Will robots have feelings?

This is a key question in the development of robotics. It's hard to imagine that your Lego robot really cares whether it bumps into the wall or not but computers and robots are evolving fast. It's been predicted that in 2049 a computer will be built whose intelligence will match that of a human. Such a computer will no doubt be able to simulate human emotions very well, but how will we be sure that it is just a simulation and not something more? We should think about this now and not wait until the day that a computer or robot says to us 'I truly have feelings. I am alive. If you turn me off you will be committing murder...'.

Here are three great videos that address the theme of whether robots will one day have feelings.

Meet Kara...

5 minute James May video 'Will robots ever develop feelings?'...

Meet Blinky...

It seems to me that no one (except me!) has realised that there is going to be a huge problem with knowing whether robots have aquired feelings. With the rapid advance of computing and robotics it is inevitable that computers will quite soon be able to convincingly simulate emotions, but how will we able to tell whether the emotions are simulated or real?? In my opinion there will never be a satisfactory way of telling the difference, and that poses a huge problem of whether robots should acquire rights e.g. to be treated with respect, and in the longer term whether humanity would ever allow its children, robots, to replace it. Allowing ourselves to be replaced by humans might make sense if robots were in every way superior to us, including in their ability to experience emotions (and have a soul - see below) but if we get this wrong and allow ourselves to be replaced by robots that actually are nothing more than machines that can effectively fake emotions that would be a complete tragedy. I would suggest that if it is impossible to tell whether future robots have genuine feelings or are just faking it, we have to assume the latter. What do YOU think?

This BBC article addresses the question 'What would it mean for AI to have a soul?

How will we feel about robots?

Whether robots will have feelings is one question. A related one is how we will feel towards robots. How much will we feel like they are real people? Will we fall on love with them? See this BBC report for an in-depth discussion.