Friday, March 30, 2007

"Why Smart Machines need Emotions"

In the 24th of February issue of New Scientist, Marvin Minsky, one of the fathers of artificial intelligence research, gives a brief interview on why he thinks emotions should now be regarded as a necessity in making more intelligent machines.

As many have pointed out over the years, artificial intelligence (AI) has proven very successful in solving problems which have been traditionally thought of as difficult ones: ones involving complex mathematical equations or game playing (e.g. chess). However, what AI has found extremely difficult is those tasks that we as humans find very easy, such as understanding the story in a children’s book or making the bed. The problem is one of inflexibility: if one method fails, then where a human is capable of formulating alternatives, an agent imbued with artificial intelligence is rarely able to. According to Minsky, a humans ability to do this is strongly influenced by emotions. Furthermore, he maintains that emotions usually 'simpler' than other forms of what is usually known as thought.

If I may make use of a quote, Minsky gives an example of how this may occur: "When someone gets angry, we can see that some of their mental resources switch off. They abandon some long-range plans and goals, and become less cautious and thoughtful. This frees them to be stronger and to think on their feet, making it easier for them to intimidate others." Not sure I quite agree with the switching on and off of mental resources, but the example illustrates the concept nicely.
Minsky’s view is that rational thought does not persist in an isolation with emotion merely providing additional features - in fact, quite the reverse: emotion is an integral part of thought processes. In a scheme he names the critic-selector model of the mind, the brain is made up of a number of resources, each of which is a structure or process responsible for a mode of thought, and which may be activated for the currently required behaviour. These may be either considered to be 'emotional' or 'intellectual' processes. Furthermore, critics and selectors are present, the former which may recognise problems or potential ones, and the latter which select which resources to activate at any given moment. This is as far as this theory is explained in this brief interview, however mention is of course made of his recently released book, "The Emotion Machine", in which the critic-selector model of the mind theory is further expounded.

As a final note of interest, the final question of the mini interview was on Minsky’s view of the future of AI. He says that there is a need for schemes which "combine multiple ways of thinking", much like that proposed in his scheme, and he encourages students, both in AI and neuroscience, to look into this as a matter of importance, although he does acknowledge that the resources are not in place to promote this sort of blue-skies research.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

10 Important differences between brains and computers

Recently found an excellent post on Developping Intelligence on 10 important differences between brains and computers, which I have to share. It provides a concise overview of these differences, and what implications they have for artificial intelligence, and cognitive science in general. I believe there to be some shortcomings with some of the arguments, but the discussion that follows is just as enlightening, and Chris does clarify a few points. Of course, my contribution to the discussion revolved around cognitive robotics...

Encephalon #19

Ok, so I'm 4 days late - but Encephalon 19 is up at Peripersonal Space.

The subject of this one is I think particularly interesting, as it's a topic I've covered here previously: emotion and reason, and the relationship between the two. In fact, I've a post planned for tomorrow on this subject too.

Picks for me from this issue are: A neural substrate for moral decisions at Neurophilosopher, and The courage of a mouse to say 'No': A case of metacognition or risk-aversion? at The Mouse Trap on rats and metacognition.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Tech Link Train visits Memoirs of a Postgrad

I was tagged on the Tech Link Train by Neurophilosophy - many thanks! Anyway, that was 6 days ago, and as you may have noticed, I've been pretty quiet round here recently. I hope then that me continuing the train with this post doesn't come too late to contribute to the overall effort. If you're one of those I've tagged, please follow the 4-step instructions below (and include the instructions in your post). If I might borrow a sentence from Neurophilosophy: "It’s another ploy to improve peoples’ Technorati rankings, but it’s aimed specifically at science and technology blogs." My additions are blogs which I enjoy reading, and on which I often find useful pieces of information which have on occasion helped me with my work.

1. Write a short paragraph at the beginning of your post and link back to the blog that put you on the list in the paragraph. This isn’t a suggestion. You need to break up the duplicate content string. Someone took the time to add you so the least you can do is give them an extra linkback.
2. Copy the list of originals below completely and add it to your blog. If you would like a different keyword for your blog then change it when you do your post and it should pass to most blogs with that keyword.
3. Take the additions from the blog that added you and place them in the “Originals” list.
4. Add no more than 5 new technology, science, or consumer electronics blogs to the list in the “My Additions” section.

My additions:
Sharp Brains
Developing Intelligence
Brain Hammer
SCLin's Neuroscience blog
Pure Pedantry

The originals:
The Corpus Callosum
Madam Fathom
Memoirs of a Postgrad
Peripersonal Space
The Phineas Gage Fan Club
Neural Gourmet
Dr.Katte’s Blog
Brain Blogger
Alpesh Nakar
The How To Geek
The TechZone
Mega TechNews
Tech Buzz
Connected Internet
John Chow dot Com
Ted Leung on the Air
Geek is a chic
you’ve been HACKED
JMH Techtronics
Web Services
Tech It Like A Man!
Ugh!!’s Greymatter Honeypot
The Tech Inspector
Smart Machines
Kuiper Cliff