Can intelligent thought occur without emotion?

If artificial intelligence does become intelligent, will it be because it has feeling?

Imagine if you could simply calculate and nothing more. Try thinking without the feeling or emotion. In this world, unless given the instruction to calculate, you wouldn’t- why would you, you wouldn’t feel the need to do so? You may ask what if your survival depended on it, but without emotion you would be agnostic. If you were given a calculation task, the decision as to whether to calculate itself would not consider if you actually wanted to or not. The question would be redundant. What we think about second to second, the big long gaps between the thoughts and calculations we perform is a long series of wants and impulses. It’s about your interests and how you can fulfill them.

The big difference is I guess that we have spare computational capacity and by some choice that we make we chose to think about others and this is emotion. We have made many big step forwards in our evolution, but from the sharing, use of tools, or agriculture, language or alphabet, I think sharing must have been the most unimaginable before we tried it. Without this we’d have no communication – why would we?

Decide on value

Success. It sounds so good that we all want a piece of it and wonder if we’re achieving it. But I think the real barometer of success is actually seen by the way it is measured in that particular case. The story that really made me think about this was featured in Techcrunch which hosts an explanation from the Emeritus Professor at the University of California, Berkeley who also dabbles as Chief Economist at Google – Hal Varian. His discussion is about how to value Google. His answer wasn’t to ask Google, but his own explanation in this article is far better than I could paraphrase. The overwhelming focus is on how the success makes a difference. Pondering the causality is to lose focus, but if you can provide a service, even if it’s saving a few people or a whole bigger bunch of people some time there’s success right in front of you. Just don’t stop and count, keep going.

Still don’t get it?

For a while I have occasionally complained about a small fraction of my frustration of how it seems people are using and trying social media and other technologies for everything. It seems as though I was in good company when Seth Godin expressed his horror that classrooms were being encouraged to continually tweet away during a talk by Fred Wilson.

Social for social sake seems to be shouted from every corner. I have thought it reminds me of a small child with a new toy that’s trying to use it in all sorts of ways except perhaps how it was designed to be played with.

Imagine a big gathering of caveman each being given a flint for the first time. They’d all take them home to their caves and presumably they would all attempt something different with their new toy. Perhaps it wasn’t even one of the smartest cavemen, in fact I guess it was the one who just tried banging things together, but one would notice a spark when it against a rock. As long as he remembered and passed this information to another caveman then caveman would have fire and their evolutionary fumbling would become an accelerated march.

Social media reserves praise for the elevated group of people that “get it”. Just like I need to back-track and re-assess my thinking it’s time to re-discover that patience with people who you think don’t “get it”. It’s not about helping them “get it”, but about trying to enabling our own thinking, conditioning it to when we were open to the most learning and of course the most creative. If we are to maximize what we have and better the way we do things we have to allow people not to “get it” and take the Lego building off plan. Yes, it’s painful to see kids build what’s not on the Lego plan but it’s right to let them try.

You do learn from football

I went to watch my local football team on Saturday. It was cold, drizzly and at half-time the tanoy played really tinny music. I was left looking around, the vast majority of the crowd were standing in a mist of busy chatter. It was later announced that the official attendance had been 3,300 people. Making a quick estimate that typically people were in on average groups of three, by this reckoning there was probably around 1,100 conversations during the half-time break, all busy expressing some fact, opinion, feeling, advice, recommendation or warning.

It is communication that has accelerated the technium (see “Saved but gone forever” post) that we live in. After the final whistle had blown, the crowds streamed out and dissipated away from the stadium. All a little bit wiser and maybe a new plan following their discussions.

We do come together to share and we need to. Without football I’m sure we’d create some other reason. Somewhere deep down we know it is our duty to offer some divergent viewpoint or some alternative perspective. It’s all about figuring out how we can do things better. We just can’t help it, even trying to manage a football team from the touchline!

Penny for a thought

A good friend of mine sent me the following quote from Jack Canfield:

“Think of a car driving through the night.  The headlights only go a hundred to two hundred feet forward, and you can make it all the way [home] driving through the dark, because all you have to see is the next two hundred feet.  And that’s how life tends to unfold before us.  If we just trust that the next two hundred feet will unfold after that, and the next two hundred feet will unfold after that, your life will keep unfolding.  And it will eventually get you to the destination of whatever it is you truly want, [simply] because you want it.”

This was originally meant for a description on life, but I suspect there’s a technology analogy here. We do keep probing for new ways of doing things, we can’t actually see the world in ten years time, but we can see it tomorrow and we can make snap guesses or inferences about the next 100 yards just beyond the reach of the headlights. The success of this analogy will depend on whether you believe the ultimate destination is in our own hands and we can collectively, perhaps by the power of the crowd choose where we’re heading or is it already pre-ordained the to some optimal structure?

Perhaps a corollary of this is to ask if crowds can be influenced or does it have a mind of its own?

Content for contents sake

There is so much focus on growing quality content that it feels a bit like the Dutch Tulip Bubble or a gold rush again.

Quality content is a good thing for everyone. Our problem throughout the ages has been coping with vast amounts of the stuff. Breakthrough methods for dealing with the surge in content are dotted throughout our past. From hieroglyphics, the Dewey Decimal System for books, Google for the web, indexation of data always follows a surge in content or information collection. How could it be otherwise?

However there is a risk of creating content for contents sake. Splurges of this occurred with cyber-squatters and pointless tweeting for statistical rank. As in the previous posting “Attentive yet not intrusive”, the benevolence of the internet will carry those trying to game it. Google searches for quality content to direct its users to and companies are busy with SEO’s coercing this.

Google wants to choose it’s winners by content and this is the battle for now. But with so many businesses reaching out to the population, matches and Google hits may be better served by considering capacity and service. Real time search is here and figuring itself out but is the next step one of ready capacity or ability to provide goods or services? Sometimes static information is exactly what’s needed and it is right that Wikipedia ranks well, but sometimes you just want to talk to someone at a company.

A key differentiating factor to business success is to empower employees to communicate with clients on the issues they may want to talk to your company about. Open the company to have has many contact-points as is manageable and allow customers to lead the discussion. The whole question of charging a handful of employees the responsibility to produce regular quality content all of a sudden seems peripheral.

Attentive yet not intrusive

I think most of us agree that adverts are a constant menace when surfing the web. They’re like jellyfish waiting to snare you and divert you. Yusuf Mehdi of Microsoft and Tim Armstrong of AoL, declared that “adverts are content too”. How can we argue against this when they are framed and contained within the same screen shot as our intended focus?

If adverts are to be part of content, and indeed quality content, of the internet for the foreseeable future, why can’t they just “get it”. Why can’t they follow your narrative? Web users need to demand control of their own user experience and compel adverts to follow the direction they are going. This also will include their preferred website not to throw pop-ups into your face or taunt you with banner-ads.

As Dennis Crowley, cofounder of Foursquare tweeted our of frustration; “Dear advertiser who dropped their ad into the middle of the live stream I was watching, I HATE YOU AND WILL NEVER BUY YOUR PRODUCT.”

Intrusive adverts will disappear, probably just after the company they are trying to promote disappears. In fact I think the actual websites hosting the adverts should ask themselves if they are happy to loose the customer for the price of the advert they have lost them too. In the meantime, those looking to better their reputation and customer pleasure should focus on being at hand only when needed and with something constructive to add to the ride.