Giving AIs Emotions

A little joy, a little sorrow.

Keno Leon
6 min readDec 8, 2022

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Somewhere nested in the goal of Human Level Intelligence and/or AGI there’s emotions, specifically human emotions that future AIs might need to recreate or at least understand, so here we will be taking a look at emotions and how they could be implemented in AIs if at all.

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Biological Emotion

Emotions in humans and other species are body and mind responses to certain situations that share some characteristics like facial expressions, being adaptive/helpful, made by a mix of evolution and the environment, carry a physiological reaction (heart rate, sweaty palms, tail wagging), have a set duration and rapid onset.

The basic ones ( and their adaptive trait) should be universal and easily recognized :

  • Fear ( Run away or hide)
  • Disgust ( Don’t get poisoned, avoid that)
  • Anger ( Focus on fighting )
  • Surprise ( Quickly prepare for fight or flight response )
  • Sadness ( Nudges you to move forward )
  • Happiness/Joy ( Rewards you, points to the right situation )

⚠️ Neither the definition nor the list are complete and definitive, this is just a starting point.

It should be emphasized that emotions are subvert to our biological directives ( mainly to survive and reproduce ) .

The core problem

The issue with giving AIs emotions is that well, an AI is so far a fundamentally different thing than a human, they don’t have physiological responses and have very narrow directives, usually something along the lines of inferring relationships in data for later prediction, there’s also a lack of overarching directives, survival and reproduction are simply not part of their makeup yet.

A secondary problem is the social nature of emotions, we wear our hearts on our sleeves or rather our faces and this is mostly for the benefit of the group, if you’ve ever been in a crowd and someone gets scared you’ll see this emotion spread as this in theory will alert the group. AIs so far don’t operate in groups…

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