Automating Empathy

This week’s review centers on emotional AI, evaluating the ethics of “contemporary technologies designed to emulate, interpret, and express empathy.”

Automating Empathy: Decoding Technologies that Gauge Intimate Life

McStay, Andrew. Oxford, 2024
304p bibl index, 9780197615553 $34.95, 9780197615584

Automating Empathy: Decoding Technologies that Gauge Intimate Life book cover.

In this innovative and powerful text, McStay (Bangor Univ., UK) provides both a thorough description and an epistemic and ethical assessment of contemporary technologies designed to emulate, interpret, and express empathy. As an interdisciplinary professor and director of his university’s Emotional AI Lab, McStay demonstrates his mastery of the subject by connecting cutting-edge emotional AI in use today with a multifaceted take on mental integrity, and examines the ethical and social implications of emotional AI on agency, privacy, and autonomy. His approach also brilliantly highlights the risks of oversimplifying emotions, misrepresenting individuals, and using insufficient ethical approaches to address complex ethical dilemmas (like drawing on the trolley problem in the context of self-driving cars). McStay’s insights offer a nuanced understanding of humanity’s challenges and opportunities in the era of advancing AI technologies, meticulously illustrating where mental integrity considerations (and others) fall short, but also acknowledging current areas of and potential paths to positive progress. Despite feeling somewhat rushed in its final chapters, this text stands out as a pioneering and enlightening piece, meriting reexamination for its profound insights into the intersection of technology, ethics, and human emotion.

Summing Up: Essential. All readership levels.
Reviewer
: D. P. Prianti, Gannon University
Subject: Science & Technology – Information & Computer Science
Choice Issue: May 2024


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