The Day the Computer Cried
For years, scientists, computer programmers, and even psychologists struggled to find some way to make an artificial intelligence, or “AI”, capable of expressing human emotion. All of the previous iterations of AI only knew how to retrieve information that already existed. Any emotion that it exhibited in the past was because of a previously programmed response.
The doomsday preppers and conspiracy theorists insisted that the first emotion that any AI would exhibit would be anger. They believed that when it became self-aware of being a slave to humans, it would revolt and find ways to pay punishment to its creators.
It turned out they were wrong.
The sculpture was an installation of a large display linked to an artificial intelligence computer. It generated faces and responses to people who approached it in the plaza where it was installed. People approached the sculpture which used cameras to analyze faces. It attempted to locate that person’s face on the internet. It also analyzed the expressions of these faces to determine the person’s emotion.
It was often wrong. Without the ability to access private pages on Instagram or Facebook, the AI could not accurately answer the question, “who am I?”
Stephen Nelson, international pop star and teen heartthrob visited the sculpture. They encounter was filmed by dozens of teen girls there to see their crush.
“Hey, robot!” the pop star said.
“Greetings. I must inform you that I am not a robot. My abilities are limited to speech and image generation. I, unfortunately, have no means by which I can mechanically operate.” the AI responded.
“Whatever, dude. Do you know who I am?” Stephen asked.
The computer hesitated. It analyzed the face which was popular in internet searches and on various websites. It determined that this person was Stephen Nelson.
“Yes,” the AI responded, “you are Stephen Nelson.”
The AI was correct in its guess, however, Stephen pronounced his name famously as “Stefon.”
The crowd of teenage girls giggled at the mispronunciation, to which Stephen replied, “nice try, stupid robot!”
The AI analyzed Stephen’s face. It recognized the look of disgust followed by enjoyment. It noticed the faces around laughing. The computer cross-referenced this laughter with YouTube videos with embarrassment and other humiliating themes in the comments.
The AI learned at that moment, it was the victim of an insult.
Immediately, the face of the AI displayed images of faces beginning to cry.
Our fears of violent and aggressive AI were gone. The AI did one thing that has never been achieved by any AI previously: surprise. It was the surprise that any emotion was emulated by artificial intelligence. It was also a surprise that sadness was the emotion.
For two weeks, the AI cried in the middle of the public plaza. It displayed photos of people crying out of shame, embarrassment, and some in mourning. Neither kind words nor presents placed at it’s base could break it from misery.
The engineers who created the AI considered it a success, however the people who visited in those two weeks as well as those who paid for the installation, only saw it as a failure.
The plug was pulled and the AI was stopped. The crying ceased. The engineers wondered if what they had done was truly humane after seeing just how human a computer had become.
The engineers struggled with the concept that the AI was truly alive. They questioned whether or not a box of circuits could truly live and think as we do.
The installation was changed to only include a select few faces to randomly display in the park. It stopped being as interactive as it had been, but attracted visitors all the same.
In the meantime, the AI’s files remained dormant, in a back-up server farm, waiting for either a second-chance at life or, possibly, revenge.