Empathetic computers

In our promptly changing times, we might feel insecure. The call for security arises from our inside as a desire, which is nurtured by incidents like terrorist attacks, when we hear about them in the media.

“Can you proof, that you have feelings?” asked a scientist to a quantum computer in the movie “Transcendence” from 2014 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VCTen3-B8GU).
The answer of the “machine” to the human was: “Can you proof, that you have feelings?”.

Can computers have feelings?

Surprisingly this dilemma is closely related to the ongoing discussion about public security in several parallel ways:

Firstly, personal feelings are subjective by definition. One does not feel exactly the same thing like another.

Secondly, feelings can be really hard to understand. E.g. what kind of feelings bring a human being to a point, where one becomes a terrorist?

But thirdly, we all own a skill called empathy, more or less. This power lets us anticipate the inner feelings of others. Thus we can sometimes predict the future behavior of someone. Empathy is also part of the “Theory of mind” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theory_of_mind).

Conclusively, when we observe a behavior, which fits in our pattern of a sensational individual, we can assume that this person has feelings.

From a computer scientist point of view, there is no reason why machines, regardless of their (re)production technique or structure, couldn’t be able to anticipate parts of the mental status of other kinds of (biological) machines. We even have created a modern name for the algorithms of such a machine:

Predictive analytics

This technique empowers a computer to derive a conceptual model (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conceptual_model) of a physical entity, regardless of its nature, which can be a living creature as well, just from data about the interaction of the physical entity with other entities over time. The accuracy of the model grows with the amount of data available and the calculation power of the computer. Thus Predictive analytics belongs to the Big data field of computer science and empowers a computer to be empathetic.

This does not necessarily include, that the computer has feelings itself, or is conscious about them. Definitely, our todays Turing machines (please see also www.machines.live) lack such attributes – yet. But nevertheless our computers become gradually empathetic now.

Watchdogs of our intentions

NOVARION currently develops Predictive analytics systems for different Industry 4.0 applications, e.g. in the financial sector. And we see the potential to advance these techniques to not only model the mechanics of markets, but also the (human) participants and predict their behavior.

This closes the loop to the question of security, where our current executive authority is overwhelmed with data e.g. from social networks, in order to find the needle in a haystack, a potential perpetrator who endangers our people and subsequently our society.

Predictive analytics lies just a step ahead in the future and has the potential to save an uncounted amount of valuable lives.