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In the quest to create intelligent robots, designers tend to focus on purely rational, cognitive capacities. It’s tempting to disregard emotion entirely, or include only as much as necessary. But without emotion to help determine the personal significance of objects and actions, I doubt that true intelligence can exist – not the kind that beats human opponents at chess or the game of Go, but the sort of smarts that we humans recognise as such. Although we can refer to certain behaviours as either ‘emotional’ or ‘cognitive’, this is really a linguistic short-cut. The two can’t be teased apart.

What counts as sophisticated, intelligent behaviour in the first place? Consider a crew of robots on a mission to Mars. To act intelligently, the robots can’t just scuttle about taking pictures of the environment and collecting dirt and mineral samples. They’d need to be able to figure out how to reach a target destination, and come up with alternative tactics if the most direct path is blocked. If pressed for time, the team of robots would have to know which materials are more important and to be prioritised as part of the expedition.

… continue reading “Robot cognition requires machines that both think and feel”

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