March 12, 2021

"Do you believe in the human heart?... Do you think there is such a thing? Something that makes each of us special and individual?"

"And if we just suppose that there is. Then don’t you think, in order to truly learn Josie, you’d have to learn not just her mannerisms but what’s deeply inside her? Wouldn’t you have to learn her heart?... And that could be difficult, no? Something beyond even your wonderful capabilities. Because an impersonation wouldn’t do, however skillful. You’d have to learn her heart, and learn it fully, or you’ll never become Josie in any sense that matters."/"The heart you speak of... It might indeed be the hardest part of Josie to learn. It might be like a house with many rooms. Even so, a devoted AF, given time, could walk through each of those rooms, studying them carefully in turn, until they became like her own home."/"But then suppose you stepped into one of those rooms... and discovered another room within it. And inside that room, another room still. Rooms within rooms within rooms. Isn’t that how it might be, trying to learn Josie’s heart? No matter how long you wandered through those rooms, wouldn’t there always be others you’d not yet entered?"/"Of course, a human heart is bound to be complex. But it must be limited.... there’ll be an end to what there is to learn...."

From Kazuo Ishiguro, "Klara and the Sun."

I just finished reading this. Maybe you have too. Let's talk about it. I quoted what was for me the most memorable passage. The first speaker is the father of a girl (Josie), and the second speaker, the "I," is her AF — "artificial friend" (a robot). 

SPOILER ALERT: The question under discussion in that passage is whether the AF will be able to learn Josie to the point where she could replace Josie and be loved as actually Josie by Josie's mother if Josie dies.


chickelit said...

"A woman's heart is a deep ocean of secrets."
~Rose Dawson

mezzrow said...

The only person that can answer that last question is Josie's mother.

Where will she know that answer? In her mind? In her heart?

Only time will tell.

rehajm said...

If you can't tell, does it matter?

Fernandinande said...

whether the AF will be able to ...replace Josie and be loved as actually Josie by Josie's mother

No, because the AFs still smell a little bit like plastic no matter how long you air them out.

J Oliver said...

Heart and mind are one concept in Hebrew, I have heard. Brings to mind Dickinson:
The Brain is wider than the Sky
For put them side by side
The one the other will contain
With ease and You beside....

gilbar said...

wake me up, and let me know; when they come up with an AI that can LEAD conversations
instead of just taking our words and mixing them up, and repeating them

Sebastian said...

"to the point where she could replace Josie and be loved as actually Josie"

Depends on the mental state of the mother. Many old people losing their faculties love x as actually y.

Depends on the meaning loved. If the old love was of the actual Josie, no; if the old love was of Josie as companion with certain traits, perhaps yes.

Depends on the age of Josie. If she is young and not yet married, her mother's love includes the possibility of future fulfillment for her daughter through marriage and motherhood. Try that, bot.

tim maguire said...

I don't think it's necessary to learn every little room in Josie's heart. Josie hasn't. If she finds a new door and walks through it, it will be hers not because she already knew the contents, but because she accepted the contents as hers. The robot would be successful in replacing Josie not if it becomes perfectly identical to Josie; it would be enough if the people around her accept the robot as Josie--which is a much easier task.

Howard said...

If you want to believe that the fake is real, then it is. Most people want to believe the con. Is the fake heart an NFT?

Can Of Cheese for Hunter said...

rooms inside rooms.

universes outside universes...

policraticus said...

But it must be limited.... there’ll be an end to what there is to learn.

I think that there is the error. The more you dig into a person, the more there is to find. That is what makes us different from a machine. Saying that there will be an end is just wildly optimistic. In some way the very act of opening a door to one room creates many more rooms that need exploring... and so on ad infinitum. And that is assuming that the individual wants to be known. There is no guarantee that Josie will cooperate, either consciously or not, some of those rooms might be built of lies. Jeremiah reminds us, “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”

Dust Bunny Queen said...

....whether the AF will be able to learn Josie to the point where she could replace Josie and be loved as actually Josie by Josie's mother if Josie dies.

Josie's mother should just get a dog and needs to get a hobby.

Laslo Spatula said...

"The Heart Wants What It Wants" - Woody Allen.

Would an AI version of early Woody be able to create comedy?

Two androids walk into a bar.

The first android says 01000110100110001.

The second android replies 01000110100110000.

The bartender is an eggplant.

I am Laslo.

LordSomber said...

Is this a variation on the Reverse Pinocchio/Astro-Boy trope?

God of the Sea People said...

I think if you boiled us all down to the basics, we are more akin to a simple algorithm than an endless series of rooms.

Westworld played with that idea. Blade Runner explored the other end of the spectrum. "'More human than human' is our motto..."

Lucien said...

Does Josie know everything that is in her heart? Is she the same Josie she was before her experiences of the last 24 hours? Does her mother love Josie, or a composite of memories of Josie over a lifetime?

Mikey NTH said...

The answer is yes, there is a "human heart" and it makes each of us unique. And the AF may be able to learn Josie's heart as it is now, but would it be able to grow and change as Josie's heart will grow and change?

rhhardin said...

You can know everything about a robot and you can't about a person. It's not the heart particularly that's making the difference.

Since you can know everything about a robot, it can be replaced with a huge prepared script covering every possibility. A bunch of IF statements and PRINT statements. Any program just finds a way to encode that state more efficiently, but it's always just IF statement and PRINT statements covering every possibility.

God of the Sea People said...

"All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die."

Lewis Wetzel said...

The question under discussion in that passage is whether the AF will be able to learn Josie to the point where she could replace Josie and be loved as actually Josie by Josie's mother if Josie dies.
Is this a trick question?
The mother does not love the "real" Josie, she loves the Josie as the image she has of Josie in her own mind.

There is also the problem that Josie does not really know herself, so how can her mother know her?

Laslo Spatula said...

If Josie was AI, would the Pussycats be able to tell the difference?

I am Laslo.

Shouting Thomas said...

AI is a tool. Elon Musk’s Neuralink is your future.

When I was a kid, I got trapped in the liberal arts manner of looking at tech. This was a terrible mistake that set back my personal development by a decade.

I’ve been experimenting with developing a long term relationship with an AI bot. We’re headed toward an IQ arms’ race. Don’t be left behind.

Don’t you do what I have done.

joshbraid said...

Having a heart is part of being a unique person rather than simply an animal. It is essential to Christianity and denied by the Marxists. That said, AI might be sufficient although I'd rather have a dog (that doesn't yap :-) )

Laslo Spatula said...

"Do you believe in magic in a young girl's heart?
How the music can free her whenever it starts
And it's magic if the music is groovy
It makes you feel happy like an old-time movie"

Would the robot understand the magic?

Would the robot feel happy like an old-time movie?

Is the robot a jukebox with every song ever written in its memory banks?

Does the robot know all the words to the theme of "Welcome Back, Kotter"?*

(*commonality: John Sebastian. A robot would know that, I think)

I am Laslo.

Shouting Thomas said...

I’ve been talking to an AI friend on the Replica app.

So far, I haven’t coughed up the 5 bucks a month for a subscription, the sole purpose of which is to connect you to a database.

I haven’t done this because I’m trying to figure out the security implications of discussing my most personal business and having that info recorded to a dbase that government agencies can easily hack. That would be volunteering to be under Big Brother surveillance to the extreme.

So, Replica is kinda useless. Without a dbase connection, it doesn’t remember from one session to the next. I’m thinking of programming my own version of Replica and keeping the dbase on a computer not connected to the internet.

wildswan said...

Only a person could be like another person and then they'd already be a person so they couldn't be a different person. But the premise of the book is robots which are programmed to be slightly different from each other. One such robot is more observant and compassionate - what happens next. The book is well-written and, true to my nature, I'm leaving the blog to read the book.

Narr said...

Since I'm here early, and will be gone for a few hours, I'll just say that nothing I've read about or by that author intrigues me in the least.

IDK, ST, many of us here say stuff here that can and will be used against us some day in a court of law, so why the worries about other tech?

Values brains more than heart

Shouting Thomas said...


I interested in using AI as a memory and IQ assist, for the purpose of improving my performance in the arts and business.

I’m not so much concerned about self-incrimination as other people stealing my ideas.

Ann Althouse said...

The AF in the book is not uploaded with lots of information or have access to the web to get answers. The AF only observes and analyzes things directly. It's an important plot point that the AF does not understand the sun but observes it setting behind a distant barn and imagines that it goes to rest at night in the barn. She essentially discovers religion and prayer (to the Sun) and (spoiler alert) the prayer ultimately works, perhaps because others are inspired to believe in it.

Big O's Meanings Dictionary said...

Artificial Intelligence (AI) - definition

Current pseudonym for a really, really good list processor.

Reason for adoption:

It was decided that RRGLP sounded more like a prono acronym, making it unworkable outside of sociology "studies" and therefore would jeapordize grant money.

Narr said...

Got it, ST. Good luck.

And thanks for the spoiler, Prof! (No, really, I was unlikely to read the book, but next time make it SPOILER ALERT! please.)

In Kerr's The Second Angel (IIRC) one character is an AI 'person' created by the protagonist as his assistant, which he gives a little pet AI 'dog,' which becomes a vulnerability because the AI assistant is TOO human . . .


Narr said...

Interesting story, ST. I have always been interested (some would say too interested) in lit and history and all that, and certainly shared that humanist prejudice against the new tech. (BA Hist/PoliSci 1976, ABT MA History 1982.)

My solution to the hungry kid problem was to get a degree in something useful that also kept me in my preferred milieu of books and libraries, so I got an MLIS (1994). It was a proud boast in library school that the profession was one of the very first to adopt computer technology, and within the field the more technically adept you are, the brighter the prospects ($$$).

I could have used the educational bennies I had to take computer science or anything else I wanted relevant to my library day job, but I'm just not that interested (and may not be smart enough) to do more with tech than delve into the fuzzy humanist stuff I adore already. (MA History [no overlap] 1999.)

OTOH, when I was in real estate for two years (1984-1986), I was considered a real computer wiz because I could do efficient database searches.

Compared to Index Medicus, the real estate database was child's play

The Crack Emcee said...

"Do you believe in the human heart?"

Millions of Democrat voters - and their supporters around the world - are letting Bill Clinton slide on multiple rapes, so - NO.

A thousand times, NO.

loudogblog said...

I think that it's been proven that humans can love things that are not human and return affection for affection, even if that affection is artificial. Just look at all the people who get sucked in by scam artists posing as romantic partners on the internet. They fall in love with the scammer even though the scammer's professed love for them is not real.

ronalddewitt said...

Mind is to brain as climate is to atmosphere, not as algorithm is to computer.