Russia on the verge of a major AI breakthrough

At a recent artificial intelligence conference held in New York City, a Russian professor named Alexi Samsonovich from the National Research Nuclear University Cybernetics Department announced “We are on the verge of a major breakthrough in AI.”

Russians. Research Nuclear University. Major AI breakthrough. It sounds scarier than it actually is. So what’s the major breakthrough? Samsonovich says his team is close to creating machines that can “feel.” He wants to demonstrate that a machine is capable of experiencing human emotions and exhibiting those emotions. If Samsonovich does succeed, his machine would be the first to show emotional intelligence.

He is quick to point out, however, that an emotionally intelligent machine does not imply consciousness. In fact, according to Samsonovich, consciousness would be impossible to validate in another subject be it a human or a machine. He feels that a person can only be confident in his/her own consciousness and that it’s too vague a term to measure in someone or something else.

So how can a being experience and portray emotions without having consciousness? According to Samsonovich, this machine’s emotional awareness would be limited to behavior, not necessarily true emotions as humans experience them. But Samsonovich claims that if such a machine could exhibit the same kind of emotional responses that humans would exhibit in all the same situations, and do so consistently, then humans would think of these machines as being alive and would interact with them accordingly.

Samsonovich, who has already proposed a kind of emotional Turing test, says that very soon we will have machines that can pass for humans, at least in their ability to simulate the same kinds of emotional reactions that humans do. Over the next 18 months, his team will be developing Virtual Actor, an AI that can create goals, make plans, and build social relationships with people.

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