Feelin’ Smart

By Paul Syers

In most Sci-Fi movies, artificial intelligence comes in the form of a scary, emotionless entity that intends to destroy humanity. A small number of movies, however, such as D.A.R.Y.L., Her, and arguably even Toy Story and Ted 2 (they’re certainly intelligent, non-human beings, even though there is no explanation as to how they’re intelligent) have A.I. characters as endearing protagonists. What makes the audience like these particular A.I.s is that they express emotions: they can feel. Expressing complex emotions is something we use to define the human experience, but what if it’s more than the key to humanity, what if it’s the key to human level intelligence?

Emotions stem from the innate drive for self-preservation, but the complex range emotions that we see in humanity is so much more than that. A being with our intelligence but without our emotions is a major cause of fear towards A.I. Without emotions, the more intelligent being would either enslave or eradicate humanity, or so goes the argument. Would the ability to empathize, sympathize, even hope and regret not be able to prevent such actions?

Some groups are working on programs that can recognize human emotions (Apple just bought a company), which is a good start. In fact, such efforts highlight how little understanding we currently possess regarding human emotion. We need to do more on both fronts. We need to put more efforts into harnessing neurotechnology to deepen our understanding of human emotion, while at the same time dive into creating programs that actually produce emotions.

With a greater understanding of emotions, intelligence, and the relationship between the two we can not only create new beings that both think and feel, but we can better control and govern ourselves. In the process, we will hopefully see that the fundamental rights we hold so dear should extend to all beings with our level of intelligence or above. That’s how we create a future that looks like A.I.: Artificial Intelligence and avoid one that looks like Terminator: Salvation.

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