empathy

Empathy with AI

I have increasingly felt that our ability to find common ground is rapidly diminishing. This has a cyclical relationship with empathy and therefore our ability to empathise would reduce too. Since a big pillar of our species is cooperation, there is a good chance that the loss of empathy would lead to extinction. This is essentially what I wrote in Empathy & Extinction. “The death of nuance and the rise of binary.”

That’s why I was intrigued by How AI will teach us how to more empathy. While it did make a compelling argument, I was skeptical because to me, the very idea of empathy is because we took the effort to think about the other person. Despite data and information about ourselves and others that will be fed into AI, would it really be able to sense and help us see the other person’s point of view? More

Empathy & Extinction

In Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari explains how we’re the most dominant species on the planet because we’re the only ones able to cooperate flexibly in large numbers. The ‘funny’ part is that the things we cooperate on usually exist only in our collective imagination – religion, nation, money. Intersubjective realities.

But it gets funnier. When I look around now, I see these intersubjective realities actually causing more divisiveness between groups than unity. Offended because Spiegel allegedly called it a poor nation. Offended because Katy Perry used a Hindu goddess to describe her mood. New day, new reason to be offended.  More

Choices & Happiness

A belief system I strongly held on to for a few years was that we always have a choice. Absolutes most usually fail. Some life experiences later, it seemed to me that determinism made more sense. In an everyday life scenario, this meant that many a time circumstances are such that we don’t really have a choice.

On a Wednesday morning, S, my Uber driver for the day’s commute called me. In very good English, he said that while Uber was showing 8 mins on my phone, in reality, he was 20 minutes away, but would try to reach as fast as possible. I wasn’t happy but finding another cab at 1X, I realised, would be a difficult proposition. S arrived about 20 mins later, and we started the trip. At 50 metres, he said that his mobile had switched off and I’d have to rebook. It irritated me because I had lost a lot of time already and would lose more in the process of making another booking and waiting for the cab to arrive. His other phone meanwhile, was repeatedly ringing, despite him cutting the call. He finally took the call and spoke in Malayalam, saying he’d call back later. As his phone was being switched on, he asked me to wait a minute so that he’d be able to take my booking. I did that, and after he gave me a go ahead, requested a cab. Turned out to be another driver, a few minutes away. This imminent waste of time irritated me further. S offered to drop me off where the other cab was. I declined, got out of the car and as I shut the door, said to him in Malayalam that if he didn’t know how to do this job, he probably shouldn’t attempt it.

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