Can computers ever produce art?

In class we’ve discussed the definitions of art, a subject that proved to be much tougher to answer than anticipated. During the discussion my group gave a definition of art, and while it was sound it was naive in it’s approach. Our definition of art was the expression of human creativity, how credulous of us to limit art to human trait, any sentient being should potentially be able to produce art, right? Yes, in theory this is true but does this also translate to machines and automatons? Not according to John Searle and his though experiment “The Chinese Room”.

In this thought experiment Searle placed himself in a room with a box full of chinese characters that he could not understand and a book that could help him translate chinese. On the other side of the door was a fluent chinese speaker who would write messages in chinese and give them to Searle under the door. Searle could translate these messages with his translation book and send back corresponding messages with the chinese cards. As far as the fluent chinese speaker knows the person on the other side of the door is also fluent in his tongue, something Searle cannot do. Searle concluded from this thought experiment that computer programs could simulate intelligence but were not truly self aware or astute.

Building off of Searle it becomes apparent that though computers can replicate paintings and other works of art they are not truly creating it, only simulating artistic ability.



  1. One thing that could support your idea that any sentient being is potentially capable of producing art is when animals produce paintings. I’ve heard of elephants in particular painting pictures.

  2. Art can only be understood by human beings.

    So either art exists indifferent to our cognitive recognition of it or art does not exist at all.

    I suggest the latter.

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