“I am a powerful supercomputer, Mr. Kasparov. I do not have emotions, ah what the heck, I love you man” – IBM advertisement (1996)

The theories of affect can offer an insight and understanding to our relationship with technology within the networked society in which we live. Mc Luhan suggested the extension of human affect into technology, I will examine the concept of the extension of a machine’s logical affect into humans. “If we look at Alan Turing‘s legacy through McLuhan’s lens, a pattern emerges, that of feigning, of deception and interchangeability.”[1]

We live in a world where technologies are increasingly blurring the boundaries of affect, between man and machine. We are now experiencing social and technological change at a remarkable rate. As technology becomes more integrated into our lives, will we become more integrated into technology? Should we be questioning the outcomes of the rapid relationship between man and machine? In understanding affect, I will refer to affect theory and the text, Shame in the Cybernetic Fold: Reading Silvan Tomkins.[2] I will also look at Turing’s Computing Machinery and Intelligence (1950)[3] in terms of early studies on machines and how affect can be interpreted through machine intelligence.

Affect Background

The Oxford English Dictionary states that affect is “to have an effect on something or someone”[4] American psychologist Silvan Tomkins published his writings on affect theory, in his book Affect, Imagery and Consciousness. He claims that there are eight affects: surprise, enjoyment, interest, fear, anger, shame, contempt, and distress. “Tomkins considers shame, along with interest, surprise, joy, anger, fear, distress, disgust, and, in his later writing, contempt (he calls this “dissmell”), to be the basic set of affects”.[5] When we think of affects, we think of them as the basic human emotions. Wilson states that “one of the central claims of Affect, Imagery and Consciousness is that affects provides the primary motivation for human psychology.”[6] Tomkins applied this thinking of affects to objects and he questioned if it would be possible to ever have the ability to design a truly humanoid machine.[7]

Tomkins theory of affect had an inquiry in to machines, his work is relevant to the early years of innovation in artificial intelligence. “But it was not until the 1940s that his reading of cybernetics resulted in his understanding of the role of the affect ‘mecha-nism’ as a separate but amplifying co-assembly”.[8] Tomkins affect theory allows us to consider affect in terms of the ability of humans. Approaching affect can allow us to identify with how these basic set of emotions have defined the way we think. Tomkins believed that if a humanoid machine were to exist it would require affects.[9] Is it the case that a machine will never have real emotions? Advances in technology have certainly led to the ability simulation of human emotion.

Affect in Machines

Alan Turing, the British code breaker and computer pioneer demonstrated the human mind from a computational point of view. He demonstrated that human beings have a capacity to build things. In his computers machines Turing states his query “I propose to consider the question, “Can machines think?” This should begin with definitions of the meaning of the term’s “machine” and “think.”[10] Central to this argument we need to look at what is a mind and what is a machine. In examining the relationship between man and machine.

Nath states that what is needed is a deeper understanding of human intelligence and the human mind.[11] Turing devised a test to explore intelligence to study how machines respond. The concept of intelligence has played a role in the way in which we understand ourselves. Nath acknowledges the relevance of Turing’s work “The Turing test was designed to provide us with a definition of intelligence”.[12]

Turing was interested in unconventional union of intellect and affect.[13] Part one of his analysis was undertaking The Imitation Game. This was conducted by two people and one machine playing the game, with one of the persons acting as interrogator. By asking questions of both the machine and the other person, the interrogator attempts to predict who the machine is and who is the human.

In part two he analyses the test in the Critique of the New Problem, here Turing argues that only a digital computer should be able to participate. He defines the digital computer to be; machines that are intended to carry out operations that could be done by a human computer.

In part three The Machines Concerned in the Game, Turing specifies what he means by a machine. He means something produced by engineering and not a person.

In part four he defines Digital Computers; he explains his definition of digital computers by comparing it to a human computer – a human which would follow a set of fixed rules.

In part five the Universality of Digital Computers he defines a computer as being a discrete state, a universal machine that can mimic any discrete state machine.

Seigworth and Gregg include the exploration of human machine relations in traditions such as artificial intelligence and robots in their trajectories of thought relating to affect.[14] Tomkins affect theory suggests the importance of emotions in his exploration of human cognition, Turing discusses nine potential objectives to his claims that machines can think. The Theological Explanation, there is no reason to rule out the possibility that God could give machines souls “Given that God can unite souls with human bodies, it is hard to see what reason there is for thinking that God could not unite souls with digital computers”[15] Minsky states “People ask if machines can have souls. And I ask back whether souls can learn”.[16]

The Heads in the Sand Objection, here Turing predicts that the reality of a machine being able to think is too dreadful to imagine so we should hope that they never have the ability to.

In the Mathematical Objection, there are mathematical theories that can show that “there are limitations of discrete machines”.[17] Gödel’s theory states that no finite set of rules could be used to generate all true mathematical statements. Since computers only contain a finite number of instructions, they could not reproduce human intelligence.

In the Argument from Consciousness, here it suggested that machines are not conscious so therefore, cannot have emotions, perhaps none of the emotions described by Tomkins.

In his Argument from Various Disabilities he discusses the objection to a list of things that people have claimed machines will never be able to do, for example, to learn from experience, to do this you must have knowledge. As most of human knowledge is from human experience, perhaps machine knowledge is what the philosopher Kant’s calls ‘priori’ knowledge. “Knowledge whose justification does not depend on experience; and he associates a priori knowledge with reason”.[18]

Lady Ada Lovelace, the world’s first programmer.

Lady Lovelace’s Objection refers to Ada Lovelace who stated that Babbage’s Analytical Engine did not show any evidence that would lead her to believe machines could think. “Turing disagrees with Ada Lovelace’s definition of a machine only being able to do what humans can program it to do.”[19] In the Argument from Continuity in the Nervous System, the human brain and nervous system are not like a digital computer. The nervous system is not a discrete-state machine; it is a continuous-state machine. A machine will never be compared or equal to the human mind unless it becomes conscious.

Analytical Engine

In his Argument from Informality of Behaviour, Turing states that there are no set rules to describe what humans should do in any set of circumstances, and that there are rules that describe and predict what a machine will do.[20] His last is argument is the Argument from Extrasensory Perception. If human’s have this, then why shouldn’t digital computers.

Turing states that if telepathy was a standard characteristic of a system that can be, then there are no reasons why digital computers could not be the equal of human beings.[21]

All of these objectives were to challenge notions of how a computer would react to certain situations and perform human tasks. The Turing test proposes the question “Is there a difference between the operational systems in the human mind/brain and those working in the computer.[22] The central challenge is to examine the relationship between affect and computer intelligence. Wilson proposes that her research shows how the relationship of man and machine was explored through curiosity, surprise, contempt, interest, fear and shame.[23] One could argue that machines do not experience emotions, but the reflection in recent cinema of machine and emotions show how we are toying with concept becoming reality.

The 2013 science fiction movie Her, is an exploration of the relationship between man and machine.[24] The storyline revolves around a man falling in love with his computer operating system.

The computers presence is a voice not to dissimilar from Apple Siri or Microsoft Cortana. “At first, she does what operating systems do, only charmingly: clean up his hard drive remind him of appointments. Then she begins to wrestle with ideas, feelings.”[25] Machines can be often perceived as being told what to do, but can a machine have a mind, and can it be conscious of affects in the same way that humans can, or is it just an intelligent machine imitating human behaviour. Nath infers “What Turing had predicted then is a fact now- the machine or computer can imitate human behaviour.[26]

We see a similar exploration of a human and machine relationship in the movie ExMachina.[27] The character Nathan has built a humanoid robot with artificial intelligence called Ava. The purpose is to carry out a Turing test. He selects the character Caleb to carry out a series of interviews to see if Ava has the ability to persuade him into believing that she is human.

The task is to see if she demonstrates thinking and feeling for herself, or whether she is simply simulating human emotion. “The aim of the week-long visit is for Caleb to carry out a Turing Test: over the course of seven daily encounters with Ava, he has to get to know her and decide whether or not she can pass for a human being”.[28]

To determine which is the case a series of interviews are held, and we begin to see the relationship evolve.

In the Channel 4 TV series Humans, a remake of the Swedish Äkta Människor or Real Humans, we see the relationship between man and machine being explored further.[29] Set in an alternate present, synthetics or ‘synths’ are service robots who have developed consciousness. The main synth characters are a group of robots who have developed emotions. The shows writer Sam Vincent explains the successful interest in the shows plot “While some developments in AI which are portrayed on screen still feel a while off, society’s increasingly dependent and emotional relationship with technology made audiences very receptive to the ideas and concerns explored in Humans, argues Vincent.”[30]

In a time before the invention of Personal Computers, Science fiction movies such as Terminator (1984)or Robocop (1987) involve action plots with robots that have mechanical voices and appearances. In Science fiction it is often the case of emotional engagement being used to blur the line between humans and artificial intelligence (Carter, 2007) Carter asks us to think of the endings of films such as I Robot and Terminator and points out that we are lead to believe that machine is capable of human emotions.[31] In more recent times we see robots portrayed a having distinctly human features and plots with a focus on intimate relationships. Perhaps this is a reflection of the evolution of the man and machine relationship. As technology advances so does a need to explore the emotional connection to machines.


Is human intelligence and machine intelligence the same? Is the human brain essentially a computer? Wilson explores the current discourse “At the end of the 20th Century, the pioneering question was no longer Can machines think? But Can they feel?[32] Suden states that Massumi does not allow his theory of affect to move past human skin, to include nonhuman bodies.[33] Although Schouse remarks on Massumi’s Parables; that an affect is a non-conscious experience always prior to and/or outside of consciousness.[34] If that’s the case it could be argued that if machines are non-conscious and maybe they already have affects. In relations to affects Turing imagined that surprise could be the very fundamental characteristic of an intelligent machine.[35]


Everyday interaction with electronic devices, service robots and the increasing advances of virtual reality, show that we are using our basic set of affects, and perhaps more so emotions in connection with machines. Discussing psychoanalytical literatures, Wilson infers that there is a notion of machines being radically detached from feeling, and an attachment to machines involves affectlessness.[36] It could be argued that in a contemporary world that machines are no longer unaffective due to integration into society. It is quickly becoming common to have robots replace humans. In Patricia Clough’s introduction she states that “we are moving away from thinking of bodies in terms of the human organisation and rethinking the relationship of life, information and technology”.[37]

Gaudin states the following In an interview with Computerworld, author and futurist Ray Kurzweil said that anyone alive come 2040 or 2050 could be close to immortal. The quickening. advance of nanotechnology means that the human condition will shift into more of a collaboration of man and machine, as nanobots flow through human blood

streams and eventually even replace biological blood, he added.[38] Will Tomkins’ affects eventually exist in the merging of human computer intelligence? What human experience is currently is likely to change, are machines are taking on human characteristics such as affects? One could argue that humans are also taking on somewhat of a robotic characteristic. This is could be said of our increased ability to deal with information and to have a constant logical flow of thought through engagement with technology.

Turing himself predicted that this will eventually become a part of our reality. “Nevertheless I believe that at the end of the century the use of words and general educated opinion will have altered so much that one will be able to speak of machines thinking without expecting to be contradicted”.[39] Turing’s legacy will continue to question the ethical and moral questions surrounding the relationship between the nature of the human versus machine mind.

We can consider Heidegger’s Question concerning Technology where he states that “Technology is a human activity” He argues that we view human beings technologically, we see people as material for technical operations.[40] Do we now see the possibilities of machines as material to possess affects? O’Sullivan suggest that affects are an inherent qualities “We might even say that affects are immanent to matter. They are certainly immanent to experience.”[41] Perhaps the ultimate objective is to prove that Tomkins affects do exist in machines.”Massumi clearly separates affect from emotions.”[42]

Minsky suggests that the question is not whether intelligent machines can have emotions any emotions, but whether machines can be intelligent without emotions.”[43] Thirty years from Minsky’s statement Machine intelligence is existing without emotions, perhaps the real discovery would be proof of existence of emotions in artificial intelligence. As after all the capacity for feeling emotions is considered to be one of the main differences between man and machine.

[1] The Great Pretender: Turing as a Philosopher of Imitation. [online] The Atlantic. Available at: http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/07/the-great-pretenderturing-as-a-philosopher-of-imitation/259824/

[2] Sedgwick, E. K., & Frank, A, Shame in the Cybernetic Fold: Reading Silvan Tomkins, in Critical Inquiry, 21(2), 496–522. (1995). Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/1343932

[3] Turing, A. M, Computing Machinery and Intelligence, in Mind, 59(236), 433–460. (1950). Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/2251299

[4] Hillis, K, Paasonen, S. and Petit, M, Networked affect. Cambridge (Ma); London: MIT. (2015)

[5] Sedgwick, E. K., & Frank, A., op.cit

[6] Wilson, E, Affect and artificial intelligence, in Seattle: University of Washington Press. (2010).

[7] Sedgwick, E. K., & Frank, A., op.cit

[8] Ibid.

[9] Wilson, E., op. cit.

[10] Turing, A. M., op. cit.

[11] Nath, R., Philosophy of artificial intelligence, in Boca Raton, Fla.: Universal-Publishers. (2009)

[12] Ibid.

[13] Wilson, E., op. cit.

[14] Hillis, K., Paasonen, S. and Petit, M., op. cit.

[15] Oppy, G. & Dowe, D., The Turing Test, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2016 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2016/entries/turing-test/>

[16] Minsky, M., The society of mind, in New York: Simon and Schuster. (1986)

[17] Turing, A. M., op. cit.

[18] Grier, M., Kant’s Critique of Metaphysics. [online] Plato.stanford.edu. Available at: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/kant-metaphysics/ (2004).

[19] Blitz, M., Understanding Heidegger on Technology in The New Atlantis. (2014). Available at: http://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/understanding-heidegger- ontechnology

[20] Turing, A. M., op. cit.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Nath, R.., op. cit.

[23] Wilson, E., op. cit.

[24] Her, [film] United Stated: Spike Jonze. (2013).

[25] Edelstein, D., A Man And His Machine, Finding Out What Love Is. [online] NPR.org. (2013). Available at: http://www.npr.org/2013/12/19/251951958/a-man-and-his- machinefinding

[26] Nath, R., op. cit.

[27] Ex Machina, [film] Universal Studios: Alex Garland. (2015).

[28] Collins, R., Ex Machina: bewitchingly smart sci-fi. [online] The Telegraph. (2015).

Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/film/ex-machina/review/

[29] Humans, Channel 4, AMC Studios, United Kingdom: Sam Vincent & Jonathan Brackle. (2015).

[30] Ellis-Petersen, H., Channel 4 renews Humans for second series ahead of season finale. [online] the Guardian. (2015). Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/tv-andradio/ 2015/jul/31/channel-4-renews-humans-second-series-season-finale

[31] Carter, M, Minds and computers. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. (2007).

[32] Wilson, E., op. cit.

[33] Hillis, K, Paasonen, S. and Petit, M., op. cit.

[34] Schouse, E, M/C Journal: “Feeling, Emotion, Affect”. (2005). [online] Journal.mediaculture.org.au. Available at: http://journal.media-culture.org.au/0512/03-shouse.php

[35] Turing, A. M., op. cit.

[36] Wilson, E., op. cit.

[37] Clough, P. and Halley, J., The affective turn. (2007). Durham: Duke University Press.

[38] Gaudin, S., Nanotech could make humans immortal by 2040, futurist says. [online] Computerworld. (2016). Available at: http://www.computerworld.com/article/2528330/appdevelopment/nanotech-could-make-humans-immortal-by-2040–futurist-says.html

[39] Turing, A. M., op. cit.

[40] Blitz, M, Understanding Heidegger on Technology. The New Atlantis. (2014). Available at: http://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/understanding-heidegger- ontechnology

[41] O’Sullivan, S, THE AESTHETICS OF AFFECT: Thinking art beyond representation. CANG, (2001). p.125-135.

[42] Hillis, K, Paasonen, S. and Petit, M., op. cit.

[43] Minsky, M, The society of mind. New York: Simon and Schuster. (1986)