X-Message-Number: 12660
From: Thomas Donaldson <>
Subject: about goals and feelings, and their relations
Date: Thu, 28 Oct 1999 21:23:29 +1000 (EST)

More about Feelings and Goals:

1. A feeling that does not produce any goals at all can't exist. If I feel
   sad about something, for instance, I would want to escape similar
   events in the future. If I find that I cannot escape such events, then
   I will still show the consequence of that feeling by, for instance,
   trying to ignore the event as much as I can. If I feel happy about
   something or some event, then I'm likely to aim for further such
   events in the future. I won't go through all possible feelings here,
   but I cannot imagine a feeling which by its nature does not affect our

   After all, in evolutionary terms, that's what feelings are for. If we
   hurt, we try to distance ourselves from the source of the hurt. I say
   this not to claim that ALL beings evolved (or otherwise produced)
   elsewhere must use the same system, but simply to point out the system
   used by humans, apes, and all the higher mammals.

2. Feelings also have other objective signs: sadness isn't just an 
   expression on our faces, it affects our hormones and thus our general
   behavior. We cry, or just turn away from some event. Happiness also
   has its signs, too, as do other feelings. These objective signs are
   very hard for a person to suppress.

If some computer people have decided that we cannot detect feelings or
goals, then their opinion may be valid as a point of pure philosophy, but
it completely ignores the Real World. If a human being looks sad, the
implication is that he/she IS sad. This comes not from any learned
reaction but from more basic reactions of feelings on our behavior, basic
enough that we share them with animals distant from us such as cats or

Not only that, but WE are put together so that the process runs the other
way, too. If we have particular goals, then we'll have feelings about 
reaching them or even coming close to them. 

These facts make it easy in most cases to decide that someone has
feelings, and what's more, they even let us make such decisions about
devices such as the robot that hunts for a place to plug itself in. The
process is simple: if this robot were a living creature of the kind 
we're used to, then it's behaving as it has (very primitive, yes) goals
and thus feelings. The same is not true of my computers (I have and
use two, very different from one another). I will PROPOSE that we take the
existence of INDEPENDENT goals as a sign of the existence of feelings.

I know that some will decide, again on pure philosophical grounds, that
we cannot make such inferences about others (or computers, either). Since
that seems a completely fruitless belief in terms of understanding the
world, like many such purely philosophical beliefs, I have nothing to say
which would refute it (but then nothing to prove it, either). I will add
here, however, that it would be very very interesting if someone in this
discussion came up with some OTHER way in which nonhuman creatures might
have goals but not feelings, or even exist without goals but

The closest my own imagination has come to such creatures would be a 
kind of highly advanced version of ants. Individually, the ants remain
very primitive, but they still engage in conduct which human beings 
have invented, such as war, agriculture, and different classes. If we took
such creatures to the limit, we might get a version of technology made
collectively by creatures which as individuals had nothing we would
regard as intelligence at all, and were (in fact) just as much slaves
to their nest (with no independent value) as are present ants. I'm
interested in what the imaginations of others on Cryonet might also

			Best and long long life for all,

				Thomas Donaldson

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