Seemingly against all whims of science fiction, a project to endow computers with emotions has just gotten funding from Google.
The project aims to give computers the gift of knowing “regret,” or more specifically, minimizing its regret. It was originally announced by Prof. Yishay Mansour of Tel Aviv University’s Blavatnik School of Computer Science earlier this year, but only recently won funding from Google.
It could become “a nexus on the cutting edge of computer science and game theory,” according to the American Friends Tel Aviv University (AFTAU).
The part Google is drawn to was described by Mansour, who basically stated that if computers could predict outcomes in advance, it would help them better allocate resources.
Mansour’s exact words were:
If the servers and routing systems of the Internet could see and evaluate all the relevant variables in advance, they could more efficiently prioritize server resource requests, load documents and route visitors to an Internet site, for instance.
A good analogy is the computer in the film, “War Games” that decided against launching a nuclear war after seeing that any action would end in both sides losing.
The “regret” concept works similar to this. According to the AFTAU, it would let computers look ahead at potential outcomes and adjusting their actions to get the best result.
Giving computers a sense of emotion is interesting, as it plays into the whole premise of the film “Blade Runner.” For those who don’t remember, the organic robot “replicants” were given a four-year lifespan, as humans were afraid they would develop emotions and become uncontrollable.
As a reminder, here’s the famed final scene where Roy Batty, a replicant, recounts his life just before his time runs out — I, for one, would hate to see my emotionally-developed computer have to go through this (spoiler alert):
Photo credit: A Photoshop illustration of Roy Batty from the film, “Blade Runner.” (Image courtesy of MaxHitman)