How happy chatbots could become our new best friends

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Poster: Deskmate Editors
Article ID: 49
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Posted: Fri 03 Jun 2016
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How do we stop intelligent machines from taking over the world and enslaving us all?

Give them emotions.

That's the radical suggestion of Patrick Levy Rosenthal, founder and chief executive of Emoshape, a tech firm that has developed a computer chip that can synthesise 12 human emotions.

"It's logical to conclude that autonomous machines made of electricity and metal will eventually see us as their main competitors for those resources, and try to take control," he says.

This is the dystopian vision of artificial intelligence (AI) run amok that luminaries such as physicist Prof Stephen Hawking, and tech entrepreneurs Bill Gates and Elon Musk, worry about.

But Mr Rosenthal believes this nightmare scenario will be avoided if we create machines that can empathise.

"We can teach them to feel happiness when they perform well, solve problems and receive positive feedback from humans," he says. "This will reduce the threat, because they will always work to achieve human happiness."

Machines that can understand human emotion - and express their own emotions - will also be more effective colleagues and helpers, he believes.

By analysing our tone of voice, facial expressions and phrases, computers will become adept at reading our emotional states and this will help them better understand what we're asking them to do, argues Mr Rosenthal.

Danger signs

So why do some people think robots and self-learning programs are such a threat?

Even the tech optimists admit that many jobs involving menial or repetitive tasks will be automated. Machines can do a lot of what we do faster, more accurately, and at lower cost. And they don't go off sick, strike, or ask for pay rises.

It's the latest development of the industrial revolution, and could be just as disruptive.


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