Joscha Bach’s doctoral dissertation didn’t fit the usual academic pigeonholes. “I didn’t dare hand it to anybody until it was done,” he recalls. “It’s not psychology, it’s not AI. It’s not what people mostly do in cognitive science, like putting people into a scanner.” Building on the work of German psychologist Dietrich Dörner, Bach was developing a cognitive architecture—a model of the mind with enough detail to be run on a computer. It features one of the most articulated models of emotion built into an artificial system and gives emotions an essential role in cognition.
At that time—the early 2000s—artificial-intelligence research was crawling out from a low point in its boom-bust cycle. Given the original hopes of the field in the ’50s, it was—and arguably still is—a failure. AI wasn’t supposed to be just a great Go player or an online algorithm to serve up clickbait. It was supposed to mimic the human brain in all its generality. It was supposed to be enough like us that, through it, we would know ourselves better.