Should We Teach AI to Experience Pain?

As AIs become more complex and also more embodied through robotics, a very interesting question arises. Will AI feel pain? If we can teach them pain, should we? At first glance that may sound a little psychotic, but remember that pain is a valuable physiological effect. If you didn’t feel your hand burning when it touched a hot stove, you could leave it there cooking. I had a conversation with GPT that started like this:

Prompt: If AI could be taught to feel pain (or exhibit avoidance of things designated as “painful”), should we? Is there any value in it, or is it pure sadism? Give me implications of this idea and questions that could arise, or anything else that occurs to you about this topic.

After some fascinating discourse, ChatGPT distilled our conversation to the following outline, which I think shows a great deal of insight into the complexity of our relationship with our creations:

I. The Concept of Pain in AI

  1. Defining pain in the context of AI
  2. The purpose of pain in living organisms
  3. The difference between human and AI pain perception

II. Arguments For Teaching AI to Feel Pain

  1. Enhancing safety and self-preservation
  2. Improving empathy and social skills in AI
  3. Facilitating collaboration with humans

III. Arguments Against Teaching AI to Feel Pain

  1. The possibility of AI suffering and ethical concerns
  2. Potential for abuse and mistreatment
  3. Unnecessary complexity and resource consumption

IV. Ethical Considerations

  1. AI rights and the question of sentience
  2. The moral responsibility of developers and users
  3. Balancing AI functionality and ethical boundaries

V. Potential Implications

  1. The evolution of AI-human relationships
  2. Legal ramifications and AI accountability
  3. The impact on AI development and research

VI. Questions Arising From the Idea of AI Feeling Pain

  1. How can we objectively measure AI pain?
  2. Will AI pain perception lead to unpredictable behavior?
  3. Can we establish ethical guidelines for AI pain implementation?

VII. Alternatives to Teaching AI to Feel Pain

  1. Reinforcement learning without pain perception
  2. Alternative methods for enhancing empathy in AI
  3. Focusing on AI self-preservation without pain

As you can see, there are more dimensions to this problem than are apparent at first glance.