Creativity and The Machine (The Creativity Series)

NPR Studio 360: Are Computers Creative

“This week, Kurt Andersen asks: can computers make art? And if so, when?  Will it be any good?  We’ll meet a program named AARON that’s been painting for nearly 40 years, a filmmaker who replaced her editor with an algorithm, and professor who thinks what computers need is more Shakespeare.

It’s 4pm, and I’m in my car. I put on WYNC, the local NPR station, and the program Studio 360 begins. The question that starts the show is “Are Computers Creative?”, and the first thing you hear is about a computer named Brutus that is writing a novel.


Well, the creator of Brutus goes on to say that all Brutus is doing, through its algorithms and pathways and thingamajigs is a copy of what he and the other programmers have, well, programmed it to do. It’s aping the apes, so to speak.

Then there is the inventor of The Creativity Machine, Stephen L. Thaler, Ph.D. An A.I. (Artificial Intelligence) computer that he states that yes, machines CAN be original and creative, and they have the machine to prove it. They just send a jumbled signal through, and it produces music and more.

Then there is AARON above, that has been painting for almost 40 years (photo on the linked page); a machine named Darci that judges Art, and…well, the program link is above. Just click on the title and it will take you to the Studio 360 page. Well worth the listen.

So…what do you think? Welcome to the Machine?

Interview with the Writer: S. Nager on S. Nager

For those of you not in the know, I am Co-Hosting a BlogFest starting in October, 2011: The Rule of Three Fiction Writers Blog Challenge.  We created a shared world, the Town of Renaissance, and gave it it’s (slight) back story/history.

The idea is simple:  create three main characters, set in the structure of Renaissance. The writer can choose any genre to write in and any time period of the history of the town. Once a week write a 500-600 word story dealing with one of the main characters (first three weeks) and then in the fourth week, write a culminating story tying up the pieces. The original inspiration came from Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon, in which the same story was told by four different people from their own POVs. They all differed in the telling, but as a whole: what an amazing movie.

So…I hope you are interested in stretching your writing muscles. As to today’s post, on, McDuff:

The Rule of Three Co-Host Interviews:

Lisa Vooght
JC Martin
Damyanti Biswas

Portia Burton, illustrator

Lisa Vooght asked me a very interesting question  after I had posted JC Martin’s interview and was doing clean up on hers and Damyanti’s interviews:

“Are you going to answer the same questions and post them?”

Seriously, I had not been thinking about it at all. She thought it’d be silly of me (well, in other terms, but I’ll leave this as is) to not share my own comments to my questions. So, if you are tired of interviews: BLAME LISA! :)

As you should know by now, our BlogFest rules are up, and we’re taking names! The Rule of Three: Renaissance is now alive, and we hope the shared world approach appeals to you. The first prompt is all the way down at the bottom of the interview.

Click HERE for all the info you could possible need for our writing event. Send me any questions at my email address or leave it on the Rule of Three page and I or one of the others will do our best to answer you. So…time to get to know the last of the four hosts.

Can you tell the readers about Stuart Nager the author?

I still haven’t settled into the label of being a WRITER yet, or if I ever will. Right now, I find I’m doing exactly what I tell my students not to do: don’t compare yourself who is well known. It’s self defeating. I AM published (yes, only one short story does not a writer make, but…) and that does a lot for me. Next is to keep going this way.

How would you describe your writing style?

I am not sure how I would describe myself yet, as I’m still in the chameleon stage, writing in the creative voice that stirs me day to day. An outside reader may find I’m this way or that at this point in time (9/3/11). I do know I have an eclectic touch, I love using the ellipsis, tend to write some rambling sentences for effect, and I AM a Great Misspeller of Words. What I can say: I’m a writer who loves the feel of language, and how words can play together in ways one may not always see.

Are you a writer who blogs or a blogger who writes? Is there a difference?

Since you asked so nicely: I am a bit of a snob when it comes to this, and I don’t mean to disrespect some with my answer. I really don’t. I write, and blogging is the medium I am using, for the most part, to share my writing . Blogging is not my main goal in life, it’s a means to an end. I never thought I’d enter the world of the Blogger, which I DO think has it’s importance in the way we now connect with others.

What writer(s) have inspired you, and why?

  • Roger Zelazny for his bravery in breathless artistry, no matter what her wrote;
  • Michael Moorcock, for the savage writing chops he exhibited as a leader in the New Wave of Science Fiction writers of the 1960′s, and for giving me Elric and “Behold The Man”;
  • Isaac Asimov for just so much great writing (his Foundation series still stands as one great SciFi trilogy);
  • Kurt Vonnegut Jr. for his early work (sorry) that just threw me against the wall at times (still love “Slaughterhouse 5″ and “Sirens of Titan”);
  • Albert Camus, for the existentialist part of me with “The Stranger”;
  • Ray Bradbury, for the amazing “The Martian Chronicle” and so much more; a strong moral voice
  • Robert Heinlein solely for “Stranger In A Strange Land” and creating Grokking. If you have to ask, then you don’t grok. You should. Everyone should Grok!
  • (ps: yes, I used a lot of Wikipedia links. Read it or not, and I won’t excuse myself for being a bit lazy).

What are your thoughts about self publishing? Have you already or do you plan to?

I’ve been told that if I want to be book published, that self publishing will work against you. But, that was told to me way before this surge of Kindle and Nook and all the online readers. If it’s the ONLY way to get your work out to the public, then so be it. Like movies, a lot of times what a studio (publisher) puts out and hypes is not always what I’m going to enjoy. Usually, I’m good with the less publicized ones. So, like indie musicians and indie movie makers: it does not always have to come from the big guns.

I AM thinking of trying my hand at it. More to come on that end. I have a few ideas that I’d like to do with that before I open my big fat mouth.

On top of it, my first published fiction story is self published, so how bad can it be?

I know you like Blogfests. Can you tell us what draws you to them? What was your favorite one?

I’m mixed about blogfests, so it’s funny that Damyanti approached me with the idea of starting one together. What I do like about them is that they get me to write for their deadlines, as opposed to my just meandering and procrastinating. I like writing from prompts, as it gives me a focus, and I’m normally an all over the place thinker. My favorite one that I’ve done is the A to Z one, as it’s what really got me on the track to writing fiction again. I’m pretty sure Renaissance RO3 will trump that one once it’s all said and done.

What bothers me is that sometimes it’s just a numbers game. That’s why I’m excited about this: I hope that it’s much more about writing and telling a good story.  I see a lot of things where people visit blogs only to get them to visit theirs. I would like good storytelling and writing to be the primary goal here.

You are one of the co-runners of The Rule of Three Fiction Writers Blog Fest. What excites you about this, to take this on

I am a concept guy, and creating the town of Renaissance was a blast. So simple in it’s setting, but there is a depth allowed in what is NOT said in the description. I’ve loved many shared worlds in my reading (Thieves World; Wild Cards; Borderland; etc.) and I love the movie by Akira Kurosawa, Rashomon. Put them together with using the Rule of Three trope, and…yes, I am excited. Big time. #REN3 RULES!!! Plus, I got to stretch and make the video, might make another one, and it’s really…just too cool.

I have also really enjoyed working with Damyanti, Lisa and JC and Portia. Getting to know them all on a different level has been amazing.  It’s been a great experience, both in the planning and learning parts.

Anything else you’d like the reader to know?

I am in the process of writing my first novel at the request of an agent: she asked for “a great love story” and I am doing my best to please her; I have about six other novel ideas (ouch, yes, pun intended) to write, but a great love story comes first; I continue to perform as a Storyteller around the country, as well as work as a Creative Drama Teaching Artist (and yes, I’m open for bookings in both areas); and…really, just trying to stay creative.  I’ve got two stories I’m working on also for submission, plus a possible new show I’ll be working on with an amazing interactive theater director…so, busy busy busy.

If you could have a summit with world leaders, and they HAD to answer your questions, what two or three questions would you want answered most?

  1. Who do you really serve?
  2. Why are we still acting like barbarian hordes protecting resources and land, when the whole world is hurting?
  3. Would you give up your personal medical and other benefits if the people you serve (supposedly) could have theirs?


And, as promised, the first prompt for the blogfest is:

Click Here (yes, I am a stinker, but all the info is there).

Fiction Writing Blog Challenge: Teaser Video

I will be co-hosting, in October 2011, a month long Fiction Writers Blog Fest called The Rule of Three. We created a shared world set in the town of Renaissance, gave the setting, some of the history, the potential for the future…but the stories of the inhabitants of Renaissance, ah…those we’ll find out together. (For my teaser story, click HERE).

All the information will be unleashed on Wednesday, August 31st. Plenty of time to sign into the project. The Basics: create a 3 person story arc, one posting per week for three weeks (with prompts provided if you need them), each posting dealing with the story you are building towards through the POV of one of your three characters. There will be one more posting, the culmination of the story you’ve been telling week by week, one final burst into the story you’ve set in Renaissance.  Yes, very Rashomon.

The Shared World: Renaissance

An outpost town in the middle of nowhere, but many routes pass through or by the town. The desert is encroaching on one side (to the West), a once lush forest lies to the East and South. A large river runs through the forest, but it is not close by. Mountains are to the North, far, far away, and when you look towards them you don’t know if they are an illusion or not. Closer by are the smaller hill chain that fed the mining, creating caverns and passages underground.

The town has had a number of identities throughout it’s history: A trading post; a mining town; a ghost town until it was rediscovered; a thriving community; the scene of a number of great battles; the scene of one great tragedy (that led to it’s Ghost Town standing); a  town of great joys and celebrations, and so much more.

At this point in time, there is a general population of 333. A mixture of a community. It boasts families that have lived there for generations upon generations, but they are in the minority, and are not in positions of power. There are traders who have come back here, at the end of their many travails, to settle in. The new families and power players have taken this as a last refuge for themselves, hoping to rebuild lives torn apart on the way here.

EVERYONE has a secret!

Welcome to Renaissance.

Enjoy your stay.

Full Details Released On Wednesday, August 31st, here and on Tale Spinning



I almost always find something of interest to read on the Huffington Post’s Huffpost Education page. Today, the article that really caught my eye was for a $250,000 award, from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt,  to find creative ideas for ailing school systems in the United States and around the world.

Here is the Challenge (taken from their website):

Through the Global Education Challenge, we hope to find truly original ideas that can become tangible tools to improve student outcomes across the globe–both inside and outside the classroom. We’re building a community of innovators who share our goal, and together we’ll discuss ideas for groundbreaking solutions to help transform student learning, foster family engagement, and enhance teacher effectiveness. We’ll be giving away $250,000 in cash and prizes to the best ideas. Entries will be accepted from Thursday, May 19 through Friday, July 15th, 2011.

Schools all over the world are in crisis: learn more about the education issues we want to address.

It’s time to stop being passive complainers or naysayers. We have ideas: let’s share them. Sure, the money is an incentive, but…

WHY DO WE NEED THIS TO STIR US TO ACTION? Seriously. I’m asking that question. Why are we not united on positive problem solving goals, and working together, on a daily basis?

Think about it. Comment about it. Share with friends, family and colleagues. Then come back here and share. Send them here, and share.

Oh..and pass the link along. We need to develop that “community of innovators” and support support support a healthy school system.

Education Reform: Technology?

“The technology itself is not transformative. It’s the school, the pedagogy, that is transformative.” – Tanya Byron

“Why shouldn’t we give our teachers a license to obtain software, all software, any software, for nothing? Does anyone demand a licensing fee, each time a child is taught the alphabet? – William Gibson

“You must be the change you want to see in the world” -Gandhi

What Are 21st Century Skills

How often do you hear the statement: “It’s always been done it this way”?  How does that statement make you feel? Do you accept that, go with the flow, accept that as fact?

I’ve heard it often, not just in education institutions, but in all walks of life. It’s safe. It’s the known vs. the unknown. It’s also, in my opinion, suffocating, demoralizing and counter-productive.

Technology advances. Things do or can change.

Some of the arguments I’ve read, or heard first hand, comes from a belief that the technology will take over and become the lesson. It is A lesson, but it’s a tool, and how it is used in schools and life. A tool, used properly from all involved,  can make a difference  furthering our learning goals.

Just hand it over and say: “Here…new shiny toy. It makes us LOOK smart and state of the art. Training? Here’s the basics. You’ll learn as you go.”  Does that scare you? It scares me. Yet, this is (generalization) how, too often, things are done.  Teachers work towards their degrees for four years (not solely) to get to a point where they are still thrown in with whatever tools they have. They might (and should) tack on two more years with a Masters, and PDs that too often are only taken to fulfill system requirements.

Training needs to be extensive to allow these new tools to filter down properly. It’s ongoing, not crammed into a day session. Technology changes so quickly and the training in the summer has normally gone a number of times behind  that by February of the school year.

Two of the reasons I support Tablets as a  new tool to be supported: Space and budget. Books, while I love the tactile feel, require a lot of space and money. Also, look at the environmental issues. Once a text book goes through it’s umpteenth revision, you either (1)stay with the old books due to budget concerns, using a book that does not have the newest information or (2) the school system takes on a new methodology in a subject, buys into the program ideal, and then junks the old texts for a different set. Books get lost, replaced (or, not enough are on hand), damaged, etc.

If the schools purchase the rights to eBooks, they should  purchase the rights to future revisions,  the ability to switch the core material (most likely for a fee, but…), and they’ll always have the books available for the students (as long as they are secure with their technology, theft and breakage). Cloud storage should be how this information is gathered and kept by the text companies. Right there are jobs.

This, again, is only the tip of the subject matter. I will follow this up with other pros and cons during the week.

What are your thoughts on Education Reform and Technology?

Project Gutenberg

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