Re: computer pain

From: Brent Meeker <>
Date: Wed, 27 Dec 2006 21:20:32 -0800

Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
> Brent Meeker writes:
>> > OK, an AI needs at least motivation if it is to do anything, and we
>> > could call motivation a feeling or emotion. Also, some sort of
>> hierarchy > of motivations is needed if it is to decide that saving
>> the world has > higher priority than putting out the garbage. But what
>> reason is there > to think that an AI apparently frantically trying to
>> save the world > would have anything like the feelings a human would
>> under similar > circumstances? It might just calmly explain that
>> saving the world is at > the top of its list of priorities, and it is
>> willing to do things which > are normally forbidden it, such as
>> killing humans and putting itself at > risk of destruction, in order
>> to attain this goal. How would you add > emotions such as fear, grief,
>> regret to this AI, given that the external > behaviour is going to be
>> the same with or without them because the > hierarchy of motivation is
>> already fixed?
>> You are assuming the AI doesn't have to exercise judgement about
>> secondary objectives - judgement that may well involve conflicts of
>> values that have to resolve before acting. If the AI is saving the
>> world it might for example, raise it's cpu voltage and clock rate in
>> order to computer faster - electronic adrenaline. It might cut off
>> some peripheral functions, like running the printer. Afterwards it
>> might "feel regret" when it cannot recover some functions.
>> Although there would be more conjecture in attributing these feelings
>> to the AI than to a person acting in the same situation, I think the
>> principle is the same. We think the persons emotions are part of the
>> function - so why not the AI's too.
> Do you not think it is possible to exercise judgement with just a
> hierarchy of motivation?

Yes and no. It is possible given arbitrarily long time and other resources to work out the consequences, or at least a best estimate of the consequences, of actions. But in real situations the resources are limited (e.g. my brain power) and so decisions have to be made under uncertainity and tradeoffs of uncertain risks are necessary: should I keep researching or does that risk being too late with my decision? So it is at this level that we encounter conflicting values. If we could work everything out to our own satisfaction maybe we could be satisfied with whatever decision we reached - but life is short and calculation is long.

>Alternatively, do you think a hierarchy of
> motivation will automatically result in emotions?

I think motivations are emotions.

>For example, would
> something that the AI is strongly motivated to avoid necessarily cause
> it a negative emotion,

Generally contemplating something you are motivated to avoid - like your own death - is accompanied by negative feelings. The exception is when you contemplate your narrow escape. That is a real high!

>and if so what would determine if that negative
> emotion is pain, disgust, loathing or something completely different
> that no biological organism has ever experienced?

I'd assess them according to their function in analogy with biological system experiences. Pain = experience of injury, loss of function. Disgust = the assessment of extremely negative value to some event, but without fear. Loathing = the external signaling of disgust. Would this assessment be accurate? I dunno and I suspect that's a meaningless question.

Brent Meeker
"As men's prayers are a disease of the will, so are their creeds a disease of the intellect."
        --- Emerson

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Received on Thu Dec 28 2006 - 00:21:40 PST

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