Dungeons & Dragons and IT
"So, my background is cognitive science, or it isn't. You don't know."
Everyone who posts on /. builds up a profile of who they are. From the areas they post in you can work out their interests and areas of knowledge.
From the source code on their web sites you can see the sort of tools they use and hence work out how computer literate they are, whether they prefer windoze or command line etc. User names are generally unique and Google is your friend.
These are the things I worked out: Your background is IT, most likely a programmer/coder. I'd put money on you being pretty competant with anything command line and probably prefer vi as an editor. You play / used to play FRP's probably specifically D&D. ..and there is zero evidence you work in cognitive science, particularly from the neuroscience end. Most IT people dabble in AI sort of things somewhere in their career and it's covered in most degrees these days. So thats a fair bet generally and particularly on /.
My relevant background is that I work as research scientist in cognitive science and I'm just finishing off my Masters in that field. Which as well as covering the usual AI stuff you come across in comp.sci. also included a pile of neuroscience from psychology. Of course what you dont know are my other degrees or how long I've used computers for although the latter you could get some idea of from /. postings and perhaps the web. :-)
However, getting back to the main point, my initial complaint was a simply BAD example about creativity. What was put up as a boundary in helping creativity was simply no such thing. Maybe the poster meant that supplying a context enables a difficult open task to become more constrained and hence simpler and if that was the case then fair enough. But that has jack all to do with creativity.
Most evidence points to creativity being due to 'not-normal' brain function. If 'normal' brains run according to "laws / rules" then creative individuals typically lie well outside the bell curve. The savant is at the far end of that scale. Empirical evidence is pointing toward a trade off between high intelligence/creativity and normal function. There is typically a price to pay and the increased placticity/flexibility in conciousness (and unconcious behaviour) is reflected in decreased ability in other areas such as social skills (which do have a lot of 'rules' )and communication. Most readers of /. would be acutely aware of this. :-) There are a small few who get the benefits without too much cost but we are talking a limited resource here (one brain inside one skull) and gains in one area are usually offset.
Although creativity is a difficult concept to quantify and measure a few things are apparent. Creativity involves ignoring normal links between related areas. It involves what we say as 'seeing things in a differnt light', the ability to adjust the context of an idea or memory and associate it with typically unrelated ideas. Or the ability to link two disparate concepts. Now this is at odds with our brains general "rule" of trying to match each idea, experience or thought to existing ones. Our brains have evolved to pattern match everything, it's one of the reasons we are so smart as a species. As soon as see/experience something our brain tries it's hardest to match it previous experiences and memories. That's what happenng when I refered to the cuing in the initial example. When people see/read those words they are instantly recognised and related to previously known events/memories. In particular somantic memories which are the memories of things. This triggers a cascade of activity in areas related to those words and hey presto, you can now make up a story by tying together things you already know. You see this in kids alot when they make up stories and there aren't the complex memories that form the normal relationships (as viewed by an adult experienced brain) between ideas. To adults they are really stupid but that's because they don't fit our model of the world and how it is. We have this very realistic model because we have lived in it more and we have learnt how it works. Our brains have evolved to model the world as best as possible because it's a good survival trait. Unfortunately the price we pay is that as we 'mature' we can loose the ability to be creative and become set in our (successful) ways. It takes great effort to remain creative unless you have genes on your side. Being creative runs the risk of doing something in an untried way that might not be as good as the tried and tested way. Evolution has something bad to say about that... :-)
It's all a tricky area and we are slowly teasing it apart as our understanding of neuroscience increases. But one sure sign of how close AI and the Comp. Sci. field is getting in this area is the stunningly underperformance of AI in the last 50 years. It's just depressing and I'll support Minskys views on this one, "not more stupid little robots".
AI is simply missing something fundamental and we don't know what it is..yet. ..and that's why I get pissed off with IT types commenting on cognition, intelligence, creativity, etc. I just go by their track record. So far they have been as useful as tits on a bull.