Could robots ever have emotions?

Would the emotions expressed by a robot ever be “real”?

To get at this question we first have to take a look inside ourselves to see what happens when we experience and express emotion. Look under the hood so to speak and see what’s going on.

Now to do this I don’t think we need to have some special form of access say to the brain. We don’t need any other form of knowledge or experience than what is universally available to everyone by virtue of the fact that as humans we all have emotions.

So here’s my description of what happens when I experience emotions.

There is a circumstance or event that happens. When I become aware of this event and if I care about the constituents of the event I experience gladness, regret, excitement etc.

Now how do I know I am experiencing an emotion? What is it that informs me of this?

Very often it is a change in my heart rate, a feeling in my belly or just a general change in the tone of my experience.

A spring to my step or a falling feeling in the stomach.

Why I feel what I feel or rather why I interpret the sensation as either a positive or negative emotion isn’t as immediately available as the immediate experience of the emotion so I am compelled to generate a theory.

The theory that makes most sense to me is that our preference is the determining factor behind how I interpret my emotion.

If I want the outcome of the event it is good; if I don’t want the outcome of the event it is bad.

Why do i prefer what I prefer? I don’t know is the simple answer.

The best narrative to use to understand preferences is that of programming.

The only difference between my preferences and a computers programming is that I was programmed by nature and the computer was programmed by man.

Now to the robot.

Some people will say “a robot cannot have real emotions because it is just programmed to do what it does.”

That is to say that when event x happens the robot’s programming tells it to express so and so emotion.

How would the robot be told this?

There may be a certain transistor that turns on or a group of transistors that turn on in a specific pattern.

I don’t really know enough about computers to know how but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that some form of a signal will tell the robot how to act.

Well what is the difference between the physiological changes that occur to my body that tell me I am angry and the signal that tells the robot how to act?

I mean anger is the physiological changes accompanied by my interpretation of them.

The robot has both of these characteristics. There is a signal and programming that tells the robot how to interpret the signal. The signal acts as a result of external stimuli.

Don’t you see that this narrative is a perfectly adequate narrative for what happens to us when we experience emotions?

You may say that the robot isn’t conscious. I won’t go into that claim here but say it isn’t.

So what?

Consciousness is present in all of our experiences. And emotion is one of those.

You are not always angry. You are not always conscious.

Does consciousness need to be present for emotion? I think not.

Consciousness is a kind of emptiness. A space for stuff to happen in and for and to. As such the stuff happening to consciousness would still be happening if consciousness were not aware of it.

Your breath is a perfect example of this.

Really this issue is the result of a false dichotomy we have drawn between nature and man. Real and artificial.

Man is a continuation of nature. He is nature.

If the products of human activity are not natural than neither are termite mounds.

It seems reasonable to assume that anything man produces will share some very basic and fundamental features with man.


The hubris of thought

A very common trap we fall into with our thinking is the belief that reality has to conform to our thinking.

This is shown in the ontological argument for the existence of God.

The ontological argument goes:

God is that than which nothing greater can be thought.

That than which nothing greater can be thought (we’ll call it god from here on in. Think of God as a variable; like an x in algebra) can be thought of as existing and not existing.

God existing is greater than god not existing therefore we cannot think of God as not existing.

All well and good but the final clause in the argument is the trap I am talking about.

Therefore God must exist. (implicitly: because we cannot think of God as not existing)

What we have done here is show that using certain laws for thought – playing a certain thought game as Wittgenstein would put it – you cannot think of God as not existing. The trap is to then extend this beyond the limits of thought itself. Why should reality conform to laws of thought?

This trap is so common because I believe it is something we are born believing. It’s behind the belief called naïve realism. We all believe that the world outside of our experience must conform to the world of our experience without ever having any proof for or against this belief.

Another example of this way of thinking, of how we extend the rules of thought to illegitimately (without any ground) make claims about reality is the idea of infinite divisibility.

Numbers come from counting and counting is a process that is reversible. You can go on into infinity and you can go back to infinity. You can also count within a number (1, ½, 1/3, ¼ etc). This capacity is something our brains can do.

We can do loops and such things with ease. But is reality infinite? Is the space out there that we experience infinitely divisible? This is of course an empirical question and because of that and the nature of infinity it is impossible to answer. But we just assume without too much trouble that this must be the case.

Always try to maintain the distinction between the thought and what it is a thought about and let the thought be determined by the object of thought. Don’t try to put a square peg in a round hole.

Everyone Understands Everything

I know this sounds like an extreme statement but I believe I can show you that you understand everything.

Let’s take a biggie to demonstrate: What happens after you die?

I think this is a question most people would claim to not understand.

In answer to this question there are a couple of answers I can come up with. We could wake up in heaven, there could be nothing, it could be hell, or a shifting of awareness from the individual to the universal.

I don’t know which one is the case but each of them I understand and so do you.

This shows us that when we use the word understand we haven’t been pure in how we use it. Instead we have mixed up in it concepts like certainty or knowing which understanding is the correct one.

Some may say that we don’t understand these answers because we can’t conceive of them. This is a bit like the claim that we can’t understand infinity.

We can clearly understand infinity because we can perform maths with it and make statements about it. Whether or not any of these understandings of infinity are “correct” (which means nothing less than that they are the correct expression of what is actually the case (where-ever you want to place that actuality)) is irrelevant to what I’m getting at. There will be a correct answer and because it is an answer you will be able to understand it.

But aside from this the claim that you don’t understand a thing if you can’t visualize it or imagine it is clearly refuted by number.

What is the number “2”? It isn’t the symbol because II and 10 are all symbols for the same thing.

It isn’t any quantity of objects you imagine. This is because 2 can be said of any couple of objects irrespective of what they are. That is to say that in any attempt to locate 2 in any 2 objects will fail because 2 is not an object that can be seen.

But to bring it to point, the fact is we all clearly understand numbers because we use them. A mathematician may have a richer or more explicit understanding but you who are not a mathematician still understand it at a fundamental level.

To demonstrate this imagine changing the lengths and angles of a triangle in your mind. You can do this and you’ll see the triangle changing in a certain way. You may not even be aware that you are aware of the relation of angles and lengths but you are and that understanding or relation is demonstrated in the imagined triangles.

All that a mathematician does is try to pin this understanding down into a statement or equation that it is easier to do work with.

But just as a mathematician knows he has the correct equation because he can produce many triangles from those equations so you too can produce many triangles in your mind all of which will conform to the laws of triangles and this demonstrates that at a very fundamental level you understand triangles.

So we may not yet know that we understand everything but that’s only because we haven’t been aware of everything. But any answer to any question is going to be intelligible because it is an answer, because that is what an answer is.

The Problematics of Understanding and Explaining Articulated via inept painting


Today I’ve been messing around with painting.

Now don’t go expecting any masterpiece because this is the first time I’ve played with paint since I was at school.

As is ever the case with me I am attempting to convey a meaning or realization. In this case it is about how any attempt to understand anything using language or logic (which is a kind of language after all) is futile.

So here is the artist’s (me) intended meaning for his painting:

The circle represents the world.

The various coloured segments (which should look like hexagons) represent our attempt to understand the world using language.

I chose hexagons because they can be made up out of a shape consisting of 3 lines. 1 line goes straight up and the other 2 go off in opposite directions.

The Problem of Understanding and Explaining via Inept Paint Play

This shape symbolises a simple sentence which is significant because all sentences (at least in the English language) can be reduced to simple sentences.

I won’t go into the deeper significance of this concept here because I have already described it in here.

The two purple lines that dissect in two in rose coloured lines represent how man is trapped in his attempt to understand the world if that attempt is made using language.

The chaos at the centre of the circle represents the increasing complexity that arises with each attempt at explaining causal phenomena.

The trap and the increasing complexity I have already described here.

Problems with the Phenomenological Rebuttal of Free-Will cont….

The other way it could be is that all that you call your actions, intentions, emotions and experiences are all the actions of a kind of performer. You are just watching the performer do its thing and this performer has tricked you into thinking you are it. Much like a good movie or theatre company can make the audience forget themselves for a bit.

This would account for why we don’t know what we are going to choose before we choose it; what we will think before we think it. It would account for the opaque nature of the black box out of which all our experiences (I include intentions and decisions within that category) come.

Though both these pictures could be the case I genuinely believe we are merely passive observers in our lifes.

We have become so caught up in the drama on the stage that we have forgotten that it isn’t us up there.

Just like a play has a beginning and an end; life has a beginning and an end. Maybe at the end we’ll get to take our masks off and discover we were the same entity playing or the parts.

Or we might just go into oblivion knowing nothing forever which ain’t that bad if you think about it.

Problems with the Phenomenological Rebuttal of Free-Will

I have a number of prongs in my attack on the traditional conception of free-will (the conception that states that if two worlds were identical in every way then it would be possible for a person x in one world to make a different decision to person x in the other world).

Recently I have thought of an analogy, or model, to show the problems in the phenomenological rebuttal of free-will.

If you try to distinguish between what you have control over and what you don’t have control over you will find that the closer you look the less you have control over; until it becomes apparent that you are nothing but a passive observer.

Your thoughts just pop spontaneously into your mind. Intentions I would say are thoughts to and like thoughts they just spring up out of no-where. But it is intentionality (that is the feeling of intending to do something) that we use to distinguish between what we have control over and what we don’t have control over.

The will to act upon an intention is no different. It’s not as if you will to will to will to act upon an intention. The will just appears magically.

Now this could be the result of a necessary bifurcation in our being brought about by our self-aware nature.

It is a bit like watching your reflection in the mirror. Whilst you are aware of yourself and your reflection you know that your reflection raising its arm is caused by you raising your arm.

If all you had available was the reflection then you could be forgiven for thinking it was moving itself and not being moved by your own actions and in a phenomenological analysis we may be just looking at the mirror and nothing else.

Naughty Communication

Arbitrary expressions of affection (or any emotion for that matter) come closer to displaying the true purpose of communication than say the form I am now engaged in. We don’t really communicate to convey information; we communicate for the sheer hell of it. But because we’re silly billys we have to create elaborate justifications for communication such as “to convey information” which is a bit like the teenagers caught fucking who said they were testing what they saw in biology class as justification for engaging in their activity.


Both with smirks on their faces too.

Just a ramble

What are words but signs that point to concepts in the mind. Concepts not images for images are a sub-set of concepts. That is they can be reduced to each other.

What is language if not a set of pictures and do not these pictures come to express concepts.

There’s a problem here! Do concepts exist as words on a page or as mental content or forms?

If concepts are nothing but words on paper then concepts can be created by pictures. But if concepts are not words on paper. The words on the page being triggers for certain mental states.

But then they both comprise the same informational content.

Making sense of concepts requires a more holistic understanding that expresses the relationship between the Dasein, concepts and images.

Apologetic thinking and….

There are two types of thinker’s. I haven’t thought of a name for the second yet so I shall describe the first and most common. The Apologist.


The Apologist’s main concern in thinking and discussing are to come up with arguments for a concept or set of concepts they already believe in.


Richard Dawkins’ way of thinking – at least as he publicly displays it – is apologetic. His agenda is to convince people that God isn’t real. The thinking behind this is one in which a concept – atheism – is constantly analysed in order to discover more convincing arguments for it.


The thinking of most religious people is the same; which is why I lump Richard Dawkins and all stubborn atheists in the same bit of play-doh as Christian fundamentalists.


So when these people come across a new concept they don’t look at it with innocent eyes; immediately they are assessing it to see whether it can be used to confirm or deny their set of concepts.

Most of these people are obsessing over metaphysical conundrums which have been shown to be unanswerable for millenia. If, in order to ascertain the truth value of a statement you refer to experience, to what are you meant to refer to in order to ascertain the truth value of a statement concerning the causes of experience?