When talking about machines and love, people often focus on the question:
Can we, humans, fall in love with a machine?
Movies such as Her and Blade Runner can fuel this discussion, but the answer here is, perhaps surprisingly, easy. YES. (Most) humans have the capacity to develop empathy and love for others. Experiments of robots being tortured helped us realise that it only takes for some remotely humanlike traits, to make people develop feelings for robots. The question we are flirting with here, is whether robots can (appear to) have emotional intelligence, not whether they can be the recipients of it.
According to the Wikipedia entry again, Emotional Intelligence (EI) is the “capability of individuals to recognise their own emotions and those of others, discern between different feelings and label them appropriately, use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior, and manage and/or adjust emotions to adapt to environments or achieve one’s goal(s).”
EI seems to include two abilities that lie at the core of current machine learning techniques: recognition and adaptation. The former can be achieved using classification algorithms, which, given data about emotions and feelings, can learn to recognise them. Adaptation is part of reinforcement learning, where agents set goals and are rewarded when they satisfy them. Could it be that EI is not as vague as we initially thought?
A core concept in EI is empathy, which can be broken down into two very distinct types. Cognitive empathy is the ability of imagining someone’s feelings but not actually feeling them yourself, while emotional empathy is the ability of actually feeling others’ feelings. Cognitive empathy seems to be the objective we were looking for.
In a contest between abstract concepts that allow for a high degree of subjective interpretation, love would probably be among the finalists. Love is believed to involve some level of empathy, but empathy doesn’t always equal love.
In our attempt to find a definition for the ability of machines to love, we observe the following: learning is defined based on the ability of computer programs to improve. Mitchell and his contemporaries did not aim for IQ tests, ex post evaluations of whether a computer program knows stuff. Measuring improvement of an ability is a more tangible objective than measuring the absolute ability.
For this reason, our definition will try to capture the ability of falling in love:
A computer program is said to fall in love with an object O based on their interaction I, if the quality of its relationship with O, as measured by a quality measure Q, improves with interaction I.
Mechanistic enough, right? Let’s see how we could make a well-defined machine loving problem using our definition:
Test whether a program is falling in love with a director
Object O: the director
Interaction I: watching the director’s movies
Quality measure Q: number of hours the program can discuss about them