Nick Horne's Monday Morning

“Oh God, I am so depressed”

SO said Marvin, the manically depressed robot, in the “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” the seminal BBC radio programme, book and film first aired 40-years-ago.

An American, it would be an American, and a neuroscientist has announced that robots may get depressed if they think too quickly.

Dr Zachary Mainen of the Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown in Lisbon, Portugal at a recent scientific conference in New York, presented a paper that argued people with too little serotonin in their brains were less able to adapt to a changing world.

Effectively they are stuck in a rut.

He went on to argue that machines that are now said to have Artificial Intelligence or AI would experience a form of depression as they struggled to cope with too high a rate of new information.

“An emotional response in my view is something that is quite central to intelligence,” Dr Mainen said.

“An autonomous AI will need to have its own goals, and if these are thwarted it will become angry or sad in the sense of the same type of reactions that animals and people have.”

A depressed machine is one thing but depressed, angry and autonomous?

Do I really want to have a row with my kettle first thing in the morning? Not really; I want a cup of coffee or tea with no talking back.

Though it could make the drive to the office in the self-driving car interesting as the depressed AI insisted on the scenic route to cheer itself up. Or like the legendary Marvin of the Hitchhikers Guide the car may just decide to stay in the garage and rust instead; leaving you to flag down the bi-polar bus.

On the other hand, a relentlessly cheerful fridge has possibilities.

In the dead of night creep out of bed and stalk along the hall to the kitchen. Carefully open the door and step inside. With great guile close the softy creaking door behind you.

Step forward avoiding the vegetables and stand in front of the luminous door of the fridge; then with the greatest care open the door. “GOOD MORNING!”, shouts the fridge.

“What would you like? The Black Forest Gateaux is on the top shelf” the fridge seductively bellows, “What’s left of the cheesecake below.”

You slam the door with a crash.

The whole house knows you are up for a midnight snack.

You know because the house AI starts telling off the fridge for waking everyone up , the toaster joins in while the kettle just steams.

You hold your head in your hands and moan, “Oh God, I am so depressed.”

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