What are emotions for humans? The potted version, according to psychologists, are that emotions are either an evaluation system to help us make judgements that are of value to us (see 1, 2), or a response to a physiological state (see 3, 4). There are also other complicated theories from other disciplines, as you’ll see if you’ve clicked any of the above links.
But why do computers and robots not perceive, or are programmed with, emotions? Well, until now (outside of research and disregarding ethical concerns) there have been no good reasons to give them this ability. Since AI is so difficult, costs have out-weighed the benefits. For example, Siri is only a powerful natural voice processing interface linked to humongous database.
Not Emotions, But Human-like Senses
But there have been advances in AI leading to some practical applications. E.g. facial expression recognition systems (the next level up from plain old facial recognition systems). Imagine a video games system, either a console with a built-in camera or a PC game using your existing webcam, that can tailor game-play to suit your current emotional state by reading your face? Or how about a car that knows when you are tired? The opportunities in marketing and advertising are also mind-boggling, as are the uses Big Brother will inevitably put to it.
We Are The Robots
One last point to consider is that some think that emotions coded into a computer program are not real, but merely simulated. This, to my mind, is nonsense because emotions in humans are also programmed! Whether woven into our DNA, acquired through nurture, or derived from our environment, they are, nonetheless, programmed.
Maybe the real question should be what is consciousness? But let’s face it, the 60s have come and gone along with the 80s rave scene (wish someone had invited me).
I Am The Robot
It’ll come as no surprise that I used to be called “Roy the Robot” in college.