Monday, April 30, 2007

Emotion a Prerequisite for Thought?

A group of scholars gathering at Harvard to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the “cognitive revolution,” are promoting the idea that understanding human emotion is absolutely essential to understanding human thought. The scholars go on to argue that the reason all attempts to recreate human thought in AI have failed up to this point is because AI researchers have ignored the role played by emotion in intelligence. While it is true that emotion is central to human thought, it’s awfully anthropocentric to claim the human model as the only path to intelligence.

Although minds and computers may not be completely analogous, to say that emotion is this missing link to artificial general intelligence seems rather naïve and simplistic. There is much work to be done before we can even come close to developing strong AI, and it is quite easy to imagine thinking machines completely devoid of emotion. Intentionality may perhaps be integral to any intelligent system, and emotion may be deeply-seated in human intentionality, but any number of goal-oriented schemes could be devised to replace emotion as the driving force behind an intelligent machine.

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