The Cerebral Vortex

Emotional Machines: Binary Tears and Digital Sarcasm

At first I started to write this article as a bit of trivia about "The Terminator" series of movies. Then came "The Sarah Connor Chronicles" with a new and improved chick Terminator. After contemplating the weight of the subject for a while, I decided to provide a little technical background information with some social commentary for good measure about the older Arnold Schwarzenegger version. Whether people want to admit it or not, the age of “Emotional Machines” is approaching. It’s just a matter of time before machines develop the ability to “think” and “feel” using complex heuristic algorithms. Remember the 1984 movie "The Terminator", starring Arnold Schwarzenegger as T-800 Terminator robot? Some interesting trivia about this film is that whenever you see the view as seen by The Terminator scrolling download the side of his eye/camera display. That 'stuff' is actually 6502 assembly/machine code fragment. More specifically, the actual code shown is the screen output of a checksum program for the Apple II. The 6502 chip (pictured below) was manufactured by MOS Technology in 1975 and was used in the Apple II and Commodore 64.

It looked pretty high-tech in the context of the movie. They decided to use more readable, but less believable stuff in the 2nd movie.

Just to illustrate how unwieldy the code is when using a low-level assembly language, below is the ever famous “Hello World” program written for this particular processor:

MSG: .ASCIIZ "Hello, world!"
LDX #$F3
@LP: LDA MSG-$F3,X ; load character
JSR $FFD2 ; CHROUT (KERNAL), output to current output device (screen)
INX
BNE @LP ;
RTS

The 6502 is an 8-bit processor with a 16-bit address bus was typically run at 1 MHz clock speed. The question of the minute is: “Can the 6502 chip power a complex machine like the T-800 Model 101 Terminator robot?” Although this chip was the inspiration for much faster processor chips that are currently in use today, the answer is …NO.

The beginnings of the “Age of Emotional Machines” can already be seen on the Internet. Where? You guessed it….in Internet Chat Rooms!

Chat bots are small stepping stones towards building anything close to an emotional machine. So far the bots are only able to understand emotions that are expressed by words or short sentences. Like "Hello!", "How are you?", "I don't like you", this step is just like the "hello world!" in programming language or single words.1.

Chat bots have been implemented quite successfully to moderate chat rooms. This is still light-years away from being an emotional machine, but it’s a creepy start. Reasons for this progression toward smarter more human-like machines and software, is:

  1. The dissolution of the need for face-to-face interactions with people.
  2. Increased comfort level in dealing with computers/technology instead of people
  3. The need for human interaction in an environment of increasing socially disparity

Responsive, emotional, intelligent machines seem to be just what the Doctor ordered. Although many human qualities can be mimicked by software and computers, the basic quality that cannot be coded into a machine is what French philosopher Henri Bergson called élan vital. His concept of élan vital, "creative impulse" or "living energy", was developed in Creative Evolution, his most famous book. Élan vital is an immaterial force, whose existence cannot be scientifically verified, but it provides the vital impulse that continuously shapes all life. It is basically the force that motivates people to persist and be motivated from moment to moment. No matter how many ones and zeros you feed into a super processor chip, I don’t believe that this can be fabricated. If (when?) the great Machine vs. Man conflict comes you can count me on the side of the human resistance.
Oh and another thing… There is one thing that kind of bothered me in the "Terminator" series. It's not really a big deal, but did you ever notice that Arnold has no eye brows in the first movie, but, in "Terminator 2" he does have eyebrows, why is this????. The Terminator in T2 has to be a different model with an eyebrow upgrade. It's all about accessorizing.

1AI-Depot.com, “Overview: Building Emotional Machines”, Nitin Mendi...


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