The elemental foundations of intelligence still remain a mystery even for the most acclaimed scientists. Fortunately, mathematicians and computer scientists have taken upon themselves to integrate the studies of intelligence into their work, giving birth to Artificial Intelligence (AI). A challenge that started with Alan Turing, a genius who set the foundations of AI research, the field has progressed immensely, even making the possibility of a walking, functioning, thinking, and learning machine a reality.
Indeed, AI is already all around us. Google’s search predictions and voice recognition tools, or Apple’s Siri, are all recognizable examples. These technological innovations have machine-learning algorithms that allow these machines to respond in real time, and often, with what may seem to be humor, wit and impulse. Even today, we have drone delivery services, and drones as personal photographers, who do not miss the opportunity to capture the most intricate and well-positioned selfies. Moreover, in the year 2020, it is said that 80% of the global population will have access to the internet via smartphones, while 85% of customers will seek and receive assistance for their concerns without ever talking to a human. Scientists, mainly Dr. Michio Kaku, even predict the development of a mind-machine connection, which will shift the world to a ‘brain-net’.
WILL ROBOTS NEED EMOTIONS?
Throughout literature, the mechanical being is often depicted as an entity that yearns to develop emotions, regardless of its capabilities and superiority. Take the example of Data, on Star Trek. Data, a robot whose abilities suppress human strength and intelligence, cannot help but desire to become human and experience emotions. When emotions are deemed to represent the most definitive aspect of a human, how will we define ourselves when robots start displaying emotions?
While many may dismiss the possibility of emotional robots, some scientists are working on reducing emotions to create a different picture. To them emotions do not define the essence of humanity, but rather are a by-product of evolution; survival tools that help us to navigate the dangers of life. Scientists also claim that emotions, as navigational tools, will likewise be necessary for AI to survive, especially when it comes to the society we have developed.
Emotions, Survival Tools and A.I. Functions
“Liking”: To “like” something is to distinguish it as important, unique, or helpful amongst the millions of varied good and bad objects and things around us. When we like something, we also make a mental note, registering it as something worth remembering. Liking or disliking things may be necessary for AI to categorize objects and experiences as either good or bad.
“Jealousy” is another critical emotion that identifies what may be important to us. For humans it also plays a role in our reproductive success, however, for AI it may indicate importance or a way of comparing one item from the next.
“Shame and remorse” are vital for socialization skills necessary to live our day-to-day lives without or by avoiding conflict. For AI, showing shame or remorse may be used to gain affection from their human owners or counterparts, thus inducing feelings of attachment, understanding, forgiveness or cooperation from humans, in other words, ‘to ensure that they don’t wind up in the garbage dump’.
“Loneliness”, is also essential emotion. Although we can function alone, the need for company is important for our survival as we often depend on the resources of others. Likewise, to become “social” AIs, loneliness may be a necessary function.
“Fear”: Knowing when to run away or fear a harmful temptation may save a life. Hans Moravec, a computer genius, argues for the importance of fear in AI. He gives the example of a robot with a low battery charge. He states that a robot “would express agitation, or even panic, with signals that humans can recognize. It would go to the neighbors and ask them to use their plug, saying, ‘Please! Please! I need this! It’s so important; it’s such a small cost! We’ll reimburse you!” (Kaku, M. (2008))
While it may be clear that having emotions would aid the AI’s transition into our society, ultimately, many also suggest that emotions are vital for decision-making. Research and studies have shown that people with certain kind of brain injury, specifically injury to the “limbic system”, lack the ability to experience emotions. While it has been observed that their reasoning ability is intact, expression of feelings and emotions are completely absent. Dr. Antonio Damasio of the University of Iowa College of Medicine finds that such individuals often cannot make decisions, as small and insignificant as it may be. Without the navigational properties of emotions to guide them, these individuals face extreme indecision.
Following such studies, it can be deduced that AI may also need emptions for decision making.
THE NEAR FUTURE AND BEYOND
As Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky wrote, “If everything on Earth were rational, nothing would happen.” There is so much potential for AI development that it’s getting harder to imagine a future without it. In fact, we’re already seeing it all around us. For now, by the end of the decade, we can expect AI to become commonplace, whether it’s self-driving cars, more accurate weather predictions, or space exploration. But don’t expect AI takeover any time soon. As easy as it is for machine-learning technology to self-educate, what it lacks is emotion, and something even more complicated, intuition.
Understanding how to embed emotions and intuition into AI determines humans as an important piece of the puzzle. However, once the mystery behind emotional development in humans and later in AI is broken, the rate of technological advances will exceed into unprecedented heights, reshaping our technology and society, as we know it. While, we all hope that the best way forward is for humans and machines to live harmoniously, leaning on one another’s strengths, there is always the question of human survival in an increasingly dominant AI world. The ultimate question may remain, in the search of greater efficiency and technological advancement, will we place our own survival at risk, and how long till we have to make the ultimate decision.
(Kaku, M. (2008). Physics of the impossible: A scientific exploration into the world of phasers, force fields, teleportation, and time travel. New York: Doubleday. We hope that this piece inspires questions, comments and a fiery discussion. This is only the beginning. Stay tuned for further developments in the AI. https://yetemonamonew.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/physics-of-the-impossible-by-michael-kaku.pdf)