Thursday, 13 June 2013

Creativity - and its dark side I

The concept of creativity has always been surrounded by mystique. A thought that appears seemingly out of nowhere in often unrelated situations, and yet so welcome. Many people even ascribed its source to a god.

Still, under the perspective of cognitive dynamics it can be explained. And so, like much else in science, the previous mystery gets replaced by the awe before the sheer versatile complexity of nature.

To aid the understanding what follows, it may help the reader to go through the FAQs page  on the Otoom website for a primer, particularly on functionalities, abstractions, affinities and latency; they appear in that order. Not the full story by far, but it's a start.

State Law building, 50 Ann St, Brisbane, Australia. Its nickname is "Gotham City tower". Is that rendition a creative interpretation?

If there are thought structures (TSs) which define the content of a representative complex within the neurons (which is the result of some input), then, given the existence of ongoing dynamics, the non-existence of a cluster of TSs that could have been evoked is due to other TSs having been more influential.

The first question is, could the same input have been responsible for both - the existent TSs as well as the absent ones?

Since the emergence of a cluster is a function not only of input but also of the affinity relationships active within the functional scope of that neighbourhood, a certain input could indeed eventually create a cluster in one area but not in another.

The entire system is composed of neurons that are highly interconnected. It follows that outside the existent cluster there had been an insufficient effect from the input - in other words, there is latency but no instantiation of a re-representation. While the latency (ie, the non-instantiation) ensures non-representative clusters along the current timeline, it equally ensures the potential for a cumulative effect of affinities which at any given time lead to the formation of some other TS complex.

TSs of course not only occur in the grey matter of our brains but also in its white counterpart. Or, to put this another way, they are not only part of our conscious thought processes but they are also part of our subconscious.

Which leads to the next question: is it possible for latent structures to be a source of conscious thought?

For affinities to come into being they need an abundance of functional elements (the neurons in the wetware, the nodes in the computer program); they need connectivity; and they need the 'right' input, meaning input that represents a pattern, ie is not random. White matter fulfils the first condition (there are more neurons than in the grey matter) and it also possesses a high degree of connectivity. Which leaves us with the input.

The functional space of conscious TSs does not lend itself to random input, or any random data stream for that matter. There is also the distinct probability of potentially affinitive clusters. After all, the information content there has been derived from our subconscious via affinities in the first place.

The answer rests on the degree of variance within the conscious TSs such that an affinity event lies within the probability envelope of the subconscious TSs. Conscious TSs are more configured (since they rely on instantiated representative content) and hence possess less latency. Subconscious TSs on the other hand reside within a larger volume, have more latency, and in their ongoing dynamics are not restricted to preconfigured clusters.

If we take the affinities to be members of a set, and the conscious and subconscious clusters to be two particular sets, with the latter (B) being considerably larger than the former (A), we can express the issue as follows: what is more likely, one or more members of A occurring in B, or one or more members of B occurring in A?

In terms of probabilities the first scenario is more likely, provided we assume a finite and set pool from which all members of both sets are drawn. Although that assumption may seem rather inappropriate based on our analogy, it becomes less so once we consider that (a), the system is a dynamic one in which all information is a candidate for dispersal throughout the system on a continuing basis, and (b), the affinities (latent or otherwise) constitute the re-representative, ie processed, content of such input, that is to say, they have evolved under the same overall conditions and are subject to the same rules of complex, dynamic systems. In other words, we do have that pool from our analogy, except in our case the pool holds functionalities.

While realisations from latent affinities are not a certainty (after all, we are dealing with probabilities all the way through the process), these probabilities do not, cannot, have a zero value due to their very nature. Make the timeline long enough and some affinity relationship between a latent subconscious cluster and its conscious equivalent can develop. On the higher level of mental perception (ie, our human interpretation) there would be a train of thought suddenly being 'interrupted' by a seemingly new idea - except that the label 'new' only comes from our perception.

The latter excludes the subconscious by definition. So the idea is not 'new' at all; rather, it has been waiting in the wings all along, as it were. Hence creativity, the name given to that seemingly mysterious appearance of a novel idea, takes it mystery from the limited scope of our conscious thoughts, keeping all the other cognitive processes hidden from view. Yet they do exist, and under the right circumstances they pop into our awareness.

And the dark side? Because thoughts so suddenly appearing in our consciousness start their formation in the subconscious where our will to invite or suppress does not apply, we have no control over their presence. Our social constraints hold no sway, and still they are the children of nature; our nature.

To paraphrase Angela Carter, unbidden they come.

Creativity - and its dark side II 

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