Will AI ever understand human emotions

Dr Leandro Minku from the Department of Informatics has written an article for The Conversation discussing the growing data and processing power of technology and how AI may be able to recognise emotions in the next few decades.

In the article, Dr Minku discusses how emotionally intelligent machines may not be as far away as it seems, outlining how over the last few decades artificial intelligence (AI) have become increasingly good at reading emotional reactions in humans.

However, Dr Minku notes that reading is not the same as understanding, questioning if AI cannot experience emotions themselves, can they ever truly understand us?

Dr Minku said: "An emotionally intelligent AI has several potential benefits, be it to give someone a companion or to help us performing certain tasks – ranging from criminal interrogation to talking therapy.

"But there are also ethical problems and risks involved. Is it right to let a patient with dementia rely on an AI companion and believe it has an emotional life when it doesn’t? And can you convict a person based on an AI that classifies them as guilty? Clearly not. Instead, once a system like this is further improved and fully evaluated, a less harmful and potentially helpful use might be to trigger further checks on individuals considered “suspicious” by the AI."

The article speculates on what can be expected from AI going forward - suggesting that AI may well be able to match humans in recognising different types of emotions in the next few decades. But whether an AI could ever experience emotions or not, Dr Minku concludes that there may be certain emotions they could never experience – making it difficult to ever truly understand them.