When will we see the first empathic A.I.?

When will we see the first empathic A.I.?

When will we see the first empathic A.I.? 698 400 Use Design

Is the Skynet prophecy of Terminator coming? Or are we already figuring out the A.I. technologies for customer-centered businesses? Lately, we’ve seen several A.I. projects come to life, with many more to come. But can we sustain the way we design and innovate for people while developing highly automated tools?

Engineers and developers have given us samples of how we may use AI. For instance, AlphaGo — an A.I. Go player developed by Google, has been buzzing the tech world with its multiple victories against some of the top human Go players. The A.I. has been said to make moves that no human has ever thought of before (move #37), and European champion Fan Hui has been quoted saying how “beautiful” it was.

Facebook has already been running its own A.I. program, the Facebook Artificial Intelligence Research (FAIR), and Mark Zuckerberg himself has congratulated Google for its accomplishments with AlphaGo. The fact that these two giants have been actively engaged in A.I. shows us it’s not just a dream. It make us feel like we’re closer to science fiction films than ever before.

Having the technology and know-how to develop actionable A.I. is very exciting when measured against all our visions of the future. But it’s also scary to see that we have been able to develop machines that almost invariably beat humans on games they have created themselves.

Discussing the actual meaning of AI and the moral repercussions of its widespread application could have led to a whole new, deeper article. But my focus on this matter will remain on what we, humans, do that cannot be mimicked or improved by A.I. It’s a challenging topic, especially for someone who is not an AI scientist. But I will rely on my knowledge of human beings instead.

We know how important it is to be human-centered nowadays. I’ll go as far as to say that innovation is nothing without people at its core. So what is it that A.I. is missing?

In my perspective, it all comes down to emotions. After all, they are the most complex components of human beings and sometimes the most meaningful. It’s not a surprise that engineers have already built an “emotion-reading” robot. But in the end, even with the most sophisticated facial recognition device, I wonder if A.I. will still be able to detect our deepest feelings. It’s hard to identify, let alone interpret, those hidden meanings in our heads and hearts.

Things get even more complicated when there is interaction among people. I’ve recently written about the role of empathy in business and design innovation. If that is such an essential tool for us, I’m wondering how can we rely on computers when all we really need is to simply understand each other? In the end, it might take a person to empathize with another person (and for how long?). For that reason, we should also empower the world’s designers, biologists, neuroscientists, anthropologists, and everyone involved in any kind of human research.

Scientists and engineers of AI must be praised and encouraged. There is a lot to discover and experiment. And I believe in new technologies capable of making our lives better. But we must not forget the other tools. The soft ones. The ones that will allow us to deal with the complex layers of emotions and feelings. Because no matter what happens next, it’s something that will always shape who we are. Humans.


Vivien Gauthier— Associé, Business & Design Strategist @ Use Design 

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