Machines will never get mixed feelings

A few weeks ago the New York times announced that Facebook is creating a tool dedicated to erase from our profiles all trace of relationships after we have broken up. It was impossible not to think about the movie ‘Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind’. In fact we would be lying if we did not admit that right after a painful break up all we want is to erase any memory of our recent relationship (and possibly cancel any trace from the minds of everyone who might have witnessed it). The team in charge is called the Compassion Team, and it is ‘devoted to making Facebook’s interactions more human, and more humane’.

Yet is it really possible? Our mind is a complicated thing. Sure sometime we might tell our significant others that we hate them (and even mean it when we say it), but that doesn’t rule out that we’ll swear eternal love to them 10 minutes later, full of remorse. At the same time, we might be 100% sure we will never want to remember this recent relationship failure, yet in a few years time , once we’ll be over it and possibly in another relationship, our memory will select some good moments worth saving out of the junk. Or we’ll go to our close friends and ask them to replay an edulcorated version of what happened.

Machines tend not to pick up these contradictions. Nor to understand them (well, some men have troubles understanding them too). Machines are rational — programmed by people in rational mode.

We always like to think ourselves as more rational than we actually are. In reality we are constantly juggling mixed feelings. Do we like that ad? Yes, but.. Or: we like it now, but we’ll hate it if asked on another moment. Algorithms won’t get that. They will take our first answer for good and send the data back to the datacenter, that in almost realtime will process that ‘Yes, the creative works’ or ‘No, need to change it’.

Can we trust these Artificial Intelligence geniuses that will actually make our secret wishes happen? What if we don’t even trust our secret wishes (there’s a reason why they are secret after all). The most difficult question to answer, at any age, is: what do you really want?

Let’s keep using AI to optimize rational processes. Let’s improve technology for things we’ll always want: safety, simplicity, sustainability.

But for everyone’s sake, leave feelings out of it.

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