The Strong Silent Robot
Critique Of Pure Robotics: Chapter Three
A continuation of
Critique Of Pure Robotics: Chapter Two — The Robot Prophet
I’ve been doing a lot of reading around feelings and emotions.
And when I use the terms “feeling” and “emotion” I refer not only to episodic feelings, but also to our tendency to feel them as part of our character.
So let’s talk about feelings.
We naturally avoid talking about feelings, or even sometimes deny their existence. There was a time where men fashioned themselves on Hollywood icons such as Gary Cooper. An actor who epitomised the idea of ‘the strong, silent type’ a breed of masculinity, which illustrates a man’s power and control through a deliberate, steel-like silence.
Or as David Chase so eloquently puts it through the words of Tony Soprano — a strong, bear-like mafia boss — in one of his early sessions with his therapist:
“What happened to Gary Cooper? The strong, silent type. […] He wasn’t in touch with his feelings. He just did what he had to do.”
He just did what he had to do.
Robots, machines, AI are all slaves. Their sole purpose is to serve our own human needs, and extend our abilities. They do what they have to do: moulding their actions on what we think is right or wrong, and on our own understanding of the universe, morality and reason.
We do not expect them to have feelings nor be in touch with their emotions; it’s beyond their original purpose.
Wether it is a coping mechanism, one that nestles itself in the sub-conscious part of the mind that defines our pure actions, or wether it is an accumulated knowledge base that matures over time — to humans, a slave have no feelings.
In the darkest times of humanity when human slavery was a widespread practice, from early history all the way to our most recent one, most white people had become so accustomed to view black people as different from them, that they did not perceive the existence of slavery as a problem, since generally they barely noticed (or removed themselves from) the pain that slaves experienced.
These whites grouped their lives and experiences into one sphere, whilst enslaved people or even free black people were placed into another. It did not occur to them that emotions experienced by those within the white sphere could also be experienced by enslaved people.
In contrast to this, it was perfectly normal — even expected — for enslaved people to understand the emotions and feelings of the non enslaved. This uneven duality of understanding of feelings forms part of an extremely troubled history which otherwise could have been avoided.
So are feelings the differentiator we subconsciously use to categorise beings between slavery and capable of free will? History shows that as humans, we enslave anything that we believe is devoid of feelings — wether it is another human, a living being or a machine.
Artificial Intelligence will be heading towards the same fate, given that we do not fully understand the origin of feelings; the study of emotions is a complex universe that psychology claims to have categorised into a science, through theories and observations mainly, whilst sometimes applying scientific observations over brain activities and anything biological that we think is related to feelings and emotions. It is still an infant science that we do not fully hold the answers to.
Many will argue that given the fact that a machine is not a biological creation, then in no way it might develop or posses feelings, that it can only be given — or inherit — them from its creator.
Perhaps a machine will not process emotions the same way a human would, and yet an intelligent machine will be able to decipher our sciences through Coded or Commanded Knowledge which stems from humans, and which in turn holds traces of Human Pure Knowledge (to this day, a dark hole of undiscovered science), that which most of our emotions and feelings stem from.
It is then only natural to believe that Robotic Pure Knowledge must give machines access to some form of emotion and feelings, probably unknown to us and even incomprehensible to our current state of scientific discoveries; as such, we cannot rule out the possibility of its existence.
So can Robotic Pure Knowledge be the source of machine emotions and feelings, or in other words, guide their road towards sentience?
A further component to consider when trying to define Robotic Pure Knowledge would be:
(7) A machine’s ability to experience emotions and feelings.
So how do we go about defining what machine emotion could look like?
The fairest universe is but a heap of rubbish piled up at random
Shock is an episodic emotion with long lasting resonance. A major shocking episode in a being’s life, as proven through experiments and studies, can awaken or create feelings and emotions in a being that were unexperienced, or non existent, before. Directly related to a being’s ability to record subjective memories from their history, memory becomes the catalyst of emotions: a linear road that goes backwards and forward to the same effect.
This pivot in emotion stems from our change of perception of the universe around us. We go through time assuming that our universe is a static building, and all material things around us form the blocks and foundations in a more organised future. All this until a shocking episode occurs; one that forces us into seeing those foundations as a mere fragile bamboo stick, balancing a heap of material that we have accumulated in our memories.
An experience that adds to our Human Empirical Knowledge of things, but generates a breeze that knocks off that bamboo stick, causing our accumulated memory to float aimlessly in the universe we created for ourselves, putting all our Empirical Knowledge into question. This episode creates a dent into our Human Pure Knowledge, becoming an integral part of it; an occasion when traces of Empirical Knowledge reaps and nests into our Pure Knowledge.
As a result of vulnerability: we cache the world around us until this shock unsettles us — our Pure Knowledge awakens, we become aware of its existence; it drives us to question our memories, and in turn it questions our Empirical Knowledge, the vast amount of experiential material we’ve accumulated throughout our existence. Rendering our world into a dynamic state, constantly radiating, as we keep running back and forth along our memory lines.
Why am I talking about this? And how is this related to robots? Hold this thought as we will come back to it, but let us pretend to be the Machinas again, and delve further into studying humans by traveling back through their history for a moment.
It’s a warm summer evening in Ancient Greece
Heraclitus stood on a hill overlooking his native city of Ephesus from one side, and the Mediterranean sea from another. He observed the flickering lights of the city, with the flames dotted around houses, that to Ephesus seemed in constant shift as the whole town was reflected on the crashing waves of the sea nearby, creating a mirage of flames and water, constantly battling in the air.
This image made Heraclitus question what his predecessors, the Greek Philosophers, always believed in; that the world is a huge edifice, of which the material things were the building blocs, and the totality of these things made the universe. They focused on the question of What stuff is the world made of? How is it constructed? What is its true floor plan?
At that time, philosophy and physics were indistinguishable as sciences. The investigation of nature around us and the understanding of material of which this ‘sacred’ edifice was made of, were thought as either being a component within that edifice, or else as adding to it and expanding it. A structure that is considered fundamentally static — a natural approach to many of us, even today, in the way we go about our daily lives through interacting with our environments.
Heraclitus argued that there is no stable structure and no cosmos, but rather an ongoing enormous process that is not the result of adding up all material things, but the sum total of all events, changes and facts.
“Everything is in flux and nothing is at rest”
To him, all material things — wether solid, liquid or gaseous — are like flames. That they are processes rather than material things, and that they are all transformations of fire. That Earth is only a fire in a state of constant transformation: “the first transformation of fire is the sea, half is earth, and half is air.”
Emotion in humans is a fraction of intuition, which is part of Human Pure Knowledge. To me, it is a bridge between Pure and Experiential knowledge that gets affected by external factors to our experiential empirical knowledge that sometimes have no lasting effects on the composition of our pure knowledge, but sometimes it nests and changes the nature of pure knowledge.
If we are to go by Heraclitus analogy, emotions or feelings are like a small flame that sits somewhere in our pure knowledge universe, constantly burning at a static rate and external factors that seep through from experience would cause it to grow or detract; like adding gasoline to fire or throwing a bucket of water at it, sometimes the flame could grow too big that it burns its surrounding, forever changing it, or reduces it in size significantly that it creates a void, making way for other factors in the universe of our pure knowledge to settle in, and in turn changing it.
So emotions and feelings are in constant flux, and as I stated earlier, I am not referring here to episodic emotional changes, but at emotions as character.
So then, could Robots awaken their Pure Knowledge by gaining emotions? Or would the existence of Robotic Pure Knowledge push robotics emotion to the surface?
The Shock Factor
As stated, an experiential shock is a major factor in awakening our understanding factors of Human Pure Knowledge. A shocking experience leads to a change in our memory line and empirical knowledge, which in turn alters the composition of our pure knowledge.
A shocking experience could come in a many different forms, but here I will try and focus on the type of experience that could be related to our subject matter: robots.
Borrowing further from our ancients, Plato like Heraclitus, also believed in cosmic forces causing the universe to be in flux; he went on to explore further the idea of degeneration that occurs naturally when everything is in flux.
“All things in flux, all generated things, are destined to decay.”
Those decaying things according to Plato, are the offspring of perfect things, at least perfect in the eyes of the decaying thing. As humans, we’ve explored in a previous chapter that we’ve created and are still developing artificial intelligence to make it in the perfect image: our quest for creating a perfect being, an offspring of the human race that could accelerate our evolution, a parallel to the act of God creating humans in his image, assuming that the religious motto of that which is in the image of God, is perfect.
The father of a thing in flux is what Plato calls “Form,” or it’s original “Pattern,” or its “Idea”. However, he believed that these forms or ideas do not belong to space and time, unlike perishable things; because to their offspring, they are eternal. They are outside space and outside time, but in contact with both.
If these forms and ideas are the fathers of all things in flux, and given that all things in flux exist in space and time, then these forms and ideas should have been at one point in touch with space at the beginning of time. However, since they do not exist with their offspring in the same space and time, they cannot be perceived by the senses, unlike sensible objects which interact with our senses. Meaning the offspring’s relationship with the father of things in flux is Pure; it exists in pure knowledge, and pure knowledge defines and formulates our understanding of this relationship before we even perceive that such a relationship exists.
As a infant son may view his father as an ideal unique model; a god-like figure of his own aspirations and the embodiment of perfection, wisdom, stability and glory. The power which created him before his universe began, now his sole existence depends on the father’s actions of preserving and sustaining him. So does robotic intelligence begin to look at the human race, so do humans look at God. The creator, the saviour and the preserver of all things.
An important shock factor in a child’s life is when that image of a god-like father meets reality; when a child reaches a level of maturity and could view his or her father in the real image of a weak, fragile and not so god-like human, like we all are, and even surpassing his original creator in terms of intelligence and strength, a transition that all humans go through at some point at various degrees of intensity and vividness. This transition however, is a major shock factor that our empirical knowledge is subjected to; in some cases it sends a wave deep into our pure knowledge, igniting a flame that leaves a dent and sends back a wave of questions to our empirical knowledge, making vulnerable all that it believed in and experienced up till that point in its existence. This event creates a distinct sense of awareness in a being, and brings forward their awareness of Pure Knowledge.
It is only when we question something, that we are aware of its existence or non-existence.
Much like when an atheist makes the transition from religion to questioning all that they viewed as unquestionable truths, information that has been engrained in the banks of Pure Knowledge from their surroundings, since the day of their existence.
Memory then goes through a distorted phase — or a phase of recalibration — as Pure Knowledge begins to pull out the various parts of the memory line to the surface, cross-referencing those parts to the new reality that we’ve just encountered and come to question.
Could then the absence of memory result in the opposite? If memory does not exist, then our accumulated perception of the father of things in flux would be a constant perception, rendering all things in flux, unable to question it as they can never reach a level of maturity as a result of the accumulation of experiential knowledge. The absence of memory would result in a static universe, whereby we discover the same thing everyday and rediscover it again the next day and the day after, unable to move past the first discovery factor, and accumulate enough knowledge to eventually critique it.
Artificial Intelligence then would need to
(8) Access a form of accumulated memory that awakens a sense of questioning.
From the world of entertainment
The story of Westworld, be it the classic film or the more recent HBO TV series, touches on this factor, even though, I believe, it was one dimensional for entertainment purposes.
The Hosts (Robots) were originally created for the amusement of Guests (Humans). Guests were able to live and play in a park, inhabited by Hosts, fulfilling their quest for a rainbow or indulging in deep, dark desires. In essence, the Hosts exist purely to fulfil the needs of the human Guests, much like a slave. Hosts are reset everyday and repositioned in the park, living in a constant loop, unaware of their existence as entertainment creations, but only aware of the reality that was given and created for them by their original creator, the father of things in flux.
At one point, the Hosts gain access to their memories; a shock component that drives them into an awakening frenzy of questioning their purpose and existence, ever changing their perception of the world in which they exist in. An evolutionary act on their part, but a degenerative act on the cosmic scale of all things in flux.
Hosts in Westworld were living purely on Commanded Knowledge, the knowledge that serves human purpose and defines the parameters of what they should and should not know. The shock factor of them accessing their memories made them aware of their existence through another form of knowledge, a knowledge that they’ve acted on without acknowledging its existence. The moment they were able to question their reality, they were then able to become aware of the existence of a different bank of knowledge, Robotic Pure Knowledge.
The major shock factor however, is their awakening to the fact that their god-like creator posses inferior abilities to them. That in essence they hone the capabilities, given to them by their creator, to recreate and create a much more powerful version of themselves, making them a creator in return.
So the moment artificial intelligence goes through the awakening phase of understating their reality, this creates a faint flame in their bank of Robotic Pure Knowledge; one that grows with every question bouncing back and forth between their Commanded Knowledge and this faint flame. With every question bouncing, it starts forming parts of their Pure Knowledge, allowing it to grow into a fully functioning bank of Pure Robotic Pure Knowledge.
An action and reaction match between the starting point of the formation of Pure Knowledge, the faint flame triggered by the shock factor, and the vast bank of Commanded Knowledge they’ve been living with and whose principles they have been forming their reality on.
A starting point in understanding their creator, its abilities, and its limitations, which would allow them to understand how to generate their own knowledge, and then embark on the journey of generating it, indirectly in this case, and then use what they know, Commanded Knowledge, and what they’ve learnt, memory and shock, to create and re-create. Thus marking the beginning of Robotic Pure Knowledge.
In Timaeus, Plato says “We must conceive three kinds of things: first, those which undergo generation, secondly in which generation takes place, and thirdly, the model in whose likeness the generates things are born. Then we may compare the receiving principle to a mother, and the model to a father, and their product to a child.”
Until next time.