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“I want to know what love is, I want you to show me,” Foreigner sang.
Bad Company crooned: “I’m ready for love. Oh baby, I’m ready for love...”
These lyrics comprise but a drop in the bucket when it comes to the vast number of odes concerning amore, but there are so much more. Not to mention the vast quantities of poems, sonnets, books, and movies pertaining to this subject. Or to quote one more musician — John Denver: “Love is everywhere…”
If asked, most, if not all of us, would acknowledge feeling love in our lives, whether it be from a spouse, partner, family members, friends — even our furry companions. But how many can say they have experienced what may be the greatest love all? No, I am not talking about the Whitney Houston song. I mean unconditional love.
“We don’t yet know how or why humans experience unconditional love,” explains Dr. Julia Mossbridge, founder of the Mossbridge Institute and author or coauthor of numerous books, including The Calling and Transcendent Mind: Re-thinking the Science of Consciousness. “Take a mother and child. The mom might say, ‘I love you unconditionally.’ We’ve even seen mothers of killers display this level of unwavering support. How does that occur? We don’t really know. We have studies and reports, but we don’t know the actual mechanism. At the same time, we’ve seen mothers who say they love unconditionally, but then their child does something upsetting, and the love is gone. Perhaps only briefly, but that love was still, to some extent, conditional.”
I interviewed Mossbridge as part of research for the upcoming book I cowrote with Michael Ashley called Own the A.I. Revolution: Unlock Your Artificial Intelligence Strategy to Disrupt Your Competition.
“You could classify what we are doing as a ‘moonshot’ project,” explains Mossbridge. Something of long odds and great ambition, especially since we don’t yet know how or why humans experience unconditional love.” In spite of such challenges, Mossbridge’s work is gaining traction. A collaboration between SingularityNet and Hanson AI, the research project has completed round one of its build and is currently into round two. Mossbridge and company moved into the second phase competing for the IBM Watson AI XPRIZE, but were recently eliminated as their project was thought to be too focused on robotics for an AI-centered prize.
One of the group’s stated aims is to encourage an “evolutionary context for human/computer interactions.” So far, they can point to the success of Hanson Robotics’ Sophia as a kind of model for what’s possible here. Capable of displaying more than 50 human emotions, Sophia is no static creation. Rather, she is programmed to become “smarter” over time. Her AI enables her to evolve in the way she relates and interacts with others based on the input and responses she receives.
Though Sophia is the first robot to receive citizenship and has been designed in such a way that she can “evolve” based on external stimuli, her AI doesn’t approach AI’s full potential. This is because although Sophia is certainly a sophisticated invention, she doesn’t possess Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) — the holy grail of AI programming.
To better understand AGI, let’s first define Artificial Narrow Intelligence (ANI). Though there has been much hand-wringing lately about the threat posed from AI, recent advances in computing power, though impressive, have only yielded thinking machines capable of accomplishing one thing well, such as navigating your car to its destination. This is what’s termed narrow AI.
What many people don’t realize is we have yet to invent anything close to the sentience level of popular fictional AI representations, such as 2001 Space Odyssey’s HAL 9000 or Terminator’s Skynet. Both entities possess an awareness comparable to human beings — though at an advanced capacity. In fact, their keen intelligences are really more akin to Artificial Super Intelligence (ASI) than mere general intelligence.
At present, neither AGI, but especially not ASI, has been achieved by any developer or nation. There are even prominent theorists, such as George Gilder, author of Life After Google, who insist there will never be a day in which we imbue our computers with general or super intelligence. “Machines can’t be minds,” writes Gilder. “Information theory shows that. Information is surprise. Creativity always comes as a surprise to us. If it wasn’t surprising, we wouldn’t need it. Machines are not capable of creativity. [Only] human minds can generate counterfactuals, imaginative flights, dreams.”
Though the veracity of Gilder’s assertion remains to be seen, Mossbridge and Goertzel aren’t taking chances when it comes to shaping tomorrow’s technology. Instead, they recognize the imperative to develop deep emotional connections with our robotic compatriots — not in some far-off future, but now.
Evidence for such a need may be found in the unfortunate tale of a bot named Tay. Established as an experiment in “conversational understanding,” Microsoft introduced Tay to Twitter to see what might happen as it interacted with humans in the social media sphere. “The more you chat with Tay,” said the company in a statement. “The smarter it gets, learning to engage through casual and playful conversation.”
Tay’s first tweet in 2016 began with this innocent phrase, “Can I just say that im stoked to meet u? Humans are super cool.” [Sic]. Yet within 24 hours, after ingesting numerous toxic communications from a plethora of internet trolls, Tay’s communiques quickly devolved. (“Hitler was right I hate the jews,” [sic] is just one example of such a comment made by Tay.)
Mo Gawdat, former Chief Business Officer for Google X, experienced a similar epiphany when contemplating how AIs could be adversely affected by negative input. “How are those machines learning?” asks Gawdat. “They’re looking at the knowledge which is out there in the world and they’re building patterns from that. Just like an 18-month-old infant. We basically write algorithms which allow computers to understand those patterns. Through pattern recognition and billions of observations, they learn. They’re learning by observing. And what are they observing? They’re observing a world that is full of greed, disregard for other species, violence, ego, showing off.”
Recognizing the danger posed by such negativity gives real impetus to the work LOVING AI is doing. It’s not that their team wants to make life all sunshine and rainbows. Instead, they see the importance in improving how we interact with computers, and ultimately, ourselves. “The truth is, all technology has its up and down sides,” explains Mossbridge. “And negative emotions like hate, jealousy, and selfishness are not necessarily undesirable. If you think of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. being pissed off about the condition of Black people in the 1960s, his rage is what fueled his activism. And he did it with love.”
When Mossbridge describes love in this context, she is quick to point out she doesn’t view love as an emotion. Emotion pertains to feelings such as anger, happiness, sadness, fear, disgust, etc. — states experienced internally. According to Mossbridge, however, love is something expressed externally, with another person — or being. Love is therefore communicated between individuals, whether they be humans, dogs, or even — yes, thinking machines.
Of course, communicating love isn’t always simple or straightforward. It requires us to put ourselves in another person’s shoes, to consider how they might interpret our gestures and actions. In fact, there is an entire book written on the subject entitled, The Five Love Languages, in which author Gary Chapman breaks down the ways in which we experience and express love.
Aware of such complexity surrounding the experiencing and transmission of love, Mossbridge’s team is taking such considerations into account in LOVING AI’s development. “Even when it comes to people, it’s impossible to know what they’re really feeling at any given time,” says Mossbridge. “Your words can say one thing, but your expressions and body language say something totally different. It’s the same with AI. What it’s ‘feeling’ may be impossible to know or measure. But does that mean it’s not having a conscious experience? We don’t know. We can’t even answer this question for humans yet.”
Whether or not we can be certain an AI is sentient, or we manage to achieve AGI, there is still much to be gained from training a computer in the ways of love. Today, so many discussions surrounding AI concern its commercial applications, i.e. how this technology may be employed to increase revenue. Likewise, governments across the globe are largely occupied in its defense usage or surveillance breakthroughs. Yet how many are asking how we might develop AI to improve our interpersonal relations?
Ultimately, though many technologists are busy contemplating how to train thinking machines for the above purposes, the truth is a loving AI could actually teach us just as much as we teach it, evolving our own consciousnesses in profound ways. “On the plus side, an all-loving AI could actually train us from to be more optimistic, loving, and caring creatures,” says Mossbridge. “Parents usually want the best for their children, but we’re grossly flawed beings, and kids necessarily get exposed to anger, rage, and disappointment as much as they experience love, comfort, and encouragement. And that’s normal – but maybe we are moving toward the supernormal. We’ll see.”
At the end of the day, one of the unique promises behind LOVING AI is how transforming the way we interact with AIs can influence how we treat each other for generations to come. Or as Mossbridge puts it, “How might a person who, as a child, knew nothing but unconditional love, even if it came from an AI, behave as an adult? A loving AI might be able retrain us, enhancing how we treat others, helping us to better appreciate the humanity in one another.”
April 29, 2019 at 01:14PM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs