Stephen Wolfram Q&A

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Some collected questions and answers by Stephen Wolfram

Questions may be edited for brevity; see links for full questions.

July 27, 2015

From: Interview by Byron Reese, Gigaom

If we are fundamentally, at our core, deterministic, but we don’t look it because the math is beyond us, what do you think emotions are? Are they real in the sense that we’re feeling? Will the computer love, and will it hate?

Here’s the terrible thing. We’re building stuff that tries to do emotion-space analysis of things, and so on, looking at whether it’s facial expressions or text or whatever else, and in effect say, “Okay, that means the dopamine level was up at this moment”, because the collective effect of what was going on with that thinking that was happening results in secretion of dopamine, which did this and that and the other, and had this or that global effect.

It’s a funny thing for me because I’m a very people-oriented person in many ways, and yet, what I end up doing from this science and technology point of view is, in a sense, a deep deconstruction of human conditions. It’s a little weird for me because I think of emotions as real, but on the other hand, at a rational level, I’m like, “Okay, we’re going to turn this into numbers, and emotion points in an emotion space”, and all this kind of thing. I think what I have perhaps for myself gotten to the point of doing is, to some extent, dissociating the “here’s how I feel”, knowing that if I really were to dissect how I feel and really were to make all kinds of brain measurements and so on on myself, I would probably be able to logically understand every piece of how I feel, and it would be like, “Well, it’s all just turned into bits, and there’s nothing kind of feeling about it”. I guess I personally just live life the way I feel, so to speak, and separately understand that underneath, it’s sort of all just bits that are operating quite deterministically, and I can study those, and make use of those, and build technology based on those, and so on.

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