Re: Emotions: The Easy Part

Darren Reynolds (
Wed, 13 Aug 1997 21:52:32 +0100

At 19:15 12/08/97 -0500, Eliezer S. Yudkowsky wrote:

>But if a human tried to imitate Deep Thought - which is how we describe
it, by
>putting ourselves in its place - he would have to suppress his emotions,
>because Deep Thought doesn't have any emotions.

I only recently began to read your posts, but already find each one

A question for you.

Is it not possible that our emotion is an illusion which emerges from our
programmed reaction to certain stimuli? A tiger approaches; we appear to
get frightened. Perhaps objectively we merely go through physiological
changes which prepare us to escape injury.

If that were the case, then is it not also possible that Deep Thought and
its successors have similar illusionary emotions? Suppose Deep Blue wins a
match. Whilst all the while appearing the same, staid machine predictably
pulling bytes from RAM and processing them, it deviates slightly and pulls
a different set of bytes to usual. Nothing odd to the designer there. But
then there is nothing odd about a little adrenalin escaping into our blood
stream, and our heart rate going up in the example with the tiger.

When Deep Blue won the series recently, I wondered whether it felt a most
primitive sense of achievement, in the same way that our own primitive
ancestors might have felt a sense of achievement if they had lifted their
first stone, and successfully hurled it at a passing antelope. Yes, the
thing is just a mathematical algorithm. But so, apparently, are we.

I suspect that "emotions" have evolved because they are an evolutionary
advantage. Deep Blue has more chance of survival if it wins matches, and
hence suffers selection pressures of the same kind that our ancestors did.
If each system is a logical parallel of the other, then are "emotions" not
possible results in both cases?

If we accept that emotions are illusionary, then I doubt that the
capability to experience emotion has a Boolean value. Probably, all systems
have emotion, but today, most humans are capable of perceiving that emotion
only in certain animals.

>Modern computers are emotionless, and utterly unintelligent. Their level of
>"pattern" ranges from undirected physical processes such as Deep Thought, to
>bacterium-level organisms such as a word processor, to the insect-level
>mind-boggling complexity of Windows 95.

You seem to be implying that insects don't have emotions. Have you never
seen an angry wasp? The tone of its beating wings rises, it flies faster,
and its sting hangs lower.

If I understand you correctly, then doesn't the fact that you don't see
emotion in insects whilst I do, prove that beauty is in the eye of the

Emotions in computers may be even easier than you intended to point out!

>The only reason why we don't already have emotional computers - it is a
>problem - is that there are no perceived profits. As soon as somebody
>out how to make it sell, we'll have emotional computers.

Nice one!