Cognitive Science / Computer Science / Creativity / Incompleteness / Neuroscience / Philosophy / Science

Programmability and Creativity

On my philosophy blog, I have published an essay on creativity and its basis and the consequences for the philosophy of science. I investigate why it is possible that physical systems can exist for which a complete theory in terms of a set of laws is not possible. The reason is that systems can be “programmable”, changing their behavior depending on information received from the environment. This has consequences for the Philosophy of Science. Classical science is looking for invariable laws while the laws of such systems (which, i suppose, include human beings as well as human cultures) are subject to historical change, resulting in the science/humanities divide.

Creativistic Philosophy


The deeper reason for the possibility of creativity, I suppose, is the possibility of information storage and the possibility that the processing of information can depend on other information.

Physical systems can store information. They can change their state or configuration under the influence of interactions with other systems or with parts of themselves. The change in their configuration allows inferring something about the state of the influencing system. Therefore, the change can be viewed as storing information about the other (observed) system.

We observe information storage in animals and humans, specifically in their brains, as well as in computers, but generally, a large variety of physical systems can store information in some way.

If a system that has stored some information is exposed to additional information, what happens then may depend on the information stored before. For example, the reaction of an animal to some stimulus may depend on…

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3 thoughts on “Programmability and Creativity

  1. Some of this is outside my zone of expertise and downright understanding, but none the less, I found it extremely interesting. The link between cognitive science and literature is intriguing.

    • To put it simple: when you experience something (e.g. read something) the new information you get modifies what you know already and modifies how you will experience things in the future (at least if it was a good book). It changes the “software running in your head”. As a result, there are no fixed laws of thinking, the “laws of thinking” are changing all the time, depending on your experience (you are, in a sense, programmable) and are different in different people and in different cultures. One result of this is that trying to apply the approach of science (looking for fixed and unchanging laws) does not work in psychology and in the study of history and culture.

    • This is one of the ideas behind the Eurydice and Orpheus text: in that text, the “gods” who are powerful, cold, blind, lifeless and perfect, represent the unchanging laws of nature. They only give us the cold, stony way. Human Culture (represented by Orpheus’ song) on the other hand, creates a world of meaning. This is something the laws of nature cannot do. In the world of the natural laws, there is no change, they have no life, and there is nothing new. The human world, on the other hand is imperfect, full of gaps, but that means there is history and biography and there can be new things, there is creativity and this creates the human life and the human existence. The price we have to pay for it is that we are mortal. Immortality would result in the loss of a changing life. Eurydice chooses to pay this price because it is worth it.
      (Note that in the Prometheus text, the gods have a different meaning: there they stand for power and ideology. The common motive is that this is incompatible with creativity, the force represented by Prometheus).

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