School Psych Corner: The Assault on Empathy
[Source: Behavioral Scientist.org]
One morning this past November, with my daughter about to visit and holiday gifts on my mind, I opened my MIT mail and found an intriguing “call for subjects.” It described a research project that promised to use conversation with sociable robots, some of them designed to be children’s playthings (and indeed, marketed as holiday gifts), as a step towards “eliciting empathy.” There it was in black and white, the thing that has been unfolding for decades: The robot presented as empathy machine—an object that presents itself as worthy of your empathic response, and as having an empathic reaction to you. But objects can’t do this. They have not known the arc of a human life. They cannot put themselves in our place. They can only simulate what a human being might say. They feel nothing of the human loss or love or trouble we are describing to them. Or that they are describing to us.
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