My own, personal, Mr. Roboto

I’ve just been reading an interview with Marvin Minsky in today’s local newspaper about the future of artificial intelligence, and it got me thinking. His current premise is that emotions are not distinct from rational thought. Instead, they are complementary ways to interact with the world. The example he gives is that being angry is one way to deal with problems because you intimidate people or make them go away. Thus, problem solved!

He further goes on to suggest that once we know more about how emotions, or alternate thought resources in general, are hard-wired (in this rational, complementary way), we’ll be able to design robots who can also experience emotions.

Putting these two ideas together, I think that someone should be designing emotional robots that can deal with your problems. For some reason, I also think that they should be small enough to fit in your pocket and be pulled out in times of need, much like some of the characters in anime. They would also fly to the source of trouble with crazy faces and lines streaming out behind them to indicate how fast they are going (in case you don’t know what I mean, check this out).

The big question, though, is: what would these robots do that would be distinct from what normal robots might be capable of? My choices for now (one for each pocket) are: 1) a robot that is horrified at finding spiders inside that would take them away and 2) a robot that becomes angry at people littering (such as the woman on the way to the subway this morning) and convinces them of the importance of using trash cans.

What robots would you want?

Catherine (assistant editor, Nature Chemical Biology)