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Home » Teaching Machines how to Cry – The Recipe of the Story

Teaching Machines how to Cry – The Recipe of the Story

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By Dr. Paula Hidalgo-Sanchis

My debut novel, Teaching Machines how To Cry, is made out of a few ingredients and it follows a simple recipe. The ingredients are: nine ounces of AI and ethics, nine ounces of raw emotions, nine ounces of machine learning and a pinch of Porto city. I mixed all the ingredients, then I wrapped the mixture in a veil of spirituality and added a generous sprinkle of humor.

 Nine Ounces of AI and Ethics

That is an aggressive form of neurostimulation therapy that has failed all types of tests. And it’s illegal.

The scientific paper “The Moral Machine Experiment” from 2018 concerns an experiment conducted by MIT to collect moral decisions that informed the programing of autonomous cars. A mass survey was conducted, and forty million decisions were gathered about situations like: what should the self-driving car do? a) …this will result in…dead of… or b) …this will result in…dead of… Since I read about this experiment many questions lingered in my head regarding AI and ethics. How can a car decide on death?

In Teaching Machines how to Cry I addressed the urgent need that we have as societies to have conversations about the ethics around AI and neurostimulation, AI and bionics, AI and transhumanism and the place where all three of these issues intersect.

 Nine Ounces of Raw Emotions

Sadness feels like fog. You don’t know where it came from or where it goes, but you feel it inside. It expands from your chest to your legs, your arms, and your head, reaching every cell of your body. You can almost see the tiny water droplets inside you, but you cannot grasp them…”

In the field of emotional AI, we are teaching machines to recognize human emotions with techniques such as facial recognition algorithms. At the same time, AI is learning to provoke emotions in humans, for example by making us cry while we watch a movie. These advancements make me wonder how tuned are into their own emotions the people who are teaching the machines. Emotions are a main ingredient of my novel, and I have followed this question through my fictional characters.  

 Nine Ounces of Machine Learning

(Alba) “So, M, you are supposed to be learning from me, what did you learn yesterday? How do you even learn?” she asked biting into the sandwich. (M) “I learn with a method called…”(Alba) “What’s a method?”

Algorithms, training data, data annotation, deep learning…what? These concepts may sound complicated, but are they? In my novel, I try to show that most people will understand these things if they are explained correctly. M, an AI prototype explains Alba, an eight-year-old child, the basics of machine learning in a way that the young girl almost understands them.

 A Pinch of Porto

“…Alba liked the iconic Café Majestic very much. Normally, she contemplated the marble façade, and the interior of the Art Nouveau masterpiece…”

Living in Porto means that falling in love with the charming coastal city is inevitable. The Ferreira Borges Market, the Palacio Da Bolsa, the Majestic Café, or the Saint Francis’s Church, are some of the cities’ historical sites where the story takes place. And also, a mysterious lighthouse, a rocky beach, and the cobblestones of the old town…. What’s not to love?

 A Veil of Spirituality

 “…In Her presence, Alba felt like floating, as if everything moved in slow motion around Her. As if there were no time or space. As if time and space had a different meaning in Her presence…”

Some people think that AI and spirituality are two words that can’t be placed in the same sentence.  Others believe that the myth of Atlantis relates to the use of technology connecting to the matrix of Nature. Who is right, I don’t know, but I dared include this ingredient in the novel.

 A Sprinkle of Humor

(M) “I collect data through my sensors in the form of images, sound, measurements, and other formats. I organize the data into databases.” (Alba) “Tell me one.” (M) “One.” (Alba) “No, silly, tell me one database. I don’t know what that is. Hello? I’m only eight, remember?”

 I believe that a sense of humor, is the most enjoyable tool for survival. My older son, Noah, always says– “Tell me a joke mommy, you should know jokes, you’re Spanish!” So, I followed his command and added a generous sprinkle of humor.