The Promise Of Machine Emotion

The Promise Of Machine Emotion

The Emotion Machine: Commonsense Thinking, Artificial Intelligence and the Future of the Human Mind

Can machines, even with the help of vision and computer control, efficiently and effectively help us if they don't understand the context within which they perform a service? That's one of the considerations that the father of artificial intelligence, MIT's Marvin Minsky, raises in his new book, The Emotion Machine.

According to Minsky, "Not until machines develop the capability to understand why we need them to help us will they truly optimize the fulfillment of their role as mankind's helper." He points out that even the most advanced machine control concepts fail to even come close to providing manufacturing equipment with a child's self-awareness of its work. Machines cannot perceive that the user is actually alive, much less the priorities of the user's goals.

The Emotion Machine: Commonsense Thinking, Artificial Intelligence and the Future of the Human Mind
Simon & Schuster, 2006, 387 pages, $26.00
Minsky says the emotional machine will eventually arrive, "but it is still a long way off." One of the problems: Researchers are still focusing merely on machine interfaces that suggest an understanding of appropriate polite emotional behavior. "That usually turns out to be a disaster. By only appearing to have emotional understanding, the machine will inevitably react inappropriately."

In effect, Minsky posits that such machine programming efforts risk eliciting irrational behavior because emotional understanding is not really present. "Even anger in a human context can demonstrate a rational purpose." Minsky's position is that emotions, including anger, developed in people as a way to increase human effectiveness. "And such an emotional capability can do the same thing for machines."

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