What this world needs is more [artificial] empathy

Original article was published on Artificial Intelligence on Medium

We hear a lot about artificial intelligence (AI) these days. AI is programing that assesses situations and takes action much like natural or human intelligence. AI — is not a future technology waiting to happen. Instead, it is here now, in TVs and smartphones and many other devices. Speech recognition and self-driving cars are two prominent examples. But AI is also used in tracking consumerism and even in “contact tracing” for COVID-19. It’s everywhere, and it’s growing. And learning.

AI, as we know and use it, is not yet like human intelligence. Most AI remains mechanical and logic-based, whereas human intelligence uses logic and emotions. These interact in complex ways achieving generalized intelligence.

Logic alone is cold and binary. Zero and one. Yes and no. This path or the other. We’ve all confronted an automated phone system that bewilders with unnecessary questions, taking forever to get anywhere. Now, contrast that with a real person who listens and connects right away. That’s the distinction in generalized intelligence. Logic gets you from A to B without considering the ride. But generalized intelligence — with both logic and empathy — gets you there and cares how the trip was.

Empathy in generalized intelligence allows social groups to function and thrive. As we empathize, we see different viewpoints and care about what others think and feel. Effective social networks depend on this empathy to self-govern. In turn, communities form around these networks of trust and understanding. And the community supports the individual while the individual buys into the community. For intelligent machines to enhance society, they must care like we do (or rather, like we should).