Robots and romance: science fiction and science

Can a robot learn to love?

Romantic feelings between a robot and a human are a famous plot in novels and movies. But today, fantasy can become a reality. Is it possible that soon we will all be able to communicate with machines that will laugh and cry with us? Modern popular culture is full of examples of authors devoting their work to artificial intelligence. They had everything - fear, attraction, admiration, and contempt. People are both afraid of machines and interested in them. This interest is inextricably linked to the question of where the line between humans and artificial intelligence lies. Will it ever disappear? Will robots be able to learn not only to think but also to feel and behave as we do? Will a robot ever be able to become human? New fields of science are trying to find answers to the questions. Experimental robotics is developing programs to replicate specific human behaviors, such as the ability to love. Creates machines that could learn as they grow, just as humans do. Mature from newborn to adult. Many studies focus on creating a robot with human emotions that can learn emotional behavior from the people it interacts with. Scientists aim to create a machine capable of experiencing the full range of human emotions, including caring and compassion.

Where do human emotions come from?

Before creating an emotional robot, experimental robotics tries to figure out how humans themselves learn to feel and whether they learn.

This process begins almost from birth. At the age of two, a small child begins to speak and consequently learns to name its emotional states. For example, the word "sad" refers to a specific set of physiological and psychological manifestations, along with associative expressions of this feeling by the tone of voice, facial expressions, and body movements.

Sadness is expressed by slowed speech, lower corners of the lips, and sluggish movements. On the other hand, anger is usually associated with a strained, harsh address, frowning eyebrows, and quick, aggressive actions.

As we grow older, we use the full range of outward expression to convey our inner state as accurately as possible and demonstrate our emotions to others. Sometimes we assign emotional characteristics to objects of a non-human nature - for example, saying that music was sad or that a pet cheered us on.

People take their parents, grandparents, and peers as an example, and that's how they learn to show their feelings.

Sometimes we try to listen to ourselves, accept our feelings, and convey more accurately to those around us what we are experiencing.

Often, we express emotions quickly, involuntarily, and subconsciously choosing one way or another to convey information to others.

But how do we do it all? Do we learn to do it, or are we born capable of demonstrating our emotional state, or are both equally valid?

For a long period of time, it was widely assumed that the ability to express emotions was biologically determined, especially for basic emotions such as joy, sadness, anger, fear, disgust, and surprise.

However, new research has proven that the way a person expresses emotions may depend, at least in part, on learning at an early age. People take the example of their parents, grandparents, and peers and learn to demonstrate feelings that way.

Pity for the robot

Relationships with parents or other significant adults at a young age are substantial. Studies with animals have shown that when, for example, a newborn monkey is taken away from its parents, its brain develops differently in the parts that control social-emotional behavior.

According to the scientists, the findings prove that early childhood care or lack thereof can dramatically alter a person's future emotional behavior, including at the genetic level.

Early childhood experiences leave a lifelong imprint on the formation of emotional intelligence. For example, orphans growing up in an orphanage later have difficulty expressing basic emotions such as joy, sadness, and fear. On the other hand, they are perfectly capable of demonstrating anger. It is essential to consider when creating sensitive robots.

Teaching a machine to feel

Experimental robotics is currently working on a machine that can learn to behave the same way children learn to behave. In the first stage, scientists work on modeling software that will work similarly to the human brain. The robot will then be placed in a specific environment to train the "brain, for example, through interaction with a caring guardian. In turn, the latter will help the robot develop emotions in the same way as he would support a child in dealing with fear, anger, or joy. The caregivers interacted with the robot by demonstrating emotions and teaching it how to show feelings when upset or cheerful properly. For example, when the robot feels good, the guardian plays fun games with it, smiles, and laughs. When the robot is upset, the caregiver feels sorry for it and shows compassion, empathy, and sadness. As a result, the robot is trained to express his inner state based on the models he is taught. If the caregiver changes the way they express an emotion, it will affect the robot as well. For example, if the person sympathizes with the upset robot, shows that he is also bitter, and speaks to him slowly, in a sad voice, the robot will learn to show that he is upset, using tools that indicate sadness, sadness. If the caregiver scolds the upset robot, showing annoyance or anger, the robot will learn to express sadness using tools that we usually associate with anger. The same can be done with joy. Teach the robot to express it boisterously, with shouts and laughter. Or show him a quiet enjoyment, a calm reaction. As with humans, there can be many such options.

Can a robot love?

There are two ways to create a robot that can have feelings. First, artificial intelligence can be programmed to behave as if it is in love to show emotion outwardly. However, this will not mean that the robot is feeling: instead, it will just act in love. The second and less obvious way would be to create something more like a brain than a computer. This system would not be controlled hierarchically from top to bottom. Somewhat, the elements of the system would instead resemble the human nervous system. With such a system, it is conceivable to develop a computer that can love.

But how can a person love a robot?

Love for the thing, or love for the Other

We use the word "love" very broadly. We can say that we love coffee, reading books, and our partner. Everyone understands that love for coffee and love for a partner are different.

The first case is love for a thing, an object that the same thing can easily replace. We don't need his reciprocity; we are not interested in his opinion at all.

But love for a partner is love for the Other, love for a subject, for a person. We love in our partner his character traits and emotions, decisions, and actions - everything that makes him unique. We respect and value his freedom: we ask about his desires before doing anything together. And we want him to love us back, but we realize we can't force him.

He is the subject, the Other, and he has his own feelings, desires, and actions, just as we do. It is the whole meaning and joy of mutual love: we love each other without coercion and respect and value each other's freedom.

Sometimes we confuse these two types of love: we love a person as an object and a thing as a subject. When we assign a person to ourselves, are not interested in their desires, and get angry if the partner does not behave the way we want - we love the person as an object. And when we persuade a laptop to turn on faster, ask how Siri is doing, and get attached to the latest model of iPhone, we treat technology as a subject.

We are capable of love in different ways; we are capable of loving other things. It is not set in us what we can and cannot love or how. And so, falling in love with a robot is not a perverse fantasy but another manifestation of love, especially if the artificial intelligence behaves like a human being. We can see the same subject as other people in it, and we fall in love with it just as we do with other people.

Two Views of Love in Philosophy

There are two general views of how we love in the philosophy of love.

  1. Love as the "perfect soulmate."

We find someone who completes us and fall in love with them, makes us whole, and feels like we've found ourselves.

Plato described this theory of love in the myth about divided halves: in ancient times, the Earth was inhabited by androgynes, who offended the gods, and divided all humans in half in revenge. Since then, we wander this world searching for our soul mate, and when we find one, we fall in love for life.

Some modern philosophers define romantic love this: a union where selfish interests are overcome and a new essence of "we" is formed, where harmony and mutual respect reign, and where partners support and fill each other with their best qualities.

This view of love is quite applicable to robots as well. Moreover, a robot is an ideal candidate for the place of our lost soulmate. Artificial intelligence is able to bring to a couple what a human being lacks.

It can be programmed the way we like, endowed with the qualities we want to see in our partner. The robot will literally be "created for us and for us," - which means it will be easier to form this new harmonious "we" with it.

But other artificial intelligence experts believe that the idea of a "soulmate" is valuable for us precisely because this ideal partner is so difficult to meet. And when we finally find such love, we feel happy and lucky and cherish it because we understand how hard it was to find such a person.

With a robot, this is not likely to be the case. Although programming is a complicated process, it is easy to imagine how in the future, it will be automated to the point where anyone will be able to buy and customize their "perfect partner" right in the store. We will no longer have to search and wait.

In addition, the view of love as "perfect partners" is increasingly criticized: we set too high expectations for our partners, we do not hear their desires, and/or we think that they must guess everything from the word go.

This kind of love is dangerous because we can become addicted to it and become so absorbed in the "we" that we forget our own identity. In the philosophy of love, there is another way of looking at what true love is.

  1. Love as knowing the value of the other and caring

We love our partners as they are, and we want to be loved in the same way.

Lovers respect each other's unique personalities and choose to care for and be with each other no matter what. In this case, love is about choosing one's partner, accepting responsibility, and wanting to make one's partner happy.

This view of love is different from the "other half" idea: no one is perfect; we fall in love with an individual and do not want to become one "we." On the contrary, we value each other's individuality and want to make each other happy.

Modern philosophers who hold this view believe that although we do not choose who we fall in love with, once we fall in love, we constantly make a conscious choice in favor of our partner: we do not cheat or betray him; we help him to develop and take care of him. And our partner does the same for us.

Robots are capable of giving us all this. They can be programmed to "swear eternal love" to us: they will take care of us, love us just for being us, and never betray or cheat. But will we appreciate such love? And will we love them in return?

As philosophers have observed, the fragility of this feeling, the fact that the partner himself has consciously chosen to be with us, makes his love so valuable. Trust and vulnerability are the foundations of love, and passion for robots lacks them.

Other scientists who specialize in robots believe that the question of free will is still not definitively resolved for humans, either. Perhaps we love partners not because we choose to but because we are biologically programmed to love. We don't just fall in love; hormones govern us, and specific chemical reactions occur in the brain. And so, we should not exclude robots from being lovers just because they are programmed to love artificially.

We live in a technologically advanced era continually challenging our understanding of love: fifteen years ago, philosophers questioned whether love could exist online.

Now that virtual love is commonplace, the question is whether we are capable of loving robots. Or maybe all we need is a new concept of love that will describe what it is like to have feelings for robots?

The technological future of love

All researchers agree: once robots penetrate the field of love, they will change it forever. Some researchers even believe that robots can solve the problem of love for people with disabilities or those who could not build a relationship, although they would like to. We can't force other people into loving relationships for money or out of compassion, but robots would be a great solution to provide people with care, attention, and love. Moreover, robots should not only be seen as a "replacement" for humans when we are also unable to find a human partner for one reason or another. There may be people who will only be attracted to robotic partners. The boundaries between nature and technology are becoming more and more blurred by the day, affecting our understanding of love. We will have to definitively abandon the binary system of male and female, inventing new categories for gender, gender, and sexual attraction. Robots will shift the discourse of human love from emotional exclusivity for each other to caring, partnership, and shared life plans. It, in turn, will lead more and more people to abandon monogamous relationships not only in favor of robots but also to enjoy building relationships with other people. These are all just possible developments, but one thing we know for sure: human and robot love will one day cease to be fantasy. And there's nothing horrible or wrong with that. It is more important to focus on what kind of future love we want to live in, future love relationships we want to see, and how to make them ethical and productive for all participants.

Every year, robots become more and more incorporated into human lives. And if they can recognize and respond to our feelings, it could be beneficial. Emotional robots will be able to communicate with us in a way that we understand and are more comfortable with. The goal is not to create robots that can fall in love, get hurt or get angry. Scientists aim to come up with more human machines. After all, every year, we ourselves behave more and more like robots.