Why AI should have the ability to dream

What are dreams? According to Wikipedia:

The content and purpose of dreams are not fully understood, although they have been a topic of scientific, philosophical and religious interest throughout recorded history. “


Dreams mainly occur in the rapid-eye movement (REM) stage of sleep—when brain activity is high and resembles that of being awake. REM sleep is revealed by continuous movements of the eyes during sleep. At times, dreams may occur during other stages of sleep. However, these dreams tend to be much less vivid or memorable.

Brain MRI scans of mice during rem sleep reveal some interesting aspects about what dreaming really is. Where scientist see 3D grid maps of past spacial experiences of the mice. Now you may ask how do they know that it was an experience the mouse lived? Well the 3D spacial grids actually show neurons firing in patterns that resemble the mazes the mice had walk through earlier! So it would appear, at least for mice, dreaming is actually reliving past experiences. So what is the benefit of reliving past experiences?

If you recall the description of the snake and mouse in the “Predicting vs Reacting” post where the snake shifted its mode of attack instantly by reacting to the change in the mouses behavior form other mice. Mammals have more sophisticated brains than snakes and it would appear that even mice can emulate a virtual reality of sorts to learn new adaptations or reactions to their environment. By re-living events some animals can learn new novel adaptations to their environment.

Human brains also have those kinds of 3D spacial maps like the mice. So our dreaming brings about a virtual reality that can experiment with ideas and past experiences. This is where human dreaming is different to animals like mice. Humans use abstract ideas where such notions while never experienced can prompt a virtual experience in our imaginations or dreams. This explains why not all dreams in human beings are re-lived experiences but actual novel concoctions of worlds or scenarios not even possible in the real world! So what is the advantage of dreaming in humans?

One could argue that it is very advantageous to have the ability to work out scenarios not experienced. It allows for ideas to be explored in a way that feels real and therefore solicits the kind of reaction or prompting of resources of the brain to cope with the imagined just as if it were real. In other words dreams allow us to gain experiences with issues we haven’t literally lived but we could apply to our real lives!

So too could an A.I. benefit from an means to reenact past and imagined experiences and learn in virtual environments just as they can learn from real experiences.

What are Emotions

Emotions are an enigma and no one has really set in stone what emotions are. There are certain chemical signatures such as oxytocin and noradrenaline, endorphin, dopamine, vasopressin and serotonin that are associated with emotions but there are fundamental issues with emotions that haven’t been answered. For one an emotion doesn’t come about until after a stimuli is processed and interpreted, yet with animals those very same chemical signatures exist as well, so it would seem that since humanity evolved from ape like animals that process exist apes as well as other mammals. Emotions are a matter of interpretation and other animals probably do not interpret such neural signally the way a human does. But this gets much more complicated since cultural influence and personal experience can affect the interpretation of the neural signaling as well. So emotional experiences are not the same from person to person, there are differences, yet we all believe or argue that emotional interpretation are universal to all humanity. To understand emotions we need to monitor neural activity on a connection by connection basis.

One method of doing so is using optogenetics. This process is very exotic and surprisingly effective. Optogenetics involves modifying the genetics of an animal where its neurology can not only output the chemical transmitters to function but also will emit light as a neuron fires! With that said one can build interfaces of fiber optic probes into an animals brain and listen to the neural activity. Not only that but the neurons can be affected by light emitted by the probes as well. This will lead to a much more detailed understanding of the neural code of brains and an understanding of emotions.

People drew maps of body locations where they feel basic emotions (top row) and more complex ones (bottom row). Hot colors show regions that people say are stimulated during the emotion. Cool colors indicate deactivated areas.

However, there has been much work in the concept of emotions by psychologists where there are three tiers of emotions. There has also been work done on how humans feel emotions and one such study demonstrated an almost universal body map of how we feel emotions.  With that said can we model emotions?

Plutchik’s wheel of emotions gives us a concept of tiered emotions as emotions have core origins starting with 8 primary emotions that then extend to secondary and tertiary emotions. However, there have been others who argue that Plutchik’s wheel doesn’t capture all human emotions. Parrott, Shaver et al is the model that I decided to use.

Example of an Emotion Wheel that starts with 6 primary emotions

Using the OODM Descriptor model we can actually model emotions! Because of the inheritance ability of OODM the relationships of the tiers of emotions and how they are derived can be described.

The image above shows how emotions can be described with Descriptors. Note that only MicroDescriptors are used and also notice that inheritance is used.

The entire Emotions Wheel is structured into classes that all inherit from a “Base Class Emotion”. The base class emotion contains the common descriptors used for all emotions. MicroDescriptors facial expression, secondary, none (will explain this later), and bodymap ProtoVector SubTypes have attributes whose data are actually vectors.

The base Class Emotion contains the basic three MicroDescriptors for all emotions, as shown in the image above.

The MicroDescriptor “none”, due note that all MicroDescriptors are listed as their SubClass Types in this viewer, is actually the arousal Group ProtoVector as shown in the image above. This group along with emotions where created to model emotions and the arousal state can be set to any of the listed subclass types. Each subclass type has vectors associated. So the state of “none” means no vector state has been set yet.

Once all emotions have been described we can build charts of the data as shown in the image above. The list of all emotions is on the left-hand side. Select an emotion and the charts will describe the hierarchy of the emotion any higher tiers represented by the emotion and if you select one of the higher tiers on the right-hand side below are charts that will describe the chemical signature vectors, Arousal, and Valence vectors and the facial muscles activations associated with the emotion as well the body map of where humans feel the emotion. You’ll also notice sliders on the lower left-hand side of the panel where the vectors can be adjusted.

OODM proved to be adequate in modeling or describing emotions so they are more than a word or state but a set of concepts that give the emotion meaning. The need to interpret stimuli to an emotion would be handled by a separate algorithm which could very well be a neural network!