What will become of empathy in a world of smart machines?

We’re seeing baby steps towards this idea of empathy in interactions. The interface is exhibiting empathy, as well as its designer. Anyone who has used the language-learning application Duolingo knows that it quickly adjusts based on what area you need practice in, seemingly on the fly. Rusty on the subjuntivo in Spanish? You’re going to get peppered with it.

But can machines be expected to be fully empathetic? Signs point to no. It is relatively easy to create a learning brain but we don’t yet know how to create a heart or a soul. In a recent talk at the New Yorker festival MIT Media Lab director Joi Ito asserted that “humans are really good at things computers are not.

Colin Nagy