In the 2015 film Ex Machina, computer programmer Caleb Smith becomes romantically attracted to Ava, an artificially intelligent robot. Caleb believes that Ava is similarly attracted to him, and they plan her escape from the facility in which she is held. It is clear that Caleb thinks of Ava not only as highly intelligent but also as capable of emotional engagement with the world. But does she really like him? Could she like him? Could a robot ever experience the emotions that we typically think of as fundamental to the human condition?
This question quickly gives rise to a puzzle. For there are reasons to think that any autonomous agent, robots included, must experience something like emotion. But there are also reasons to think no robot ever could experience emotion.
With robots being introduced in areas such as health, social care and education—areas that typically involve and facilitate emotional interaction and the forming of emotional relationships—finding a solution to this puzzle is increasingly urgent.