Yes, indeed! AI is forcing fundamental questions. This is why“AI” (the air quotes on purpose) is a deeply fascinating topic to me. Perhaps at its core, it not about technology, but about how humanity perceives itself. “To be or not to be”, “I think, therefore I am”. Essentially a question of “how closely can this system mimic myself?” This human-likeness is, I believe, a stand-in for intelligence. Or, in other words, a system is perceived as intelligent, if it mimics a human as closely as possible. Therefore I have the feeling that at the moment vanity plays a big role how people perceive AI. Because we are, of course, the measure of all things. Didn’t God create us in his image? As far as I understand it, AI is still an elaborate probability equation. We can do it in regular databases (invented in the noughties), and it’s apparently not really a new concept. It tries to represent reality - or in practice a large set of text - in numbers. (Almost like the pursuit of the obsessed mathematician to represent life as an equation; to me beautifully rendered in Aronofsky’s film “Pi”) A calculator (on our wristwatches, concealed below our school-desks) far exceeded our capabilities. So do modern day computers. But since the day we can interact with them like we would with a human being, we perceive it as AI. Is it intelligent? No. But it“is” what we make of it.

So I believe that your thought “the goal is for AI-powered robots to become able to accurately read and respond to human emotions” is spot on. And that in effect the “philosophical dimension” and the emotional aspect to AI is not to be underestimated. “AI will not so much serve human beings as strike up a symbiotic relationship with us” as you say. To me this “AI” comes down to UX - another acronym that is thrown around: “User Experience”. So the question of is how naturally we can interact with a computer (vs a human being). The interface behaves “naturally” if it mimics human interaction. In theory, perfect. (Why all the abstraction via mouse, keyboards and icons… A voice command like“Computer: Earl Grey hot” is much more … practical)

Softbanks Idea to have the Pepper robot in stores to respond to customer queries (as opposed to a boring “wending machine” type interface) was really innovative - and “cute”. (Not meant as a derogative - and the way to go for) Also, the idea you have pointed out, to have robot care-givers for the elderly might have been too early, but is, in a way, the direction I would aim for. Dystopian, yes, as I would prefer a flesh-and-blood person, (and I did two years of civil service in a public care home for elderly people, which I would want to have missed) but indeed, “the goal is for AI-powered robots to become able to accurately read and respond to human emotions” is what we should stride for. And this emotional and social angle is something we have seen in Japanese IT companies for a while should be applauded. (I might have outed myself as an techno-optimist) However, the days when Rick Deckard (Blade Runner) has to “out” people as androids (and not being sure if he himself is the real biological deal) and we forge friendships with androids like Data (Star Trek) and fight for their “right to live” in court, are still far off, I believe. But age-old-problems (“age-old” as in the dawn of the the internet) like intellectual property and attribution of sources are probably much more a problem we have to deal with. Unfortunately, Deckard’s reality, where he had to question who is real (fact vs fake news) became more “present” than “future” as I would like to. Paired with potential threats to jobs, wages and livelihoods...

… I’m am somewhat embarrassed by the rambling length of my comment … please take it as an “I enjoyed to read your post” and “would love to read more”, and think about “what sort of society do we want to be” :)

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