Should We Support Allowing Robots to Feel Empathy for Humans?

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The world is changing due to artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics, and that’s unavoidable for now. Furthermore, we’re slowly inching towards a future where robots are a regular member of the home, so what then?

Well, with this in mind, researchers are looking into the possibilities of giving robots the ability to feel empathy. Doing this would allow robots to understand what a human is feeling, which could make it respond in a more favorable way.

The problem is, would going down this route raise ethics-related questions? Chances are, it would, but it’s just another rubble in the road of making it possible for AI to be more human-like, whether or not that’s a good thing.

Google Assistant can attune to your mood

If you’ve spoken to the Google Assistant via an Android smartphone or wherever else the service is available, you may have realized how much at times the assistant feels human. That’s because the search giant deliberately made it so, and not everyone has caught on.

“When you say, ‘I’m feeling depressed’, instead of giving you a description of what depression is, it [might say], ‘you know what, a lot of people feel that. You’re not alone’,” according to Danielle Krettek, the founder of Google’s Empathy Lab at a conference in Sydney, Australia.

She went on to say the following:

“It’s just these little moments of ‘attunement’ that really help a person feel seen and heard and met where they are.”

You see, creating robots with the ability to feel empathy for humans is a big deal because many of us are introverts who prefer not to deal with other humans on a regular basis. Having a robot at home to speak with could improve the mental health of such individuals.

But will this become a huge problem ethically?

Robots and artificial intelligence are the design of humans, therefore, it is our duty to make sure things are done in a way that is proper.

If we as humans can build robots that improve the lives of others by making them feel better about themselves, then from my personal standpoint, such things are above ethics.

Still, we need to realize that if a robot can cater to the emotional well being of its human, then wouldn’t it be easier for that machine to coax its owner into buying goods online?

“Systems that are capable of shaping the emotional states of their users will be much more effective at selling people things,” according to Monash University philosopher Robert Sparrow.

It’ll be up to the law to make sure companies never allow robots to take advantage of humans to sell more products.

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2 Comments
  1. Shane McLaren says

    Good point and I get where you are coming from. But lets take an example from something like the Amazon Alexa. We see where a company is trying to monopolize the world in the online market. They’ve started with the USA and are slowly branching off into different parts of the world like the UK and China; targeting the most influential countries to globalize their brand.

    In my own opinion they’ve milked the advent of robot technology and have developed a product that not only meets the needs of the consumer but helps them further monopolize the industry. In a time where online purchases are as easy as saying ‘Buy it Alexa!’, there is no doubt that Amazon is slowly achieving what I think is their eventual goal.

    P.S Bear in mind as well that Jeff Bezoz (if that’s how you spell it), the owner of Amazon, is now the richest man on the globe.

    I’d love to hear your take on that and if you can, let me know any other companies that are even as close as Amazon to globalization.

    1. Vamien McKalin says

      I do not believe Amazon has already milked the advent of robot technology as you put it. Alexa is not considered as a robot, but merely an artificial intelligent device. Then again, you could say it’s a robot in the most basic of forms.

      Amazon will eventually create a full-fledged robot, and the current Alexa systems are the stepping point to such a future because they collect data from every user, and as we know, data makes artificial intelligence smarter.

      Now, in terms of globalization, I do agree that Amazon is ahead of their competitors in this aspect of the international market, and that’s a problem for small businesses. But at the moment, Amazon is facing stiff competition from Alibaba in Asia, especially in China.

      If globalization does take root and becomes the norm, it is likely that Alibaba will take the #1 spot due to China’s need to become the top nation in all things technology, especially in AI and robotics. Not to mention, China is depicted as the nation to unseat the USA at the top of the food chain, and when that happens, and it will, Amazon will lose the vast power it controls today.

      BTW, it’s Jeff Bezos.

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