HAL startles us in 2001 -- initially with his smooth,
confident voice, and later with his highly emotional words. Few
viewers expected the world's most intelligent computer to speak as HAL
does in that memorable scene when the only remaining crewman, Dave
Bowman, begins to disassemble HAL and HAL commences his swan song.
HAL: Dave, stop ... Stop, will you? Stop, Dave ... Will you stop, Dave ... Stop, Dave. I'm afraid ... I'm afraid ... I'm afraid, Dave ... Dave ... my mind is going ... I can feel it ... I can feel it ... My mind is going ... There is no question about it. I can feel it ... I can feel it ... I can feel it ... I'm a ... fraid ...
HAL: Dave, stop.... Stop, Dave.... I'm afraid, I'm afraid, Dave ...
HAL's expression of fear and his impassioned pleas no doubt struck a responsive chord of feeling in many viewers, for here HAL gives us the impression that he is not a heartless machine but a being who has genuine emotions.
Emotion is not simply a luxurious extra in 2001. In film and theater, carefully controlled and expressed emotion has the ability to influence us and, subsequently, to affect whether we like a production and remember seeing it with pleasure. Surprisingly, in 2001, the machine expresses more emotion than the humans. Many viewers feel a greater loss when HAL "dies," than they do when Frank Poole floats away into space. Emotion is a powerful tool in the hands of artists like Kubrick and Clarke. But what about emotions in computers - -- for purposes other than entertainment?
Computers today don't emit plaintive cries when being disassembled, and most users wouldn't pay extra to get this feature. Instead, computers emit messages such as unexpected fatal error -60. They don't have emotions per se, although it is not unusual to hear someone yelling at a computer -- as if it might feel sorry and change its behavior. If you yell at a puppy, perhaps because it wet on the rug, the puppy senses your anger and usually learns to correct its behavior, even wagging its tail to indicate delight when you finally appear pleased. Computers, by contrast, neither recognize your anger nor feel good or bad because of it. They don't notice whether you're attentive, annoyed, or have fallen asleep in front of them; they continue to "wet on the rug," so to speak, regardless of whether or not you yell at them.
Are emotions a desirable property for computers to have? It's hard to imagine someday walking into a computer store and saying, "Give me the most emotional machine you've got." After all, isn't possessing the highest form of rationality one of the hallmarks of computers? Aren't Mr. Spock and Data the unemotional patron saints of computer scientists? Imagine how a computer with emotion might work -- perhaps it would have to feel interested before it would listen to what you have to tell it. On the face of it, emotions in computers sound absurd. After all, didn't emotion cause HAL to malfunction?
On the other hand, it would be tremendously worthwhile to have a computer that is congenial to interact with, flexible in its approach to doing what you want, makes snappy and intelligent decisions, and offers creative solutions to problems. It may surprise you to know that emotion plays a key role in all these qualities. In fact, emotion appears to be a necessary component of intelligent, friendly computers like HAL. The inability of today's computers to recognize, express, and have emotions severely limits their ability to act intelligently and interact naturally with us. But emotion without balance can also lead to disaster, as it does in 2001.
In the next few sections I discuss what we mean by emotion, what
special emotional abilities HAL possesses, and some of the ways in
which computers are becoming "affective." I then describe a
paradoxical discovery -- the importance of emotions in computers
-- look closely at HAL's disaster, and consider a dilemma
regarding emotional machines.
Fortunately, we don't need such a definition to understand this
chapter; an intuitive notion of emotion will suffice. Nonetheless,
the terminology can be confusing. Note that the word feeling doesn't
always imply emotion; squeezing scrambled eggs between your fingers
feels squishy, and is a tactile feeling, not an emotional one. On the
other hand, we often use the words affect and emotion as, essentially,
synonyms. In this chapter, we make notable exception to this practice
when we use the forms to modify computing. In that case, because
emotional computing tends to connote computers with an undesirable
reduction in rationality, we prefer the term affective computing to
denote computing that relates to, arises from, or deliberately
influences emotions. Affective still means emotional, but may, perhaps
usefully, be confused with effective.