Speaking at the Annual International Conference on Biologically Inspired Cognitive Architectures in New York, professor Alexi Samsonovich, from Moscow’s National Research Nuclear University Cybernetics Department, stated that Russian researchers are on the verge of a major breakthrough in AI. But Samsonovich feels this breakthrough won’t necessarily be measurable in terms of artificial consciousness — we can’t even prove that humans are conscious, let alone an entity that might be as alien as AI — but rather that true advancement in AI would be seen in terms of AE: artificial emotions.

“Primarily this entails demonstrating that a machine [is] capable of feeling human emotions and exhibiting human-level socially emotional intelligence in a variety of settings,” Samsonovich explains. His presentation at the conference discussed this form of an emotional intelligence-based Turing test, and outlined his team’s development of what they call Virtual Actor, an AI that can create goals, devise plans, and build social relationships with the humans it interacts with.

“What I am talking about here is limited to behavior, internal organization of the system and its internal dynamics, like neurophysiology or running software,” he said. “Today we can build a machine that behaves as if it had human-like feelings. When you will see this kind of behavior exhibited consistently over time in many circumstances and without occasional ‘presence breaks’ … you will believe that this entity is alive and is in a social contact with you, and you will interact with it accordingly.”