Until now, it’s been assumed that giving artificial intelligence emotions — allowing them to get angry or make mistakes — is a terrible idea. But what if the solution to keeping robots aligned with human values is to make them more human, with all our flaws and compassion?
Robot Souls book cover. (Amazon)
That’s the premise of a forthcoming book called Robot Souls: Programming in Humanity, by Eve Poole, an academic at the Hult International Business School. She argues that in our bid to make artificial intelligence perfect, we have stripped out all the “junk code” that makes us human, including emotions, free will, the ability to make mistakes, to see meaning in the world and cope with uncertainty.
“It is actually this ‘junk’ code that makes us human and promotes the kind of reciprocal altruism that keeps humanity alive and thriving,” Poole writes.
“If we can decipher that code, the part that makes us all want to survive and thrive together as a species, we can share it with the machines. Giving them, to all intents and purposes, a ‘soul.’”
Of course, the concept of the “soul” is religious and not scientific, so for the purpose of this article, let’s just take it as a metaphor for endowing AI with more human-like properties.
The AI alignment problem
“Souls are 100% the solution to the alignment problem,” says Open Souls founder Kevin Fischer, referring to the thorny problem of ensuring AI works for the benefit of humanity instead of going rogue and destroying us all.
Open Souls is creating AI bots with personalities, building on the success of his empathic bot, “Samantha AGI.” Fischer’s dream is to imbue an artificial general intelligence (AGI) with the same agency and ego as a person. On the SocialAGI GitHub, he defines “digital souls” as different from traditional chatbots in that “digital souls have personality, drive, ego and will.”
A screenshot of a chat between a Replika user named Effy and her AI partner…..