Exploding the Creativity Myth
The Computational Foundations of Linguistic Creativity
Bloomsbury Academic 2012
In these days of increasing automation, the prospect of obsolescence is an alarming one for those of us who make a living by stringing words together instead of doing something demonstrably useful. From this perspective, it’s tempting to think of “computers”, “language” and “creativity” as the constituents of a literary behemoth that writes that brilliant novel, and a million others besides, only in seconds and for no money, while human authors starve in their garrets.
The future as envisaged by Tony Veale in Exploding the Creativity Myth: The Computational Foundations of Linguistic Creativity (Bloomsbury Academic, 2012) is rather more benign. He sees the technology as assistive to human creativity, but able to inject a level of complexity and originality that cannot be achieved in static works of reference. In particular, by extracting patterns from large corpora – most obviously the World Wide Web – software can already, for instance, suggest expressions to achieve a certain effect, leaving it up to the human author to choose from the options available.
In this interview, we talk about some of the insights into human language use offered by the computational approach, and how it may lead us to renegotiate our concepts of what constitutes creativity. We discuss how existing forms, including idioms, cliches and metaphors, can be re-used and re-purposed, and what goes into making a new variant truly original.