Robots and Emotions
Should robots feel human emotions?

Here at Smart Citti, we’re all for expressing our emotions. Happiness, sadness, excitement, guilt, regret - it’s all part of being human. But how do you feel about making robots recognise and empathize with human emotions? Is it possible? Maybe more importantly, is it right?

Robotics has already made a significant impact in our lives, making certain jobs easier and much more efficient than human labour. But, recently, the discussion regarding the empathic or ‘humanoid’ side of robotics is now getting interesting. Is it possible to create highly complex, increasingly human-like, emotionally intelligent companions? Is it possible to accurately design emotions to be expressed, recognised and shared in the correct way? If so, will robots, one day, have a conscience?

Recently, researchers at the United Arab Emirates (UAE) University have developed a humanoid robot that can show emotions and claim to help children learn better. The project builds human sense into robots to improve the focus and attention span of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). As normal human emotions and expressions can confuse and intimidate those suffering from autism, controlling and simplifying a robot’s emotion facilitates a child to pay more attention, allowing them to communicate and learn better.

As many advocates have expressed, emotionally-enabled artificial intelligence (AI) can enhance our humanity. It will be emotionally intelligent, aware of our most nuanced mental, social and emotional states, and be intimately familiar with our moods and preferences. This will enhance our everyday lives, through the simplest of leisure activities and socializing, to education and learning. Emotionally-able technology will facilitate and enhance emotions and communications, making humans themselves more empathic in their interactions, carving a smarter more emotionally-aware society.

On the other hand, many critics have pointed out that it is our emotions that essentially make us human; do they really need to feel how we do? If a robot develops emotional intelligence, will it be sentient? Will it be living? Will it have a conscience? How will it differentiate between ‘good’ and ‘bad’? Is this even possible for robots, who will be subject to little time and little memory - maybe too little to develop a conscience?
Such questions are mahoosive and probably require more in-depth discussion than short blog post or a quick natter over a cup of tea. It’s clear that a lot of thinking, debate and learning is needed to understand the intricacies of AI and emotionally intelligent non-human beings, but it’s also clear that advancements in technology are not slowing. In fact, new breakthroughs in AI are helping us in all walks of life, including healthcare, education and transport.

What’s next and is there a limit? Let us know what you think!

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