Emotions in humans and light bulbs in a robot

    Having written “The Possible Way to Create a Strong AI”, I, of course, understood that the brevity of the presentation did not allow us to explain the essential points and, moreover, to justify them. I will now try to make several posts in which I will focus on the most significant ideas.

    The first thing that I always encounter is a rather vague understanding, even among specialists, of the role of emotions in a person and how emotions control behavior.

    The household approach looks like this:
    • when a certain situation evokes emotions or feelings in us, we commit acts under the influence of the emotions that have arisen;
    • if an act promises the emergence of positive emotions, we commit this act, and emotion is a stimulus;
    • emotions are the source of our activity and “make” us act;
    • emotions realize instincts - programs of behavior laid down by nature, aimed at implementing some kind of “appropriate” behavior.

    In all of the above, there is not a word of truth!

    The main source of error is described by the principle that was formulated a couple of thousand years ago: "after that does not mean because of that." The action occurs after emotions or their expectations, but this does not mean that due to them.

    Surprisingly, the further narrative will resemble a “journey in three pines”, but how many people still wander in these pines!

    Imagine that information from our senses forms a sensory layer. Initially, from birth there are unconditioned reflexes; they respond to a certain state of the sensory layer and cause an action associated with it. Here I hope it’s clear for now.

    Now imagine that there are unconditioned reflexes that do not cause any action, but lead to the emergence of emotions or sensations. To make it easier to imagine, imagine light bulbs, some painted in warm colors and others in cold colors. Some correspond to positive emotions, while others correspond to negative ones. Imagine that we are connected, immobilized, but perceive what is happening. The lights will blink cheerfully, reflecting our emotional state. Emotions determine our attitude to what is happening, they state that what is happening is “good” or “bad”.

    Moreover, it is “good”, “bad” wired from birth in the system of unconditioned reflexes. I will not complicate the story now and describe how the assessment of complex phenomena occurs, how education affects the value system, take a word that I know the answer, but now I would like to convey the basic idea with simple examples.

    The lights are blinking and what's next? Okay, untie us. Will we move, of course, because we have unconditioned reflexes. As a result of our movements, the situation is changing, its assessment of emotions is changing, the glow of bulbs is changing. And now memory comes onto the scene. Stop, we’ll immediately make a reservation, now the conversation is not about what we can remember and imagine the events of the past, but about what is memory as an instrument consisting of neurons.
    Each time there is a change in the emotional state, the memory remembers the situation in which we are, from which elements it is composed, what actions we perform and to which change in emotions this corresponds. That is, the role of light bulbs, that is, emotions, does not push us into action, but evaluate what has already been accomplished and allow us to form a memory.

    Then everything is simple. When we encounter something familiar, all the elements of memory that learned what is happening begin to “push” us into actions that they remember if a positive change in emotions corresponded to these memories and “slow down” from actions that corresponded to a negative change in emotions.

    The stronger the emotion and the fresher memory, the stronger the contribution of the memory. If the memories are contradictory, we will summarize and see what wins.

    The act that we ultimately commit, we will commit under the influence of memory, we will do it subconsciously. We are aware of the emotion that will be at this moment and the perfect act itself. And many will still think that this emotion triggered this action.

    For particularly picky readers who say that this does not explain everything, I note that our fantasies evoke the same emotional appreciation as real events. And we create memories on their basis, and these memories of the “virtual” experience immediately begin to shape our behavior.

    Actually, according to this principle, a conditioned reflex, a saliva bell, is formed in a Pavlov dog for a series of thirty experiments. And the child, once falling down the stairs, begins to be afraid of heights. The principle is the same, the difference in the strength of emotional reinforcement.

    Often we do not realize what caused our behavior, where are the causes, and where are the consequences, where are the unconditioned reflexes, and where is the work of memory. Let's look at a simple example. Suppose you touch a red-hot electric stove with your hand. It hurts you to pull your hand back. That's all.

    And now for the points:

    • Impulses from peripheral pain receptors cause an unconditioned reflex - withdrawal of the arm.
    • These same impulses cause another reflex - a sensation of pain.
    • We see a red plate, this image is recognized by us. We experience severe deterioration in emotional state caused by severe pain. A memory is formed regarding the red plate and touching it with a strong negative “color”.
    • Reflex jerking of the arm leads to the fact that the sharp pain goes away and even if there is a weaker pain from the burn, this corresponds to a strong positive change in the emotional state. A memory is formed linking the red plate, the hand that touched it and the fact that the withdrawal was very positively “colored” (“positive” should not be confused with “pleasant”, the transition from a very bad state to a less bad state is also positive).

    • we will no longer touch the red plate;
    • accidentally touching something similar to a red plate, we will pull our hand away, even if there is nothing hot or dangerous there.

    It may be short and slurred, but did not want to become boring.

    In the next article, I will describe a model on neurons that implements all of the above.

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