Here’s where reality and Star Trek diverge. Simple answer: yes. In fact, it’s already been done, many times. Emotions are among the easiest elements of the human mind to emulate, both in an AI agent and in nature. Even simple multicelled organisms have some emotions (fear and desire if nothing else.) Emotions are represented by a simple state machine, nothing more. In biological creatures, emotions are triggered by levels of hormones and neurotransmitters that stimulate or suppress certain regions of the brain. The wide range of emotions is achieved by the fact that the same region of the brain may be stimulated or suppressed by more than one neurotransmitter or hormone.
A raised level of adrenaline, for instance, affects many regions of the brain, making you alert, agitated and ready for action: the “fight or flight” response. But which do you do: fight or flee? That depends. Are you angry or terrified? An adrenaline rush accompanies each. Likewise, for AI agents emotions are implemented by a set of values that are raised or lowered based on a set of criteria, usually affected by conditioning. Do you see a man who beat you mercilessly when you were a child? Chances are, you’ll be terrified of him, even if you’re now an adult and he’s barely able to walk. It would the same for a machine.
AI agents exist that have a small range of emotions. Such agents are even used in some video games today. As AI technology continues to progress, you can expect to see the range of emotions experienced by these agents to increase. Long before artificial intelligence rivals human intelligence, AI agents will be experiencing the full range of human emotions, in much the same manner that all complex animals do.Next: Is it conscious?