Automating Empathy and some Human Implications

Deborah G. Johnson

Affective computing is a new interdisciplinary field that seeks to detect, measure, and quantify emotions in people and to produce the appearance of emotional expression in machines (e.g., robots) which in turn generates emotions in people who interact with the machines.

Although the field identifies many potential uses for this form of knowledge, one salient justification is to facilitate interaction between humans and machines. Research in this field can be characterized as ‘automating empathy’ both in the sense that it involves understanding emotions such as empathy in mechanistic terms and in the sense that it involves producing a mechanical form of emotions.  The affective computing enterprise raises many ethical issues including the threat to privacy from detecting information an individual does not want known; the potential for deception about the kind of entity with which one is interacting; and powerful manipulation of emotions in humans.

Sara Pedersen Stene