Robots and emotions


The BBC reports that a project is trying to teach robots to react to humans in emotional ways.   Sounds cool, though I’d suggest it’s always important to make a distinction between when a thinking mechanism can *talk* so much like a human that we can’t tell it’s a machine vs when that machine starts to *think* like a human thinks – ie it becomes conscious.

Many wrongly use this distinction to make that case that mechanisms will never attain human-quality intelligence even if we reach the point where the machines behavior (e.g. answering complex questions) is indistinguishable from human answers.    It seems likely we’ll have both, though I’m guessing consciousness for computers is at least 10 years away.

I remain wildly optimistic about the advent of *artificial consciousness*, though I think it’s possible that artificial intelligence may come to us in a sort of backwards fashion.  That is, humans will increasingly use technologies that are integrated with our biological processes until eventually we’ll realize that our intelligence has become more mechanism than biological process.

That said I think I still lean to the notion tht the human intellect and consciousness are purely algorithmic processes driven primarily by the interaction of neurons in the cortex and therefore we could have a computerized version of these processes soon.   I sure hope so because I’d like to know what they’ll recommend we do with the pressing problems of the world.

4 thoughts on “Robots and emotions

  1. “The human intellect and consciousness are purely algorithmic processes driven primarily by the interaction of neurons in the cortex”

    How does this account for the qualia or “what it is like-ness” of consciousness? If intellect and consciousness is purely an algorithmic process then where does first person experience come from?

  2. matcoker I don’t see any conflict between the idea of first person experience and some sort of mechanistic processes. Are you saying there is some kernel deep in our thinking that is outside of the regular physical world? I think there is little evidence for that.

    Just came back from the Convergence conference in Mountain View and there were some really provocative ideas from Monica Anderson about how simple, evolution-driven processes could form the building blocks of a thinking machine. She felt that the reductionist approach was misguided and that clearly human awareness has come about from fairly basic, intuitive processes in the brain.

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