit to the programmer, or to chalk it up to randomness. I would not view the machine as "responsible for the artistry. Monkeys at typewriters, Shakespeare.
    – user20153
    Oct 1, 2016 at 19:19
  • re: "artistic artifacts of nature". there is no such thing inho. nature is blind; the things it produces that we deem beautiful were not produced according to an artistic or other design, and so cannot be "artistic". interesting question, though.
    – user20153
    Oct 1, 2016 at 19:23
  • see en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synthetic_element. of course one could argue that these elements are not truly natural, since they do not exist in nature. But they do exist, and they presumably obey the laws of nature, so why not?
    – user20153
    Oct 1, 2016 at 19:26
  • 1
    This is a definition game. The word was imbued with nuanced qualities by humans. The word has a certain flavor as it is commonly used, being for example the implicit conditions which must be held for that which produces to be deemed creative. For example, that the producer is sentient, is deliberate, etc. Either define creativity or make distinctions between different forms of it. Oct 7, 2016 at 19:37

1 Answer 1


If determinism is true, creativity is an illusion because thoughts are natural phenomena. It follows that Mozart's masterpiece is no different from a beautiful sunset in the sense that they are both natural wonders: none of the processes that create these beautiful things transcends natural laws.

Is the little ugly duckling being creative for growing up to be a swan, or is he just being himself? Is a machine creative, or is it made to work differently? Is a person creative, or is he born different?

Creative people are born different; many of those who are different are also obnoxious to various degrees. One common characteristic of these creative societies - or organizations - is that people who are different are not ruthlessly pressured to conform and are tolerated by circumstances to have a little place where they can be themselves.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .