Why Empathy and Not Just Intelligence?

There are a bazillion ways to talk about all the things going on in AI, robots and human behavior/learning theory etc.

Capable of Empathy

We decided to focus on “empathy” because it is the only common emergent, measurable state we’ve found between successful communities and individuals in good mental and physical health. Empathy is a broad description about a bunch of contingencies that involve shared experiences, shared consequences and shared embodiment/awareness. As we developed a notion of this that could be implemented we arrived at a set of very simple ideas… basically we take in as many signals as we can, however loosely defined those signals are and we echo them back out. All systems (computational, physical, biological) have inherent “noise” in them that perturb those signals producing changes in the signals. We’ve found that simply sharing a signal between people, machines, people and machines, the self with the self, and letting the noise perturb is all that is required to generate all the complexity humans produce and expect out of things they consider aware of them aka capable of empathy.

Now the real bow is… the amount of signal required to do this is very large. So there’s no real short cut to “programming empathy”… empathy must be learned from the ground up and the apparatus of empathy, the body with empathy, must evolve with the empathy.

For example, the human face grows more empathetic as a person ages. Literally it starts in a default state of generally symmetric and “cute”… then it matures its expressive capability by mirror parents/siblings/surrounding faces… then it becomes aware of itself through mirrors etc and can self mirror… then it continues to age and its color and tone and contours change… at physical maturity the skin mirrors the environment (the effects of sunlight or darkness, the toxins in the air and body, the deformations of a life lived, etc) and as a person moves to elderly age the shared effects of life show up as wrinkles and the face sags… the full effect of a life of mirroring makes it hard in old age to move the sagging face as young people do… But it still mirrors, just all that it mirrored before.

It’s important anyone we work and talk with understand the basis of what we do. It’s very different than the top down, deep learning with trained data, and AGI stuff that’s be going on for 50 years. Sure we have those things floating around as needed but they do not do any real work of empathy. those techniques simply solve little deterministic problems. The real complexity of the world can only be shared and reflected.

We look forward to any and all conversations with any and all folks interested in figuring out how to make the world more empathetic.