Machines have emotions

Exhibition - Are robots becoming more like us - or are they more like us?

Are robots becoming more like us - or are they more like us?

Machines recognize emotions. In doing so, they adapt to humans. But it only becomes frightening when humans approach the machine.

Machines calculate faster than we do, they beat us in check and they optimize traffic flows better. We got used to that. In the case of “machine activities”, we leave the field to them. It is different when machines recognize whether someone is sad, when they assess whether a new employee fits into an existing team, or when they make psychiatric diagnoses.

Then we feel challenged. Because this is about emotions, something deeply human. For that you need a consciousness and probably also a body. Machines do not have both. How are you supposed to perceive emotions in people when they cannot have them themselves?

Well, they don't know if someone is sad, only if someone looks sad. To do this, an algorithm analyzes the patterns in a face. In the exhibition “Real Feelings: Emotions and Technology” in the House of Electronic Arts in Basel, visitors are confronted with this process. Several cameras film the people in the rooms. At the end of the exhibition, portraits of the visitors are shown on large screens and emotions such as “bored” or “excited” are assigned to them.

The two American artists Lauren Lee McCarthy and Kyle McDonald make visible what is increasingly happening in secret: machines recognize emotions in facial features and derive character traits from them. In some companies, job applicants are asked to apply with a video. A machine then takes over the first round of screening. That is more efficient and the results appear to be satisfactory.

Perhaps they are missing out on a few particularly brilliant minds because the machines cannot cope with their differences; but that doesn't matter because there are enough compliant candidates. And she finds the machine.

The inner workings of people and machines are black boxes

The more intelligent machines become, the greater the fear that we will lose control of them and that they will harm us. Be it with armed force as in “Terminator” or with their cognitive superiority as in “2001: A Space Odyssey”.

Despite recent advances in artificial intelligence, such scenarios are well into science fiction. The danger is not so much that machines become more human-like than that of people approaching the machines.

The more power we give to machines, the more we adapt the world so that it can be perceived by machines. This is how human behavior changes too. When people talk to their smartphones, they often give their commands in choppy, robotic language. When algorithms use video recordings to judge whether someone is suitable for a job, it makes sense for applicants to present their emotions and character traits in a way that machines can "read" them.

The more machines penetrate people's emotional sphere, the greater the risk that our emotions will wither. Because machines can never perceive them in all their shades. They know what a sad person looks like, but cannot understand what it feels like when someone is abandoned by their girlfriend, or gain an awareness of what it feels like when love turns to hate.

The human psyche remains a black box for the machine, just as the processes in the neural networks of an artificial intelligence remain inaccessible to humans. Therefore, both lack direct access to each other.

In the exhibition “Real Feelings: Emotions and Technology” there is a video installation by the French artist Justine Emard in which a robot and a human approach each other. The machine responds to human words with a hiss. There is no common language.

The title of the work “Co (AI) xistence”, however, signals that there can be togetherness. The two beings are found in dance.

Artistic inflated? Pure utopia? There are examples of this. Better than a computer alone, a human and a computer play chess in a team. And perhaps the algorithm that evaluates job applicants is also helpful if you combine it with a person's deeper emotional knowledge.

Real Feelings can be seen until November 15th in the House of Electronic Arts in Basel.