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Just read Machinamenta: The Thousand-Year Quest to Build a Creative Machine by Douglas Summers-Stay!

It's not a long book, but it's got lots of interesting bits about the intertwining histories of augury, formal systems, games, creativity, language, art and artifice. In some of the most interesting bits, he talks about the very early interactions between approaches to fortune-telling in Africa and the Near East and early versions of the game Mancala. There were also great glimpses into the work on automata in Europe since the Renaissance, and early machine-generated poetry. And quick discussions about the relevant philosophy-of-mind and the various relevant approaches to AI, while grounding them in the historically relevant philosophical views. (ie, rule-based deductive systems are in a sense an outgrowth of the European Rationalist tradition)

He talks a lot about shifting standards of what counts as art, though this is sort of implicitly in a Western setting -- it would be interesting to talk about whether standards for what counts as "art" differed dramatically in different parts of the world. Or how about currently?

All in all, I'd say that this book is a good sampler of interesting things -- I wanted it to give more detail about any of the topics! Anything in here could easily be expanded into several books themselves.

And somehow, after all this, he didn't definitively put a box around what Counts As Art or Counts As Creativity, and source code for a Truly Creative Machine is not included with the book. Maybe that'll be in the second edition.

Links:
- Blog associated with the book
- Talk by the author on basically this subject matter

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Alex R

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