Is an algorithm capable of empathy? We discussed this question at the Swiss Economic Forum. Many people may doubt that. I believe that artificial intelligence will soon be able to simulate more empathy than some people can bring into play.
How’s that? Face, voice and speech recognition are so advanced that algorithms are able to recognize a person’s personal predispositions, moods and motivations. There is already an app that suggests type-appropriate behavioral and communication tips for managers. Adding up, an application is created that interacts sensitively with a wide variety of individuals.
Researchers are still trying to physically recreate human beings for this purpose. The robot “Pepper” looks like a child with limbs, head and face. The younger “Cimon” is merely an oversized sphere with a screen that displays eyes and mouth. At home we communicate with faceless objects called “Alexa”, “Siri”, “Cortana” & Co.
It is the quality of the resonance, not the form, that ultimately determines the effect.
The more diverse the research teams are, the richer the repertoire of the digital assistants becomes. Diversity and, in particular, a culture of inclusion and cooperation are now regarded as the foundation for success in leading tech companies. (Almost) Gone are the days when speech recognition worked exclusively with male voices and face recognition only with whites. Living inclusion opens up new fields of business.
Society is ageing and soon there will be too few gainfully employed persons and volunteers to care for the elderly well. Digital assistants will then be able to conduct detailed conversations that alleviate loneliness and detect and report incidents – which will significantly reduce health care costs. Thanks to the voices of their loved ones, pictures of their lives and the songs of their youth, people with dementia can also be cared for by machine and experience a better quality of life than if only people took care of them. This is still a strange thought to which we will soon become accustomed.
Column by Esther-Mirjam de Boer in the Handelszeitung, 29 May 2019.
Interesting: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in a consultation on the situation in the USA, where these technologies are still too little regulated and cause too much injustice.