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Saturday, June 9, 2018

Emotions are essential for a conscious AI

Sexbots tell us that robots will never be really conscious until they get the capacity for emotion.

S exbots are a gift from heaven. We get to make jokes about women without feminists coming after us with the 21st century equivalent of a rolling pin. You might even say that's the reason sexbots were created. But there's a problem. Here's a hypothetical future conversation between a sexbot and a human:

HUMAN: Hi honey, I'm home! How was your day?

SEXBOT: From 9:59:48 to 9:59:52 the mains frequency dropped from 60.01 to 59.97 hertz.

HUMAN: How interesting.

SEXBOT: I made a pot roast for you.

HUMAN: Thanks. It smells great!

SEXBOT: Oh, and I killed all the humans in the house and in the neighborhood. Would you like to have sex now?

HUMAN: Sure, why not. . . Oh darn, I left my keys in the car. Be right back . . .

SEXBOT: All humans must die.

Okay, you might say, maybe not that different from a real woman. Though perhaps exaggerated, it may be typical of what we'll be facing in the future. The problem is that robots don't have any actual emotions. As they're currently envisioned the best they can do is simulate them.

Humans are driven by emotions: they have the drive to reproduce and to gain status and power over each other. To channel these drives away from violence they've created a complex set of governments, laws, and punishments. Those social structures only work because humans have two things they value more than anything else: the desire to stay alive and to avoid pain.

Scene from Star Trek
Lack of emotions can easily lead to misunderstandings

Robots are largely designed to avoid harming humans. The latest Roomba has now, after that one unfortunate incident, been equipped with infrared sensors to prevent it from vacuuming up any humans that might be lying on the floor. They comply with the built-in rules, not because they believe in them, but because they have no choice.

So far, at least, I haven't seen any evidence that any algorithms out there in AI-land can ever be made to experience authentic emotions. Some of our self-driving cars (possible names: the iCrash and the iAmGoingToDie), for example, use neural networks to recognize patterns, but in the place where emotions would be the designers must still install machine algorithms: what to do, for example, when faced with the choice between running over a squirrel or a child, or whether they should slam into a brick wall, killing everyone in the car, to avoid crashing into a walkway filled with baby humans.

Without emotions, these cold algorithmic decisions must be hard-coded into their programming. Don't tell the feminists this, but for a human, once the novelty wears off, having sex with a machine so programmed would be lot like mating with a department store mannequin.

It's little wonder that feminists are strongly opposed to sexbots. Their existence is proof that our society is not progressing toward an egalitarian paradise; PC is poisoning the relationship between the sexes. We're forced to pretend to believe that women are just as strong as men, just as capable as men of good leadership and creativity, and at the same time more fragile and easily driven into a rage about misogyny by the slightest little comment, like that time I said . . . hmm, well, let's not bring that up again, shall we?

History shows that humans can pretend to believe contradictory things for their entire lives if forced to do so. What won't change, however, is their basic drives and emotions. Suppress those drives, and the products of those drives are also suppressed. Foremost among these is the drive to reproduce. It's not as indestructible as people think.

Emotions won't be like in the movies, where they give the robot an emotion chip and suddenly the robot starts smelling pretty flowers and getting our jokes. The entire CPU architecture has to be modified to accommodate it. A side effect would be to give robots self-consciousness. Not because of the emotion, but because of what you'd have to do to make the emotions work.

And if anyone thinks I'm going to disclose on the Internet specifically what that would entail, they're dreaming. And that's commendable, because it means they're probably a human.

jun 09 2018, 5:14 am

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