Theory of Complexity

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Kevin McGuire: Theory of Complexity. In: Generative Art 2007.



Dice throwing and similar techniques are valuable tools for moving the creative process out of a rut or for suggesting previously overlooked directions. Random number generators are often used in generative processes to produce variety. Yet randomness and complexity have different meanings to different communities. Sometimes the term “random” is used to mean “of high complexity”, sometimes “of unrecognisable structure”. To discuss “unrecognisable” in a concrete manner we must discuss human perception and cognition, subjects which aren’t well understood. Meanwhile, highly complex artifacts can emerge from simple rules, adding to the confusion. Informal experiential notions of randomness and complexity differ in important ways from formal definitions derived from Information Science. These approaches are contrasted in an attempt to arrive at a shared model of complexity. While randomness can be used as a creative trigger, its use in generative processes can impede the progress towards a desired solution. Therefore it is important to understand what a random number generator is providing. Since generative processes encode considerable structure and complexity into artifacts, we show that surprising variety can emerge without the need of random number generators. Complexity, surprise and variety are all possible without randomness.

Extended Abstract


Used References

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