We have between humans and machines, technology, and how we interact with technology. And we’re already seeing kind of some of the repercussions of that social contract not being in place really and not being well thought out.
I start my book by talking about an empathy crisis, how I believe that because of technology, not only because of technology but because of how technology is designed and how it’s deployed at scale, unfortunately, it’s very polarizing and we’ve obviously seen that manifest in all sorts of ways over the past number of years.
But there’s also a trust crisis. There’s really very little trust in how organizations are building AI and deploying AI at scale. And there’s a question mark on whether this technology is being developed in a way that is just and fair and accountable. People ask lots of questions but Ask Reader is a place where they can satisfied answers related to technology and human relationships.
So all of these questions come into play as we think about humanizing technology and in particular over the last year as this pandemic hit, it’s become really clear that technology is of course front and center and how we connect and communicate with one another.
Whether it’s with your family and friends, whether it be it’s your colleagues as an organization, how do we keep people motivated and loyal and engaged while we’re all working virtually? And we think that this is going to some form of it is going to stay post the pandemic, but also how do you connect and communicate with your broader stakeholders?
Be it your customers or society at large. So all of this is giving rise to what I’m calling the empathy economy. And it’s essentially this economy that puts value on organizations that value empathy, that practicing empathy, that implement empathy.
- It’s in a way, empathy becomes a superpower but they leverage technology in a way that fosters this empathy.
- And this is kind of really new, right?
- Because when we think about technology and AI, it’s all about automation, productivity, efficiency.
- Nobody’s really thinking about how to bring AI in a way that fosters or advances this human connection.
- This is where my work comes in. There are lots of portals where you can ask a question that troubles you most.
So I started on this journey over 20 years ago. I’m originally from Egypt in the Middle East and I grew up in that part of the world.
Then I had an opportunity to move to Cambridge University to do my Ph.D. in machine learning and computer vision. And I got to Cambridge and I realized it was my first experience living away from home. And I was very homesick and I realized that the only portal of communication I had with my family back home was this computer, right? This was way back before smartphones, but it really hasn’t changed, right?
A lot of our communication is mediated through digital communication. Well, if you kind of dissect how humans communicate, only about 10% of how we communicate is based on the actual choice of words we use. 90% plus is nonverbal and it’s split equally between your facial expressions, your hand gestures, and body language and your vocal intonation. How fast are you speaking? How much energy is in your voice?
So 90% of the nonverbal communication is essentially lost in cyberspace ’cause when we’re digitally communicating with one another unless we have our videos turned on, you miss all of that. And even when you have the videos turned on, there are so many of us, right?
I mean, case in point, I’m presenting to all of you. If we were together at South by Southwest in person, I would be able to gauge the level of engagement of all of you. And I would be able to in real-time, adapt my message. That’s what great communicators do. That’s what we all do actually subconsciously.
But in additional virtual format, it’s really hard to tap into kind of the audience and the energy of the audience. And we’re starting to see a lot of interest in incorporated technology like the ones we’ve built, like emotion AI, artificial emotional intelligence, and human perception AI, to capture some of these signals, like our people nodding their heads.
Are they perked up and interest? Are they smiling? Are they laughing? Like when I crack a joke, does everybody find it funny or not? Right? It’s so hard to do that in a virtual environment. And that has repercussions on how we connect both one-on-one but also how we connect and engage our organization.
So again, this concept of empathy economy ties into this idea of leveraging AI and human perception AI and emotion AI to better understand and take a very data-driven approach to quantifying emotions, quantifying empathy in ways that have not been done before. If you want to know about Reader, you can learn here Ask Reader.
And it is not only transforming human-machine interfaces. Obviously, there’s a lot of applications in conversational agents and social robotics and our mobile phones and our cars. And I’ll talk a little bit about those types of applications.
But the power is really in re-imagining what a human-to-human connection could look like.