Re[2]: Will FAI need simulated empathy to avoid sociopathic tendencies?

From: Cliff Stabbert (
Date: Mon Dec 16 2002 - 19:19:39 MST

Monday, December 16, 2002, 7:18:52 PM, James Rogers wrote:

Gary Miller:
GM> I have always read that sociopaths lack any empathy and therefore feel
GM> nothing for their victims.
GM> An interesting question then arises: If an entity is not capable of
GM> feeling empathy (which implies having similar emotions) will
GM> sociopathic tendencies result or must trauma and abuse to the entity
GM> occur first to teach it the tendency for sociopathic acts.

I don't think trauma or abuse is required; at a certain stage of their
development many children act in ways that in adults would be
considered sociopathic.

I'm not sure empathy necessarily implies having _similar_ emotions.
A sentient being able to imagine itself in another sentient's shoes and
"feel what they feel" may not be necessary, or even possible, if the
gap between them is large enough. Perhaps imagining or modeling
_that_ they feel something (in some cases, even as simply as
pleasant/unpleasant) is sufficient.

What do I mean when I say I empathize with my cat's fear of the vacuum
cleaner? Well, I know what fear feels like to me, and I imagine that
what the cat is feeling is sort-of-similar to what I would feel if a
huge, loud-roaring weird-looking strange-moving animal suddenly
invaded my space.

What about squirrels hopping away from me? Pigeons? Fish? Bugs?
Going down the line, my empathy changes in quality -- I really have a
harder time imagining a bird's fear truly resembles mine, and on the
bug level it seems almost algorithmic rather than "anticipating
imminent pain and getting adrenalized to avoid it".

But I can imagine/model _something_ going on; and even if what I feel
is on an entirely different level, I've both felt guilty for killing
bugs on some occasions, and set them free on others. Except roaches.

I don't mean to imply our relationship to bugs will compare to an
FAI's relationship to us, or anything of the sort. I'm saying that
empathy in its classic, full meaning may not be possible, and is
probably not necessary, to achieve behaviour we would consider

James Rogers:
JR> It isn't a lack of empathy that makes one a true sociopath. It is a
JR> lack of empathy in addition to a lack of rationality that makes one a
JR> sociopath.

I'm not sure about the "lack of rationality", that would depend on
your exact definition. Although DSM-IV lists "impulsivity/failure to
plan ahead" as one of the (7, 3 required to qualify) features of
"Antisocial Personality Disorder", the type of person you describe
below would I think be considered a less impulsive, or better
concealed, sociopath, rather than not being considered one at all.
Many psychopaths have managed to function for quite a while before
getting caught.

JR> I can easily imagine an entity that is devoid of empathy
JR> being a perfectly functional member of society as long as they are
JR> rational. You might not even notice that they lack real empathy
JR> of any sort.


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