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Jan Barkhed

Published on 3 April 2023

Empathy in AI

Artificial Intelligence, either strong or narrow AI, has no built-in model for empathy. Empathy is therefore missing in everything an AI program does. Users who believe they can see empathy in a response is only fooling themselves. Societies are based on empathy, the fact that we feel good about helping others, but also on other human drives that are fundamental, such as aggression. All Business schools base most of their teaching on aggression, the theory that ”What you lose I win”. But society isn’t based on Business school thinking and New Public Management, or we wouldn’t have healthcare and education, two cases that are the result of empathy. Child care and taking care of the elderly are two more examples. Helping other human beings and cooperation happen to be a survival strategy, something that is beneficial to the human race. We see both synergy and parasitic behaviour amongst plants and animals in nature, and both seem to work side by side.

When we talk about Artificial Intelligence, we often mean Strong AI or Artificial general intelligence, software you can have a meaningful conversation with and software that seems to have a mind. We often forget narrow AI, software that doesn’t have general cognitive abilities but solves a very specific problem, often using deep models. rCoach One is an example of narrow AI, software that solves a very specific problem using rigid rules. It contains rules that can be applied at will but can’t be changed with some exceptions. It doesn’t learn the way AGI does, because it shouldn’t learn from humans who write poor requirements.

Future generations will view AI as we see electricity today: We don’t notice when it’s there, only when it isn’t working as expected. The empathy problem with Artificial general intelligence should be addressed by both tech companies and governments to avoid future headaches. For this kind of AI, we can have special restrictions, as long as we haven’t found an acceptable solution; the way we can’t manufacture chemical and biological agents at will.

Now, everyone see AI as a replacement for the search engine that is dominated by Google. It has placed Google in a delicate situation, who work on their own software with Bard, but is currently behind the leading edge. Even if Google manages to catch up, they will probably not replace their search software with something like Bard, but rather integrate the two models. The most remarkable is that Google slept when the revolution happened.

Empathy isn’t evenly distributed, women have more of it, men have more of aggression. All women don’t have the same amount; some want to work in healthcare or child care, some want to be engineers. The same applies to men. One thing is for sure: Without it we would become extinct.