Empathy in AI

Artificial empathy (AE) or computational empathy is the development of AI systems which can detect and respond to human emotions in an empathic way.

Empathy is the ability to understand or feel what the other person is experiencing by putting oneself in another’s position; and can be of different types.

Now one might ask if this is encouraging or terrifying?

I would say that, even though such technology can be initially perceived as threatening by many people, it has some very interesting use cases in the health care sector. 

From the care-giver perspective for instance; caring for mental health patients is emotionally difficult for nurses and doctors. Doctors and nurses report feeling burnt-out, performing emotional labor above and beyond the requirements of paid labor, which compromises the quality of care. AI robots can use empathy to care for dementia patients without feeling ‘burned-out’. AI robots can use empathy to care for dementia patients without feeling “burned-out”. They can be the go-between between doctors/nurses and their patients. They can work closely with doctors to gather information and refine treatment plans. They can work with nurses to monitor patients and engage in day to day care. At the same time, dementia patients who receive consistent empathetic care report better outcomes. 

Also, according to the emotional intelligence pyramid, empathy is in all the layers of the upper pyramid above emotion recognition.

This addresses the missing Apex of Maslow’s Hierarchy, after the top of Maslow’s hierarchy of self-actualization, there needs to be self-transcendence and emotional unity.

P.S. : Maslow’s hierarchy of self-actualization represents the highest level or stage in his model of human motivation: the ‘Hierarchy of Needs’. According to the hierarchy of needs, self-actualization represents the highest-order motivations, which drive us to realize our true potential and achieve our ‘ideal self’.

There are three parts of empathy that describe empathy to us; cognitive empathy, affective empathy and somatic empathy. 

When it comes to AI, and moving towards a more human-like intelligence, empathy will be essential. Since, human intelligence is different from AI, artificial empathy is different from human empathy. Empathy can be learned and AI can surely be equipped with artificial empathy in the years to come. 

However, it could be scary if not used cautiously. Therefore, ethics in AI are also extremely important.

Ethics in AI refer to a set of values, principles, and techniques which employ widely accepted standards of right and wrong to guide moral conduct in the development and deployment of Artificial Intelligence technologies.

An interesting article around AI and empathy: https://www.forbes.com/sites/cognitiveworld/2019/12/17/empathy-in-artificial-intelligence/?sh=be1d08063270

Link to this preprint paper by Dan Zahavi from Københavns Universitet – University of Copenhagen: https://www.academia.edu/48847511/Empathy_Alterity_Morality

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