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Affect and Artificial Intelligence

By Elizabeth A. Wilson

Publication Year: 2010

In 1950, Alan Turing, the British mathematician, cryptographer, and computer pioneer, looked to the future: now that the conceptual and technical parameters for electronic brains had been established, what kind of intelligence could be built? Should machine intelligence mimic the abstract thinking of a chess player or should it be more like the developing mind of a child? Should an intelligent agent only think, or should it also learn, feel, and grow? Affect and Artificial Intelligence is the first in-depth analysis of affect and intersubjectivity in the computational sciences. Elizabeth Wilson makes use of archival and unpublished material from the early years of AI (1945-70) until the present to show that early researchers were more engaged with questions of emotion than many commentators have assumed. She documents how affectivity was managed in the canonical works of Walter Pitts in the 1940s and Turing in the 1950s, in projects from the 1960s that injected artificial agents into psychotherapeutic encounters, in chess-playing machines from the 1940s to the present, and in the Kismet (sociable robotics) project at MIT in the 1990s. Elizabeth A. Wilson is a professor in the Department of Women's Studies at Emory University. She is the author of Neural Geographies: Feminism and the Microstructure of Cognition and Psychosomatic: Feminism and the Neurological Body. "Original and beautifully written." -Lucy Suchman, Lancaster University "An elegantly written, thoroughly engaging, and absolutely compelling history of the role of emotions and affect in thought about, and design of, 'artificial intelligence.'" -Robert Mitchell, Duke University "In this fresh and provocative contribution to the exploding field of affect studies, Elizabeth Wilson argues convincingly and in a spirit of welcome generosity that from its very beginnings the theory and practice of artificial intelligence has been decisively marked by feelings-surprise, curiosity, delight, shame, and contempt-as well as computational logic. She suggests, with wonderful wit and a fine intelligence, that interiority is conjugated by positive and passionate affects of attachment as well as cognitive circuits among humans and machines. Her own attachment to the archive of AI is palpable and her focus on the biography of key figures in its early history is immensely refreshing." -Kathleen Woodward, author of Statistical Panic: Cultural Politics and Poetics of the Emotions

Published by: University of Washington Press


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pp. vii-xii

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pp. xiii-xiv

...thIs project emerged from archIve boxes. the book Is buIlt with the affects in letters of reference, handwritten notes, photographs, postcards, computer logbooks, transcribed interviews, published anecdotes, unpublished fiction, conference proceedings, written records of long deleted radio debates, carbon copies of official documents, video files, newspaper clipnullpings, a coronernulls report, correspondence from a hospital bed, and a docunull...

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Introduction: The Machine Has No Fear

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pp. 3-31

... machinery and intelligence, Alan Turing turned his mind to the future. Now that the conceptual and technical parameters for electronic brains had been laid down, what kind of intelligence could he build? More specifically, what kind of intelligence in humans should be the standard against which intelligence in machines is measured? Turing imagined two possibilities ...

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1. The Positive Affects of Alan Turing

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pp. 32-57

... British neurologist and cyberneticist W. Ross Ashby about the possibility of making mechanical models of the brain.

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2. Shaming AI: Helplessness, Confusion, and Error

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pp. 58-82

... Messick hosted a three-day conference at the Educational Testing Service in Princeton, New Jersey, called “Computer Simulation: Frontier of Personality Theory” (Tomkins and Messick 1963). The aim of the conference was to evaluate how useful the newly emerging computer technologies might be for the field of personality. Could personality ...

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3. Artificial Psychotherapy

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pp. 83-108

... learn to tolerate shame. Invented in the late nineteenth century and refined in the twentieth, psychotherapy is a kind of treatment that allows patients to negotiate painful emotional states (grief, depression, anxiety, self-loathing, aimlessness, rage). It doesn’t offer a cure, if by cure we mean the complete elimination of emotional misery now and into the future ...

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4. Walter Pitts and the Inhibition of Affect

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pp. 109-132

... scientists in the United States under the age of forty. The article investigated the characteristics that mark distinguished scientific careers: “What kind of man becomes an outstanding scientist? Is there a widening gulf between him and the rest of society?” (Bello 1954, 142). The article contains a portfolio of ten young men working in universities and ten working in industry ...


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pp. 133-159


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pp. 160-163


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pp. 164-176


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pp. 177-182

E-ISBN-13: 9780295800004
E-ISBN-10: 0295800003
Print-ISBN-13: 9780295990477
Print-ISBN-10: 0295990511

Publication Year: 2010