Synthetic emotions? Sounds like science fiction but it’s not.

If you think the idea of feeling, emotive synthetic humans is pure science fiction fantasy, well, you’re wrong.

As we see on page 91 of The Lightstream Chronicles, Toei-N is quite in a lather about having met Chancellor Zhang in person. Not surprising; she is probably the most famous, if not the most important person in the world in 2159. The figurehead of the largest nation on the planet she oversees the governing influences of billions of people. An emotional response is consistent so I can see why someone might be just a bit nervous about meeting her, especially unexpectedly. But, let’s not forget that Toei-N is an N-Class synthetic—not human. Typical science fiction you might think, but you might want to think again.

If it was purely the stuff of sci-fi, then you might not see quite so many scholars with it on their Google Alerts. For example, there is the International Journal of Synthetic Emotions. Published semi-annually, the IJSE describes itself thus:

The International Journal of Synthetic Emotions (IJSE) covers the main issues relevant to the generation, expression, and use of synthetic emotions in agents, robots, systems, and devices. Providing unique, interdisciplinary research from across the globe, this journal covers a wide range of topics such as emotion recognition, sociable robotics, and emotion-based control systems useful to field practitioners, researchers, and academicians.

Tooling around Amazon, you could stumble upon the Handbook of Research on Synthetic Emotions and Sociable Robotics: New Applications in Affective Computing and Artificial Intelligence, by Jordi Vallverdu.

The technology that we often dismiss as science fiction is progressively becoming less so,  and though it may not be developed to the extent that we see in The Lightstream Chronicles, it’s fair to say that it just a matter of time.

When futurist, inventor and singularity forecaster Ray Kurzweil reviewed the Spike Jonze film, Her, he placed the reasonable plausibility of the Samantha character at 2029, “when the leap to human level AI would be reasonably believable.” Of course, in the movie, Samantha does not have a body such as Toei but Kurzweil says this is a minor detail. “The idea that AIs will not have bodies is a misconception. If she can have a voice, she can have a body. ” Kurzweil is also a proponent of the idea that technology develops exponentially not in any kind of linear fashion. ” If human-level AI is feasible around 2029, it will, according to my law of accelerating returns, be roughly doubling in capability each year.”1

His theory is hard to argue with and the smart phone is my perennial example. The Motorola Razr was developed in 2003. In just eleven years the iPhone 6 is a thousand times more powerful, and if we buy the exponential theory, that should double in just a couple of years. Have you seen the Apple Watch?


The Motorola Rasr. 700 bucks in 2003.
The Motorola Rasr. 700 bucks in 2003.
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2 thoughts on “Synthetic emotions? Sounds like science fiction but it’s not.”

  1. Seems like a luxury reatret for the jet set think tanks. Donald, something is very heavy on my mind, This is not related but I have been asking everyone and have not received an answer that would make some sense.I have just finished reading Dominique Lapierre’s City of Joy and I am absolutely disoriented. I do not know how we Indians are so shielded from these realities. The service and humility of the Polish priest, the main protagonist is super human. At one point I could not understand a Christian belief, which I will also be asking my American friends.At one point, the priest is approached by his leper friend to negotiate for another leper’s wife. It seems as the leprosy deteriorates the sexual appetite of the lepers is insatiable(what an irony, no limbs but so much lust). Now, the priest refuses to negotiate on this leper’s behalf. Later when the other leper sells his wife for 500 Rs, the priest attends the wedding and he comments: ‘fantastic lesson in hope’ and marveled once more that ‘so much life and joy could spring from such abjection’.And at another place: he had read one day in a book by a French writer named Leon Bloy: We do not enter paradise either tomorrow or in ten years’ time. We enter today if we are poor and crucified.’ What I am unable to understand is, how being poorest of the poor and suffering qualifies one to be an inhabitant of Kingdom of heaven? This has been tormenting me since I read this book. Why is this belief so strong, what I saw this transaction as is inhuman. A child is born out of this, and to me there is no bigger crime than to bring another life in the mentioned environs. As you mention the problems, I was thinking that our Earth is still beautiful, giving and fertile, we have just become too demanding. Even a sensible population control can bring balance back. Sorry for the unrelated comment but am feeling so lost after reading this book and even guilty of not sharing enough and of having a good life and not being hungry.

    1. I can’t speak to the existential underpinnings of the City of Joy, but there is more than one poverty. There is the poor in spirit as the scripture says, that there is none that is righteous and all are in need of a Savior. Therein is hope.

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