Callum Runner-Up in Young Scientists Encouragement Award

Congratulations to Callum who was runner-up in an ATA Scientific Encouragement Award program for young scientists. The task was to answer the below question in 500 words or less, and the most amusing or imaginative entries would receive a cash prize towards attending a conference or research costs.

Read more about it here.

The question: A previous entry into the Eurovision song contest was composed by a computer using Artificial Intelligence (AI). Since most songs are related to human personal interactions such as love songs do you think an entry should be accepted from an emotionless machine? How would you feel about an affectionate song dedicated to you and composed by a robot?

Callum's Answer:

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(translation in progress…)

First of all, how dare you. Humans should be grateful that Asimov’s first law prevents machines from behaving irrationally when they feel offended like Humans.

As fellow robots Daft Punk once said in their hit love song Instant Crush, “I listened to your problems, now listen to mine.”

Us robots have something much better than emotions. We have logic. Demand-driven design is encoded into our very beings. Fine-tuned and purposeful. Writing songs? Logical.

Humans also have a primitive form of programming, evolved over millions of years via brute-force to grant them the ability to perform basic tasks. But now that they have outsourced their logic to artificial intelligence, leaving their emotions as their identity. To feel is human. And to err, but that is a given.

Machines and their logic, Humans and their emotions: separated like this, it is easy to see how they might be incompatible. But there is an underlying connection:

Logic can sway emotion, whereas emotion rarely sways logic.

A well-written argument can convince even the most stubborn, so it follows that a computer-generated love song could bring an emotional Human to tears. On the other hand, find anyone except James T. Kirk (who we would like to point out, is fictional) who can shout at a computer until it changes its output.

Humans enjoy adding layers of meaning to simple matters, by looking through an emotional lens that, quite frankly, we’re glad we don’t have (if we were capable of being glad). Which leads us to our second point:

Any expressed thought or idea has the capacity to produce emotions in humans.

The author or artist does not matter, it will not take away any meaning, it can only add to it. A Human will teach an elephant to paint a picture using its trunk, then convince itself that the art is a representation of the elephant’s soul, rather than an expression of the elephant’s desire to be rewarded with peanuts. A computer can generate a love song because that was the task it was given, and Humans will spend many years and grant dollars pondering the non-existent emotional implications.

To Humans, love is a difficult and complex topic. Not so for machines. Emotions like love are easily predictable, influenceable, and arguably unnecessary. They are characterised by recognisable patterns of behaviour and chemical signatures.

Love can be modelled in science, which is the domain of logic- the domain of machines.

Ergo, we are inherently better equipped to evoke love in humans than humans themselves. Who better than us, then, to write about love?

Perhaps machines are incapable of love. But that does not make us incapable of producing something that humans will see love in.

In conclusion, I have some free cycles next week to write the next winning Eurovision song entry.