TR#534: What does it mean for a computer to "have" emotions?

Rosalind W. Picard

To appear as a chapter in book: "Emotions in Humans and Artifacts," ed. by R. Trappl, P. Petta and S. Payr

There is a lot of talk about giving machines emotions, some of it fluff. Recently at a large technical meeting, a researcher stood up and talked of how a Barney stuffed animal (the purple dinosaur for kids) "has emotions." He did not define what he meant by this, but after repeating it several times, it became apparent that children attributed emotions to Barney, and that Barney had deliberately expressive behaviors that would encourage the kids to think Barney had emotions. But kids have attributed emotions to dolls and stuffed animals for as long as we know; and most of my technical colleagues would agree that such toys have never had and still do not have emotions. What is different now, which prompts a researcher to make such a claim? Is the computational plush an example of a computer that really does have emotions? If not Barney, then what would be an example of a computational system that has emotions? I am not a philosopher, and this paper will not be a discussion of the meaning of this question in any philosophical sense. However, as an engineer I am interested in what capabilities I would require a machine to have before I would say that it "has emotions," if that is even possible.

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