Can you teach an artificial intelligence to feel pain? How can an inanimate byte-brain learn the meaning of pain?
Pain is a relative feeling. A child falling over and grazing their knee displays a very different reaction to an adult doing the same thing. The fear of needles makes an injection a far more traumatic and painful experience. Two people can have different pain thresholds; one woman can cope with a natural childbirth, another wants a multitude of painkillers.
So the problem facing Doctors is this; how much does it hurt?
That is what scientists have tried to determine by creating software which so far has been 80% effective in clinical trials. Volunteers underwent brain scans whilst being touched by both a mildly heated probe, then by a ‘painfully’ hot one. The computer then used the information shown in the brain activity to identify pain.
The technology is being developed in the hope that it will lead to better detection and treatment of chronic pain. It would also be of use for the very young or mentally impaired who may not be able to convey their pain.
Interestingly, it may also have an impact on the ever increasing ‘where there’s blame, there’s a claim’ culture. Those who insist they have whiplash, for instance and are in constant moderate pain, may have a lot more trouble convincing the insurance companies in the future.
The Doctors/Technician will have to actually teach the meaning of pain to a computer! He had made the inanimate byte-brain to feel pain!