# Consequences of absence of emotion

I am new here, and my question would be a follow up of this question, Survival without emotion, though not for the same purpose as mentioned in that question, however. Recently, I was pondering the same thing and came across this. Let me build up a nice story and a new world (which is a follow up of the existing one) to facilitate.

Suppose that everything is going as fine as it is now, same old Earth, same old people and everything as it is. But let us bring an evil guy into the plot. This guy hates humans and human emotion, but he is super-super-super intelligent and can do anything. And, he thinks that machines are far more superior than humans and that emotions are a hindrance to our kind. So he makes an evil plan or rather a machine to wipe out every ounce of emotion from this planet, and successfully does it as well. Now every kind of emotion, whether it be fear, anger, hormones (even them) are wiped out, so that there's nothing left but logic (similar to machines) in this new world.

Now, the difficulty I come across after this is that pure logic would have one big-big-big problem/glitch/bug/error/crash/whatever-you-may-call-it. Thinking from a purely logical view, we have no meaning of existence. The universe came out of randomness: the planets, the galaxies, everything. Hence, there's no preference to anything? That is to say, everything or every task will have equal meaninglessness. Logically nothing could be preferred over any other task, right? I mean, logic would require us to choose from one of two, one of many, or from yes or no. But since none would be preferred, it's an impossible task. I like to name fancy things, let's call this "equality catastrophe."

My question is: could this scenario ever be realized? Is such a world building possible? Or would this result in a kind of system crash in computer language, or maybe a contradiction in mathematical. Or maybe if that's why emotion are so important for our existence.

• Welcome to the site, Mann. I realize that not everyone speaks/writes English with equal proficiency, so, normally, I feel it's proper to make some edits to add clarity to grammatically unstable questions. However, I'm having trouble following your question here and am concerned that any edits I make will change your intent. Could you take a few minutes to review your question? – Frostfyre Jun 16 '15 at 19:00
• I will try. No problem. – Mann Jun 16 '15 at 19:02
• @Frostfyre , I tried. Could you check and guide me a little more? Are the expressions like "super-super-super" fine, I just put them to give emphasis. – Mann Jun 16 '15 at 19:09
• I've made a few edits to your question. If you disagree with them, feel free to roll them back. – Frostfyre Jun 16 '15 at 19:22
• @Frostfyre thanks for the edit. And it's great! – Mann Jun 16 '15 at 19:24

could this scenario ever be realized? Is such a world building possible? Or would this result in a kind of system crash in computer language, or maybe a contradiction in mathematical.

I don't believe this scenario can be realized.

The problem is that the question has a faulty first premise: that there is any meaningful distinction between emotions and logic that would enable you to eradicate one from the human experience, while leaving the other in place. But there is no evidence at all that this is the case.

The brain is a neural network. While there are many subtleties to its operation we haven't even begun to understand, the simple model is that every thought, and every decision, is the product of a chain of neurons making linear classifications: they read a set of inputs and return a yes or no. Billions of these yes or no responses come together to form the complexity of human thought.

There are multiple reasons why this conflicts with the underlying premise of the question:

1. every input to the system is important. Hormones generated by the sensation of hunger tip the balance of the yes/no classifier to make you more rash, or "cranky", because there's an evolutionary benefit to doing this in that it drives the whole system to seek food more urgently, for example. If you shut down the ability to feel crankiness, the system is no longer receiving proper input and is partially broken. Anger, passion, etc. are just how we understand a set of signals that actually have a deeper meaning. To simply neutralize anger out of hand (as opposed to calming down, where you strategically choose to reinforce alternative inputs in response to the anger), you would need to blank the entire set of inputs causing the "overload", discarding valuable information - such as your memory of what made you angry - along with it.

2. neurons are analogue and chemical in nature. As they operate, they change their responses to problems. It might be that they become overworked and need a rest, at which point they start to fritz; more significantly, the basic mechanism of learning is that neurons gradually rewrite both their connections to one another, and their decision function, according to the results of the last classification they made. So unlike a computer's logic gates, it is not possible for a neuron to reliably generate the same output to the same input time and time again. You cannot eliminate boredom, novelty, and so on, because they are fundamental to the basic operation of the system. At best, Evil Guy would permanently rob victims of the ability to learn or remember anything new (not just short-term, like Memento: their thoughts would be frozen forever).

3. corollary to the above: there is no deterministic mechanism available for the brain to use. When we work out symbolic logic or mathematical expressions, we're much slower than machines because we essentially have to consciously "simulate" a logical layer on top of this fundamentally different architecture, by imagining the "slots" for data and actively choosing to push numbers around (and many of us are bad at this). For a person to actually work completely logically, they'd have to be doing the equivalent of sums on paper to decide what to do next. For every action.

This is grossly oversimplified. Do not assume this is actually how the brain works (and whether neurons are responsible for all of it, or whether our understanding of them is complete, remains contentious). But the point is the same either way: logic and emotion are artificial constructs, neither of which fully reflects the way a human mind actually works (it is a kind of machine, and everything it does has a reason, but not a deterministic machine like the computers we build to do the jobs it can't). Logic and emotion are just post-hoc interpretations of a single deeper principle. Emotion can be described as the situation that arises when a wide set of inputs unify, and become as a driving issue for the whole system to make a choice about.

Of course, that doesn't mean your villain can't try anyway, and discover that his victims simply don't function at all because they can't actually form a thought from one second to the next. That's the reason living in his world would suck.

Hence, there's no preference to anything?
Logically nothing could be preferred over any other task right?


My question could be, could this scenario ever be realized?
Is such a world building possible?


Can an 'evil guy' create a 'machine' that wipes out 'emotion'? It's theoretically possible... And the subject of more than a few episodes of Doctor Who.

The difficulty I come across after this is that pure logic would have one
big-big-big problem, glitch, bug, error, crash, whatever you may call it.
Thinking from a pure logical view, we have no meaning of existence.


Your difficulty is illogical, possibly tainted by the fact that you are an emotion-based creature. This difficulty stems from the assumption that logic-based machines require 'meaning' to validate their continued existence. This is simply incorrect. A computer does not analyze its existence each cycle and decide whether or not to continue processing. It merely continues processing, simply because that's what it does.

A society of purely logical beings, also, would merely continue processing. There is no need for 'meaning' or 'purpose' in such a society, other than, perhaps, the preservation of that existence, driven by biological impulses.

• But what could be logical and illogical at all? When everything is made out of random and hence purposeless? I am still not able to think. Could you elaborate, or maybe give an example. Else is fine! It seems like i had to distinguish between "biological impulses" from emotions. – Mann Jun 16 '15 at 19:40
• @Mann, everything may come from random, but not everything is random. Consider an example of a machine which flips two coins. If they are both heads up or tails up, it emits a 1, else it emits a 0. Consider a single case where the machine emits a 0. The result is totally random, but it would still be illogical to say "i received a 0, so both coins were probably heads." – Cort Ammon Jun 16 '15 at 20:44
• Emotions or not, people will still have physiological needs (eat, sleep, shelter). Even controlling the temperature of your environment (hot/cold) is a logical decision. Too cold can kill or reduce your motor efficiency, too hot can kill or cause illness through excessive dehydration. Look at Maslow's Hierarchy of needs. Consider which of those are emotion dependent and which aren't. – Arluin Jun 16 '15 at 22:24

# The Importance of Hormones

Hormones are really, really important. Sure, there are ideas that hormones are the root causes of emotions, and that is bad, but emotions serve a very important role. Evolutionarily, we can blame emotions for carrying us through to today. Fear helps us respond better to life-and-death situations. Happiness signals "what just happened is approved by our bodies" and anger helps us preserve boundaries, including avoiding bodily harm.

Hormones themselves regulate many super important functions in the body. Good luck controlling your water/salt balance and not exploding your cells without steroids. This is also not to mention your circadian rhythm, immune system, controlling hunger, and myriad other uses. A person without hormones is soon a dead person.

This means your premise cannot be realized. Your world would be forever stuck in fantasy. You cannot have a society of humans without hormones.

# The Equality Catastrophe

You will simply need to provide an axiom for your perfect-logic flesh machines to go off of. One could say "cyclical biological processes" (eating, breathing, reproduction) are the purpose of life. Your society would then continue on, focused on these things.

The purpose of life is one of those things that everyone very likely must come to grips with, hormones or no. So really, you need to give your logic-only people something to do, otherwise they may fall into your equality catastrophe. You could also find evidence that this existence is not just random, and the logical thing to do would be to respond appropriately to this new information.

Thinking from a pure logical view, we have no meaning of existence. The universe came out of random, the planets, the galaxies, everything came out of random. Hence, there's no preference to anything? That is to say, everything or every task will have equal meaninglessness. Logically nothing could be preferred over any other task right?

We still have senses. We'd still feel pleasure or pain, be able to taste the difference between good and bad food, or enjoy a warm summer breeze or a sunset.

So we'd have preferences, we'd want things that feel good and avoid things that feel bad. The problem we'd run into is that emotions are like lubricant for civilizations - there's a reason we evolved with them.

Large-scale, a lack of emotions will likely reduce conflict. You're less likely to be able to convince people to go to war for an ideal, or to launch a nuclear bomb when logically that means it will eventually kill them as well. And why bother with genocide? On the other hand, it's likely that the economy will collapse, as people will stop making emotionally-driven purchases.

Small scale we see other issues. Families will self-destruct unless having children is somehow objectively beneficial to parents. It is possible that a lot of personal gratification crimes, like theft, rape, or murder, will skyrocket. On the other hand, people might tend to view them more transactionally without emotional context - so maybe instead of those increasing, we just repeal laws and say, make prostitution legal.

Long-term, I think the lack of population growth will kill us off. There just won't be enough people who have kids in this scenario to maintain a civilization. It is possible that those who do want kids - for whatever reason - will eventually re-populate, but that will take at least hundreds of years, if not thousands.

• I'd agree with the senses part! But wouldn't pleasure and pain be a emotion too? And if there were no pleasure or pain, then gratification crimes would be abolished right? Or any other thing that could be related to those. – Mann Jun 16 '15 at 19:43
• @Mann: I'd view those as senses, personally. Keep in mind that if people don't feel pain, they'd probably injure themselves accidentally and not realize it. Which would lead to a lot of extra death. – Dan Smolinske Jun 16 '15 at 19:51
• @Mann In most works I have read, pleasure/pain is considered a separate system from emotions. Emotional pain is thus thought of as pain whose cause arises from the emotion systems of the brain. That being said, the lack of a pleasure/pain response in the brain would likely facilitate your equality catastrophe more strongly than a lack of emotion would. Pleasure/pain is highly related to many optimization algorithms, so the removal of pleasure/pain would also prevent those logical beings from optimizing, leading to your "what to do" crisis. – Cort Ammon Jun 16 '15 at 20:53
• Pain is your body telling you that something wrong is happening. Touching something hot informs you that damage is occurring from the heat. The "logical" thing to do is stop touching it. Without pain you couldn't make that logical decision. I think that sensory input / feelings / emotions are not all equal things. – Arluin Jun 16 '15 at 22:30
• The personal gratification crimes increasing is interesting. On the one hand I suspect many of them are committed now out of emotion (anger, hate, lashing out from pain) and so those would diminish. Yet there would be no emotional basis NOT to hurt someone if it was the logical thing to do. I think it would be fairly rare that it would be logical to commit a crime, generally the reward is not worth the risk. It is only emotional freight that makes someone desperate enough to incur the risk, illogically. – Arluin Jun 16 '15 at 22:34