Which Famous Paintings Are The Most ‘Creative’? This Formula Might Have The Answer

ahmed elgammal

Salvador Dalí’s unique paintings might be explained by his eccentric personality; Wassily Kandinsky’s eye for color might be explained by synesthesia. We tell these stories about artists because the idea of the creative genius is appealing, but might creativity be a more formulaic process than we’ve imagined?

Ahmed Elgammal, associate professor of computer science at Rutgers, co-built an algorithm to quantify creativity, ranking art history’s paintings based on their originality and impact. The findings weren’t entirely surprising; Mondrian, Malevich and others whose works are mostly composed of geometric shapes ranked higher than Pissarro, Cézanne, and even Picasso, whose works often build upon or subvert more traditional figures and subjects. George O’Keefe’s flowers — more abstract representations of the objects than have been popularly depicted before — ranked higher than Degas’ Parisian city-dwellers.

According to the formula, the artists who’ve spawned the most creative paintings of all time include Edvard Munch (of “The Scream” fame), Chuck Close, and M.C. Escher.

But, the algorithm isn’t perfect — in order to successfully judge creativity, its creators first had to choose a definition for the word and run with it. Rather than focusing on say, psychological creativity, or the creativity of individuals, they stuck with determining whether specific works were historically significant. The factors considered were whether a piece was “original” and “influential.” So, just because “The Scream” is judged more historically impactful than “Starry Night” doesn’t mean Van Gogh was a less creative thinker than Munch.

The goal of the study, according to Elgammal, was to build a machine that could judge the significance of an artwork the way a learned human might. He told The Huffington Post in an email, “the ultimate goal of the AI research is to make machines that have perceptual, cognitive, and —> Read More

SHARK ATTACK! The Risk is Tiny. The Coverage, and Fear, Are High. Why?

It’s the Summer of the Shark! Again. And just in time for Shark Week. An unusual spate of attacks off North Carolina, bumping up against the July 4th “Hey, Let’s Go To the Beach” holiday, has put galeophobia back in the news. And as always, the news coverage leads with the dramatic story of an individual victim and frightening detail about the terror of the attack, and only later notes that the fear is hardly commensurate with the risk. Which of course raises the question; why the alarmist coverage in the first place?
The reason for the coverage is that the idea of being attacked by a shark, unlikely as it is, is scary. But why, if the odds are so low? Because our perception of risk is not just about the numbers. It’s about emotions too. There is no better example of how risk perception is a more a matter of emotion than quantitative reasoning than this classic illustration of how our fears sometimes don’t match the facts.
Fact: shark attacks are rare. Fatal shark attacks are REALLY rare. The International Shark Attack File recorded 72 confirmed unprovoked shark attacks on people in 2014, and only 3 deaths, worldwide. You are at greater risk of dying from…almost anything else…than from being attacked by a shark.
But then, you probably know that. The infinitesimally low statistical likelihood of being attacked by a shark is noted in all the Summer of the Shark stories. So when the New York Times asks Should Swimmers Worry About Sharks, they know, and you know, that the answer is, basically NO. At least, not based on the numbers.
But that’s what makes shark attack such a brilliant example of the emotional nature of the psychology of risk perception. The numbers —> Read More

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