What do you think when someone asks you about empathy? Do you struggle to find its meaning or does it come to you naturally? In the age of artificial intelligence, do our AI systems need empathy? If so, what are some use cases where empathy can be most helpful in AI Systems?
Humans are social creatures. We thrive on empathy. When we read a book out loud to our children, they can hear the emotions we imbue into the passages. With each tone and inflection, our children will remember the love we inject into their favorite books. They will remember their bedtime reading as a special moment. They will have fond memories of the books that we read to them.
We like to think that we are logical creatures. In truth, our emotions govern a large part of our intelligence. In a 2012 study, by Aron K. Barbey, et. al, neuroscientists confirmed that emotional intelligence and cognitive intelligence share many neural systems for integrating cognitive, social, and affective processes. This study confirms what psychologists have suspected for decades: that there are interdependencies between emotional intelligence and general intelligence.
“You can’t have ‘human-like’ intelligence (AGI) without personality or emotions. People don’t change behavior on information, they change it on emotion, emotional intelligence, and empathy” – Steve Ardire, AI startup Advisor ‘Force Multiplier’ & “Merchant of Light”
Empathy is Central to Emotional Intelligence
Empathy is a part of emotional intelligence. Empathy means the ability to understand or feel what another person is experiencing within their frame of reference. In the general scope of emotional intelligence, empathy is in self-awareness, social awareness, self-actualization, and transcendence.
According to this emotional intelligence pyramid, empathy is in all the layers of the upper pyramid above emotion recognition. It is our empathy that helps us work toward emotional unity as we proceed toward self-actualization.
This emotional intelligence pyramid 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.
The Process of Empathy
When we talk about empathy, we often talk about empathy in terms of how we feel, how we react, and how we internalize the emotional stimuli that we receive. There are three parts of empathy that describe empathy to us.
- Cognitive empathy – understanding another person’s frame of reference.
- Affective empathy – the capacity to respond with appropriate emotion.
- Somatic empathy – physical reaction associated with the empathy process.
When we feel someone’s love for us, we first use our cognitive empathy to feel the love they have for us. Then, we use our affective empathy to respond with the love that we feel for them. Finally, the love that we feel may lead to a physical reaction such as our heart beat faster. This is somatic empathy.
Empathy vs. Artificial Empathy
In artificial intelligent systems, if we want to move toward artificial general intelligence, empathy will be essential. Just like human intelligence is different from artificial intelligence, artificial empathy is different from human empathy.
Minter Dial, in his book, Heartificial Empathy describes artificial empathy as the coding of empathy into machines. He describes artificial empathy or heartificial empathy as personal, situational and based on the appropriate intentions.
Because empathy can be learned, artificial Intelligence can surely be equipped with artificial empathy in the years to come.
“Empathy is patiently and sincerely seeing the world through the other person’s eyes. It is not learned in school; it is cultivated over a lifetime.” – Minter Dial in Heartificial Empathy
However, businesses have to decide the appropriate use cases of empathy in order to develop effective AI systems that add value to the businesses.
“The challenge will be finding the right mixture and chemistry for the agents to be assisted by machines in providing, in combination, a more empathic and effective service.” – Minter Dial in Heartificial Empathy
In identifying appropriate use cases of artificial empathy, organizations can then implement more empathy into their businesses and the services that they provide for their customers.
Empathy and Ethics
In recent years, as AI systems are integrated into our businesses and homes, we are increasingly concerned about the ethics of AI. Are we using artificial intelligence for the right purposes to bring out the best in humanity? How can we live side-by-side with our machine counterparts and use AI to enhance our human lives?
Inside whether or not to bring empathy into AI Systems is the debate around ethics. Some proponents suggest a slippery slope when we put human emotions into AI. It will enable AI to one day displace human-kind. The fear that we have toward Singularity is understandable. We have not encountered this scenario in our lives yet.
However, uncertainty just means that we need to explore the business cases for empathy in our AI Systems.
When we talk about humans leading ethical lives, we often talk about a life where we can use empathy in abundance. We can interact with our world and come to a mutual understanding using our empathy.
Similarly for AI, the intention of using empathy in AI for specific business cases to enhance our businesses can drastically increase our prospects of ethical business practices. In turn, this can lead to an increase of empathy across the organization.
People who work for empathetic organization often have a better chance at leading an ethical life.
One of the best use cases of empathy in AI to help others is in the field of Healthcare. Caring for dementia patients is emotionally difficult for nurses and doctors. Doctors and nurses report “burn-out” which compromises the quality of care. 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.
What if AI ethics can be superior than humans?
Afterall, humans have many cognitive biases. With real world use cases and applications defined, an emotionally intelligent AI can work to eliminate cognitive biases that are common in us.
What Does Empathy Look Like in AI?
Up until recently, AI researchers have focused on identifying emotions. Robots such as the ones used to teach autistic kids emotional intelligence focus on identifying different types of emotions. These robots are able to recognize and identify emotions. Once they identify the emotion, they can articulate this emotion to teach the children.
However, emotions are often not a flat construct. When we experience fear, we often experience apathy, anger, and a host of other emotions as well.
In order for Artificial Intelligence to empathize with human emotions, artificial intelligence must have a way of learning about the range of emotions that we experience.
Emoshape is the first company to hold the patent technology for emotional synthesis. The emotion chip or EPU developed by Emoshape can enable any AI System to understand the range of emotions experienced by humans. At any moment, the EPU can understand 64 trillion possible emotional states every 1/10th of a second. The range of your emotions is mapped onto a gradient where the degree of each emotion can be observed.
SignalactionAI is using Emoshape to make situational awareness actionable by generating real time insights with emotional intelligence from voice and text communication to empower users to make smart choices for positive outcomes.
Image from https://emoshape.com
In this video, Rachel, the robot is changing her facial expressions due to the emotions she is experiencing. Notice the nuances in her expressions made possible by her experience of the range of emotions.
Going back to our previous example of using Emoshape’s EPU to embed into an AI system that can generate the audio to read your children’s book at bedtime. This AI Reader can read the book with tone and inflection much the same way you would read the book to your children. When you are away on a business trip, your children will still be able to enjoy memorable storytime moments with the help of an empathetic AI reader.
How Can AI With Empathy Make Better Decisions?
In order to achieve artificial general intelligence, an AI must use empathy to make decisions. This means that the system needs to be embedded in the “artificial brain” to affect both the cognitive processes as well as the emotional processes.
There are many use cases in business that require at least some demonstration of empathy.
For instance, a customer service chatbot can speak to the customer as a person would. This chatbot will be able to speak the scripted questions with tone and inflection. Then, based on the client’s responses, the empathetic chatbot will be able to sense complex emotions such as frustration.
Based on the quality of the emotional experience of the customer, the chatbot can decide to forward the customer on to a live service agent when the customer is unusually frustrated. Otherwise, the conversation can continue. When empathetic chatbot detects happiness and satisfaction from the customer, then the chatbot has true confirmation of satisfaction from the customer.
In other words, instead of feeling like you are talking to a robot, the experience of talking to an empathetic robot can be a lot more personal.
Empathetic AI Systems Will Increase Transparency in AI Decision Making
One of the biggest criticisms of the Artificial Intelligence system is its inability to “express” how it arrived at decisions. The “black box” argument is often cited for the decisions made by Deep Learning systems.
When these systems integrate the EPU or the emotional chip into their AI Systems, the AI Systems will be able to express the emotions that were used to make empathetic decisions. Rather than the “black box” of training sets and generalization across different types of data, the system is tailored to each customer’s unique emotional needs.
In other words, by identifying customer’s emotional states that drive the empathetic AI System’s decisions, the AI System’s decision can empower both the customer as well as the company to come to a mutual understanding that will enable better decision making.
In adding transparency into the decision-making process of the AI System, empathetic AI Systems can have a better chance of gaining wider acceptance.
As our AI Systems move toward artificial general intelligence, identifying use cases where empathy can be helpful in our AI Systems will allow for more ethical implementations of AI.
With the help of empathy in AI Systems, artificial emotional intelligence can allow us to take the first step toward functional artificial general intelligence that will empower human-kind.
Companies that embrace empathetic AI Systems will be able to inject more empathy into the way their businesses are conducted. In turn, this can pay dividends in building businesses where their core values are humanistic and ethical.