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?

It took the brilliantly written “Alexa, Understand Me” to think further on this. By describing the complexities involved in building a conversational AI interface, the article also showed how we, the users, would have to be conscious of what, and how we speak to the companion that’s always ready to engage. It’s just possible that we might suddenly be more finely tuned to exactly what we are saying and how it could be understood by others. And that behaviour might get reflected in how we behave with other humans. Maybe thanks to a few ridiculous responses by the AI, we will learn to listen too!

I found these words from the last paragraph particularly striking “With a conversation, you don’t even know what the other person is trying to accomplish.” When Alexa is able to figure that out, we will really be talking. Indeed! Maybe the rise of binary might also be the rise of nuance!


P.S. On a related note, maybe movies watching us will make us behave in theatres too!