The importance of emotional expression as part of human communication has been understood since the seventeenth century, and has been explored scientifically since Charles Darwin and others in the nineteenth century. Recent advances in psychology have greatly improved our understanding of the role of affect in communication, perception, decision-making, attention and memory. At the same time, advances in technology mean that it is becoming possible for machines to sense, analyse and express emotions.
These advances raise new and complex issues. If machines seem to display emotional intelligence and sensitivity, will it be appropriate for them to become our companions, friends and lovers? How do we understand the uniqueness of human beings if machines are increasingly able to demonstrate human-like behaviour? Orthodox Christian thinking sees self-giving love between persons as the highest expression of our humanity, making a profound distinction between I-you and I-it relations. In what ways will the ubiquity of intelligent machines challenge these traditional distinctions?