Performed at MFA DT Thesis Showcase
& Symposium 2017
Empathy Automated is a strategic intervention designed to critique the misuse of empathy in the technology industry and current trends in Artificial Intelligence.
The components of the intervention revolve around my tech industry persona. The CTO and founder of AVITAS Technologies (me) gives TED talks, has a reputable website and business cards, develops novel algorithms for augmenting AI with empathy, and is all completely fabricated.
wix website editor
The CTO persona
My persona has struggled with empathy her entire life. She displays certain psychopathic behaviors such as inability to feel empathy, recognize emotion, and strategizes to overcompensate for her inabilities.
Due to numerous unsuccessful social encounters, my persona has determined logical approaches to provide the illusion of empathy. She has created a revolutionary form of AI that incorporates all of her logical empathy strategies.
My persona has made a successful career out of her innovative AI software company. Her AI provides businesses with an automated form of empathy, freeing organizations from the hassle of dealing with consumers and disgruntled employees.
My Tech founder encompasses a glaring issue with a number of creators in the technology industry. Innovation for the sake of innovation without analyzing the implications.
Unsanctioned TEDx talk
Ultimately, the product Avitas is selling is very stupid. It is a basic chatbot built on a linear IBM Watson conversation system.
The goal of this was the pose the question, "can I attract a client based on buzzwords, confidence, and technology trends alone?"
The company’s mission statement is as follows: Our mission is to make empathy automation accessible to businesses across all industries. We strive to strengthen the bonds of empathy between human and machine.
We navigate the complexities of empathy so you don’t have to.
As a supporting document for my CTO persona, I created Avitas Technologies, a company that specializes in making automated systems appear more empathetic. The name itself was generated with an online random company name generator. Avitas technologies shares its name with a cannabis dispensary, an aviation company, and a pagan black metal band.
Empathy in tech
The project was influenced by the increase in empathy as a buzzword in the media; VR creates powerful empathy experiences, yet Silicon valley is creates a huge empathy vacuum.
Companies build their entire business plans on creating empathy. The word has been so misused that it is diluted from it's meaning. Empathy no longer becomes a way to connect to another human, but a marketing scheme to fabricate corporations commitment to social good.
Facebook is a prime offender of manipulating the meaning of empathy. While Zuckerberg claims in a 2011 interview that the social network increases empathy and understanding, it's algorithms are contradictory.
From the Facebook help page: "The stories that show in your News Feed are influenced by your connections and activity on Facebook. This helps you to see more stories that interest you from friends you interact with the most. The number of comments and likes a post receives and what kind of story it is (ex: photo, video, status update) can also make it more likely to appear in your News Feed."
The result is a newsfeed that only exposes us to what we want to see. Our opinions are echoed, never challenged and we are becoming more intolerant to understanding those we consider other.
Empathy & AI
Artificial intelligence has also adopted empathy as a key feature to their business models. this facial recognition company claims you can really understand your consumer by buying their product.
IBM Watson also claims it's software can learn and understand user's motivation, personality, and emotion.
The number of deep-learning publications “that include an author with a corporate affiliation” has spiked dramatically. Many technology giants have either bought out an artificial intelligence company (i.e. Google and DeepMind) or dedicated an internal branch to making advancements in artificial intelligence (Microsoft and Facebook).