Short animated film – Полигон, 1979 | Polygon (Based on the story by Sever Gansovsky) | Director: Anatoly Petrov | Studio: Soyuzmultfilm.

I believe that understanding intelligence involves understanding how knowledge is acquired, represented, and stored; how intelligence behaviour is generated and learned; how motives, and emotions, and priorities are developed and used; how sensory signals are transformed into symbols; how symbols are manipulated to perform logic, to reason about the past, and plan for the future; and how the mechanisms of intelligence produce the phenomena of illusion, belief, hope, fear, and dreams – and yes even kindness and love. To understand these functions at a fundamental level, I believe, would be a scientific achievement on the scale of nuclear physics, relativity, and molecular genetics.” – James Albus, in response to Henry Hexmoor, Feb. 13, 1995.

Self-regulation or Homeostasis (from Greek: ὅμοιος, homoios, “similar”; and ἵστημι, histēmi, “standing still”); defined by Claude Bernard and later by Walter Bradford Cannon in 1929 + 1932[1]) is the property of a system, either open or closed, that regulates its internal environment and tends to maintain a stable, constant condition. Typically used to refer to a living organism, the concept came from that of milieu interieur that was created by Claude Bernard and published in 1865. Multiple dynamic equilibrium adjustment and regulation mechanisms make homeostasis possible. [Wikipedia entry on Homeostasis.]

In the years leading up to the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, several of its animation studios were releasing  experimental short films based off short stories penned by prominent, American science fiction authors (Soviet Sci-Fi Animation in the 1980’s – source: Rhizome.org). Polygon is one of those short films, … leaving us with a multiplicity of  ‘things‘ we all should think about. From mind-machine interaction [1] up to emotion analysis and his use on Artificial Intelligence [2]. But instead, here’s just one of those things. The famous Peter Salovey keynote address on Emotional Intelligence [pdf link]:

[…] The old view, the traditional view of emotion is that is passion (emotion) and reason (thinking) are on opposite ends of the spectrum. They are antithetical. When one is feeling emotional, one’s thinking is in chaos. One’s thinking is haphazard. One’s thinking is immature. This is an idea of Daycart and many others. You can see this idea in all kinds of philosophical statements like this one. “Rule your feelings, or your feelings will rule you.” If you took a class in psychology in North America in 1940’s or 1950’s, the way in which emotion would have been defined in your psychology textbook would be this way. “Emotions are a disorganized response“, note the word disorganized. Or, “Emotions are acute disturbances…” or, my favorite, “Emotions cause a complete loss of cerebral control and contain no trace of conscious purpose“. If this really were emotion, what emotions are all about, one would try to stamp out emotions. One would try never to have an emotional experience. Why have a complete loss of cerebral control? The new view of emotions says no, emotions are adaptive. That is, that they help us. They are functional. They organize our thinking. They help us know what to pay attention to, and they motivate behaviour. This idea was suggested in the 1940’s but rejected at the time by Robert Leeper when he argued that we have emotions to because they arouse us, pay attention to something. They sustain our attention, and they motivate or direct our behaviour.

This change from the old view of emotion as haphazard and chaotic to the new view of emotions as functional and adaptive and helpful in some ways has come about because psychology and other social sciences have rediscovered Charles Darwin. Darwin would have argued in his book the expression of emotion in men and animals that our emotional system is an intelligent system. He would not have used the world or phrase, intelligent system, but that is what he described when he argued that our emotional system we have evolved it, because it helps us survive by energizing behaviours required for survival. That is making it easier to run away when we are afraid. It is easier to run away from the predator. When we are angry, it is easier to fight someone that is blocking our goal. When we are happy, it is easier to cooperate. Also our emotions signal information to other members of our species. So if an animal bares its teeth, shows its teeth, when angry, it signals an intention that I am angry and I am going to bite you, and the other animal can change its behaviour and this helps both animals survive. Smiling of joy is supposed to signal that it is safe to approach me. The frown of sorrow or tears of sorrow means that I need to be taken care of. The wide eyes of fear show that I need to run away, or actually, we all need to run away. Darwin argued that this is an intelligent system. This is providing information. This is communicating knowledge. We have evolved this system, because it helps us survive. […]

[1] Peter A. Hancock, “Mind, Machine and Morality – Toward a Philosophy of Human-Technology Symbiosis“, Ashgate Press, USA (2009).

[2] Marvin Minsky, “The Emotion Machine: Common sense Thinking, Artificial Intelligence, and the Future of the Human Mind“, Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-7432-7663-9, (2006).