#TCOC (The Cusps Of Creativity, January 14, 2017):

Can you be creative consciously? Can verification of an idea be fully worked out in the unconscious state itself? Does P equal NP; & is proving computationally more intensive than verifying? Can a system be called creative if it explores all possibilities (with brute force) before selecting one? What, then, is creativity for machines? Might daydreaming have underlying processes akin to stochastic optimization or simulated annealing? Are there different types of creativity? Can it be defined? Is a non-obvious step essential? Can a software program be granted a patent? Is Transfigured Night still surprising? Can one be technically incompetent, and yet have a flow experience? Do we search for answers differently in the arts from the sciences? Is creativity domain specific? Are heuristics always ‘directional’? Is the topography of the unknown solution space often rugged? Do neural networks run algorithms? Is evolution creative? What does culture do? What is the simplest creativity problem that we do not understand? Is artificial creativity possible? Would such a system classify differently? What do you expect? SynTalk thinks about these & more questions using concepts from theoretical computer science (Dr. Deeparnab Chakrabarty, Microsoft Research, Bangalore), cognitive neuroscience (Prof. Arne Dietrich, American University of Beirut, Beirut, Lebanon), & theoretical physics (Dr. Anita Mehta, Kolkata).

Listen in…

SynTalk is pleased and privileged to have hosted the following SynTalkrs (in alphabetical order) on its #TCOC show.

Dr. Deeparnab Chakrabarty (theoretical computer science, algorithms) is currently a Researcher at Microsoft Research, Bangalore, in the Algorithms and Data Science Group. In March 2017 he would join the faculty of the Computer Science Department in Dartmouth College, USA. His research interests are in the broad area of theoretical computer science with focus on designing and understanding efficient algorithms using the lens of optimization. This spans the range of discovering new algorithms to analyzing existing algorithms for important problems arising in scenarios such as scheduling, auctions, property testing, and machine learning. Most problems that he works on arise in discrete optimization, and he is excited about how continuous optimization techniques have a lot to say in this context. Dr. Chakrabarty received a B.Tech. in Computer Science from IIT Bombay (2003) and a Ph.D. in the ACO (Algorithms, Combinatorics, and Optimization) program from Georgia Tech, USA (2008). He did his postdoctoral research at University of Pennsylvania (2010-2011), & University of Waterloo (2008-2010). He has recently been involved in organizing two workshops in areas such as ‘Games, Epidemics And Behavior’, & ‘Recent Advances in Algorithms and Complexity’. The former was an ICTS-Northeastern discussion meeting exploring the foundations of policy design for controlling epidemics and gaining a better understanding of information flow underlying the ongoing Cambrian-style explosion in online social media. The latter was focused on parametrized algorithms, dynamic algorithms, circuit lower bounds, (In)approximability and optimization methods in machine learning and big data.

Prof. Arne Dietrich (psychology, cognitive neuroscience) is a cognitive neuroscientist and a Professor in the Department of Psychology at the American University of Beirut (AUB), Lebanon. He obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Georgia, USA (1996). Using computational, cognitive and neural approaches, his research focuses on the neural basis of creativity (including flow experiences), emotional and cognitive changes induced by physical exercise, and altered states of consciousness. Specifically, he is known for the Transient Hypofrontality Theory (THT), the dismantling of current neuroimaging studies of creativity, and evolution/prediction models of creative thinking. He is the author of two books: ‘Introduction to Consciousness’ and ‘How Creativity Happens in the Brain’, both by Palgrave Macmillan. As part of the THT hypothesis, Prof. Dietrich proposes a new mechanism to establish the link between exercise & good mental health. He builds on the fundamental principle that processing in the brain is competitive and that the brain has finite metabolic resources. Using these ideas, he suggests that during exercise the extensive neural activation required to run motor patterns, assimilate sensory inputs, and coordinate autonomic regulation, results in a concomitant transient decrease of neural activity in brain structures, such as the prefrontal cortex, that are not pertinent to performing the exercise. He posits that an exercise-induced state of frontal hypofunction can provide a coherent account of the influences of exercise on emotion and cognition. Prof. Dietrich has also given numerous invited talks and keynote addresses around the world and his work has been featured in the international press, including the BBC, CNN, Guardian, New York Times, and National Geographic.

Dr. Anita Mehta (complex systems, physics of memory and perception, music) is a theoretical physicist who works on the complex behaviour of natural and intelligent systems. In the category of natural systems, she has played a pioneering role in granular physics, where her major contribution was the discovery of competition between independent and collective dynamical mechanisms of relaxation. In the category of intelligent systems, she has worked on memory storage and preservation, and where one of her major contributions is a theoretical model with the natural emergence of short- and long-term memory. She is currently working on the physics of cognition and neuroscience. Dr. Mehta completed her B.Sc. in Physics from Presidency College, University of Calcutta, & then went to acquire her M.Sc. & D.Phil. from University of Oxford, as a Rhodes Scholar. Before her return to a permanent position in India, she also did postdoctoral stints at IBM and the University of Cambridge. She has written a commissioned monograph for Cambridge University Press (CUP), edited two scientific books, & published about a hundred research papers. She is a Fellow of the American Physical Society (APS), and has served as the Indian Science Ambassador to the U.S. on behalf of the Indo-US Science and Technology Forum. Dr. Mehta has also held several visiting faculty  positions, awards and fellowships around the world; she was India’s first Radcliffe Fellow (at Harvard University). She is also a writer and a musician & holds ATCL, LTCL and LRSM diplomas in pianoforte performance. Dr. Mehta speaks English, Gujarati, Bengali, Hindi and French with native fluency, has given nearly 200 invited talks, writes widely for mainstream media and regularly reviews Western Classical musical concerts, in addition to conducting music appreciation classes at a variety of venues.

Note: Any & all errors in the brief profiles above are SynTalk’s own.

#TCOC mentionsThomas Alva Edison, Arnold Schoenberg, Kurt Gödel, Douglas Hofstadter, John Koza, & Stuart Shieber, among others.