Intelligence and Creativity

Joseph at Rationalizing the Universe explores the modern formulation, rooted in Goedel’s Theorem of logical incompleteness, of living with uncertainty. The following discussion ensued:


You point out correctly that Goedel’s theorem is restricted to a fairly narrow problem: proving that a proof system is “correct” – i.e. – that its axioms and operations are consistent. In other words, we can’t take a set of axioms and apply the operations to disprove any other axiom.

This seems to lead to the conclusion that we can’t trust our proofs of anything, which means that there are no guarantees that our expectations will be met. Unfortunately, expectations are undermined by many other problems, among them determination of initial conditions, noise and adaptation. The last is the special bete noir of sociology, as people will often violate social norms in order to assuage primitive drives.

At this point in my life, I am actually not at all troubled by these problems. Satisfaction is not found in knowing the truth, it is found in realizing creative possibilities. If we could use mathematics to optimize the outcome of social and economic systems, we would have no choices left. Life would become terribly boring. So what is interesting to me is to apply understanding of the world to imagine new possibilities. Mathematics is a useful tool in that process, particularly when dealing with dumb matter.

This brings me back to the beginning of the post: you state that “mathematics is the unspoken language of nature.” If there is anything that Goedel’s theorem disproves, it is precisely that statement. Mathematics is a tool, just as poetry and music are tools. At times, both of the latter have transported my mind to unseen vistas; mathematics has never had that effect.


You raise a very interesting point; if we could optimise everything then would we take all of the joy out of being…. you may well be right. I know I get a lot of my satisfaction from the quest to know more. Although I disagree that Godel’s theorems disprove my original statement in this sense; language is essentially about describing things. That is why you can have different languages but they are easily translatable…. bread/pan/brot etc…. we all know what they mean because they all describe the same thing. In exactly the same way, mathematics describes things that actually exist; that isn’t to say nature is mathematics at all – mathematics is the language of nature but it is just as human in its construction as the spoken word. But is matter not matter because a human invented the label? Matter is matter.

To be, these theorems don’t break down all of our proofs; but what they do show is a vital point about logic. One which I think is going to become and increasingly big issue as the quest to understand and build artificial intelligence increases – can we every build a mind as intelligent as a humans when a human can know the answer to a non-programmable result? We hope so! Or rather I do – I do appreciate it’s not for everyone


I appreciate your enthusiasm, but I must caution that the mathematical analogies in classical physics cannot be extended in the same way to the quantum realm. Richard Feynman warned us that there is no coherent philosophy of quantum mechanics – it is just a mathematical formulation that produces accurate predictions. Ascribing physical analogies to the elements of the formulation has always caused confusion. An extreme example was found in the procedure of renormalization, in which observable physical properties such as mass and charge are produced as the finite ratio of divergent integrals.

Regarding human and digital intelligence: one of the desirable characteristics of digital electronics is its determinism. The behavior of transistor gates is rigidly predictable, as is the timing of clock signals that controls that propagation of signals through logic arrays. This makes the technology a powerful tool to us in implementing our intentions.

But true creativity does not arise from personal control, which only makes me loom bigger in the horizon of others’ lives, threatening (as the internet troll or Facebook post-oholic) to erase their sense of self. Rather, creativity in its deepest sense arises in relation, in the consensual intermingling of my uniqueness with the uniqueness of others.

Is that “intelligence?” Perhaps not – the concept itself is difficult to define, and I believe that it arises as a synthesis of more primitive mental capacities, just as consciousness does. But I doubt very much that Artificial Intelligence is capable of manifestations of creativity, because fundamentally it has no desires. It is a made thing, not a thing that has evolved out of a struggle, spanning billions of years, for realization. Our creativity arises out of factors over which we have no control: meeting a spouse-to-be, witnessing an accident, or suffering a debilitating disease. We have complex and subtle biochemical feedback systems which evolved to recognize and adjust to the opportunities and imperatives of living. We are a long way from being able to recreate that subtlety in digital form, and without those signals, meaningful relation cannot evolve, and thus creativity is still-born.

Dawn of the Soul

Midi Berry’s newly published Nights of the Road examines the mystical power of feminine devotion. The nominal protagonist of the tale is Sarah, a British refugee from bad relationship mojo, taking up a life as a psychotherapist in Los Angeles. The power driving her spiritual awakening, however, arises from the 17th century, where her ancestor Frances Coke earns the regard of those surrounding the Stewart court as its excesses succumb to Parliamentary discipline.

When I was a child, my father declaimed modern music by observing that it was the discipline of classical forms that allowed composers to create pieces that challenged listeners without alienating them. This seems a suitable metaphor for the structure of Midi’s work.

In both time streams, Berry injects the theme of a woman committed to a natural love with a devoted partner, but challenged in her course by the passionate attentions of an unstable and possessive creative genius. In the Stewart Court, Frances is frustrated in her love by an arranged marriage, albeit to a man who – as long as the forms of the relationship are honored – kindly accepts her devotion to another. In modern Los Angeles, Sarah escapes a political marriage through emigration, and falls captive to the reborn creative genius whose attentions were frustrated by social strictures in the Stewart Court.

The novel evolves through a series of tetes-a-tetes between the romantic interests. Sarah employs the language of modern psychology as a shield against strong emotions, eventually drawing her two competitors – both previously members of a band called Nights of the Road (whence the title, in part) – into collaborative reconciliation. As for Frances, I found myself thinking that her attitudes were entirely too modern, but then realized that so were the attitudes of Beethoven and Brahms. Frances makes a decision early on in the book to believe in herself, and thus speaks her mind honestly throughout, and so perhaps reveals wisdom of the feminine heart that has been long suppressed.

I found myself at times wishing that Berry would bring us into some of the historical experiences discussed by Frances and her lover Robert. However, the emphasis of the book is on transformation of relationships, and there is a lot of valuable relationship modeling in the story line.

The most significant flaw in the story – and this is nit-picking – may be the lack of forecasting of Frances’s mystical ascension as her death nears. For those familiar with such events, this is foreshadowed by the affirmation by a noble protector that Frances’s beauty, compassion and devotion have brought her unsuspected admiration from the royal entourage. Unfortunately, for some the connection may be lost, and so her wandering down the psychic road as she nears death (whence again the title) may seem a little jarring, if not deus ex machina.

But the book’s final chapter is golden. Antony, the creative genius of Nights of the Road, manipulates masterfully Sarah’s emotions, and precious are the lyrics sung as reflections upon her impact on the men that love her.

Berry’s heart-felt tribute to reconciliation and redemption casts light on the challenges of being a muse, and presents wisdom that readers will usefully apply when seeking to understand and deepen their relationships. As the Brits would say: “Give it a go!”