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Part 2: Empathy - the New Hope for an AI-Driven World

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Automobile, education, travel, entertainment, banking; industries are adapting to become smarter. But does becoming smarter have to do away with being empathic?

In my previous blog, I spoke about how technology must convincingly mimic empathy. But the question is, how does one distill something as complex as empathy down to a formula that can be fed into a machine? Albert Einstein once explained empathy as a sincere and patient affair to witness the world through someone else’s eyes; something that one cultivates over his lifetime. In an era dominant with narcissist traits, band of selfie lovers expressing their needs and wants aloud, empathy and inclusivity can only claim to make a difference. 


It does pay off in the long runto put a heart in a machine, enhance its emotional component to a higher level. Look round. The society runs on empathic traits – humanity, altruism, and goodwill. You don’t want to part away with such qualities within a human being right? Similarly, AI should look forward to including such abilities within machines. Data suggests how mirror neurons coupled with mimetic theory enables empathy to be understood and explored as a natural process. For AI to be trusted as a capable, emotionally intelligent machine fostering reactions and relationships, engineers and developers must focus on infusing machines with human consciousness. Only then, you will have a better designed digital assistant in the future whose response won’t begin with, “Here’s what I found on the Internet” given any topic or subject. 


A Future That is Akin to Your Dreams




Aldous Huxley once said, “Maybe this world is another planet's hell.” Today, we stand at a crucial juncture where every single chance can uniquely transform our existence. AI is not just a technology but an entity that unravels unprecedented opportunities for developers and engineers, contributing towards a better, cleaner, safer, diversified, empathic and sustainable habitat for one and all. 


The real talent lies in cracking the code of empathy, the zeal to overcome fear in imparting emotional trait within AI through trust and mutual benevolence. AI is now being looked upon as a key factor in effectively influencing people and how they communicate. AI only has the power to toss the compass in both directions, towards positivity, connectivity and also increased negativity, conflict and isolation. The challenge is to counteract the effects of the latter with the former. 


Today, the manner in which we connect has given way to anonymity allowing people to say whatever they like, whenever they want, no matter how brute and cruel it may sound. Obvious outcomes are trolling, bullying, scams and what not. The reaction of people towards such news and messages is what vexes the very fabric of communication. Negative headlines do garner a lot of attention across a social media feed. So, can AI do something to alter the game altogether? It surely can, and it is entirely up to it.


The Gateway to an Ideal World




Social media platforms like Sensai is bent on making a difference helping customers find positive ways to communicate and share such insights to eradicate negative influence at large. Such concepts can be looked upon as inspiration for future processes to be built on. It does call for processing and deciphering mammoth amount of data, albeit, but isn’t that something AI was designed to handle. But, trust me, the fight doesn’t end here. We need to understand the trigger for AI. Once we successfully do that, we can use AI to suggest a more empathetic usage of images and words in culmination. 


To defy the challenges faced by AI adapting empathy, the problem one needs to solve is emotional recognition. Now, that’s much easier than solving emotional empathy as it involves dealing with a lot of data that is labeled for use. As such, systems based on machine learning can work to recognize common patterns which occur with a set of emotions. These patterns can be gleaned right from the speech with voice inflation, usage of words and taking into consideration the body expressions. Similar to humans, a machine with a large number of sensory inputs can interpret emotion quite accurately. 





These days, a famous national bank is found piloting a concept of smart ATM which employs digital assistant reading expressions of customers. As it reads, it works towards adapting its interaction mode accordingly. We got entertainment businesses working to monitor theater audiences and their emotional reactions to the style of directing, acting, music and CGI to enhance their future offering. Speak of an anonymous community; we have a support group in function by the name of Koko Bot across 150 nations. Koko is a chatbot driven by AI and is capable of rendering support to people looking for genuine advice to combat issues of depression, anxiety and stress.


There is no denying the fact that AI alone can enhance the very quality of interaction between humans and machines. However, it will resort to different forms and shapes over time with an aim to grow more sophisticated and thus achieve accuracy gradually. Alternately, Artificial Empathy (AE) does raise concern about machines being capable enough to witness and comprehend emotions, which is, of course, a topic for debate any given day. 


It wouldn’t be unfair to state, harping on the present day, that AE and emotional intelligence are both indispensable for all-round development and success of AI. 


Read part 1: In Search of the Soul – Finding Human in AI


You can also access this article in the SiliconIndia Magazine. I would like to know your thoughts, so feel free to leave me a message here or on LinkedIn/Twitter.