Searching and creating

We distinguish between inventions and discoveries. You can own the intellectual property rights to an invention, but not to a discovery (you can’t patent the discovery of mercury or selenium, for instance). Inventions are meant to be created, and discoveries are meant to be sought for. But sometimes, the line between invention and discovery is blurry.

We cannot own the rights to mathematical structures or theorems, since they follow directly from axioms. Anyone with a mathematical education would come to the same results within the same axiomatic system. The creation of a mathematical theorem can be said to be a search process, hence the term “discovery” and not “invention”.

We can own the rights to music and paintings, since these are considered to be inventions. But isn’t the process that leads to a painting or work of music being created also a search process? Doesn’t the artist search for possible combinations that work together, in a — albeit very large and continuous — search space? But this is considered to be creation/synthesis rather than search.

The software developer is, at least sometimes, somewhere in between. A vision of a user interface that interacts with end users in a certain way can perhaps be said to come from the same large, continuous space as music and paintings come from. But given the constraints imposed by such a vision, and by the platform on which the system is to be built, the available libraries, the languages, etc, I would say that the construction of much of desktop/consumer software is a search problem. We look for combinations of components that fit the constraints, and when we have decided on this combination, we must connect the pieces together correctly. The space of possible solutions here, at least for someone who follows good design principles, is in essence much smaller than the music/painting search space. Of course there are considerations of taste and style, but they are completely irrelevant to the compiled product. They are a programmer aid.

Artificial intelligence problems are defined as search problems. But what are search problems, and what are “creational” problems, precisely? Is it merely a question of the size of the search/design space?

Category: Computer science, Philosophy | Tags: , , 4 comments »

4 Responses to “Searching and creating”

  1. Richard Hayden

    “Is it merely a question of the size of the search/design space?”


  2. johan

    Justify, please?

  3. Richard Hayden

    I think this is the conclusion you came to by yourself in the course of that entry! 😉

  4. Monomorphic — Values 2: Human reason is reactive

    […] finding solutions and validating solutions. In finding solutions, sometimes we apply reason as a search process, that is, we work through a number of combinations until we find one that works, or until we give […]

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