What will become of empathy in a world of smart machines?

Sega’s pet robot iDog: as tech get’s smarter, what role does human empathy still have? Photograph: Shizuo Kambayashi/AP At a recent conference in Malmö, Sweden, in front of a keynote-sized audience, two speakers presented a strange video. It was of a recently developed cybernetic dog, that moved, acted and gestured like the real thing. In an odd twist, people in the video shoved and kicked it. It reacted, predictably, as a real dog would: moving, rebalancing, even flinching perceptibly. The system was determining what movements were necessary to stay upright. But the emotional magnitude was entirely on us, the humans. The entire audience gasped. Then they realised that it was, in fact, odd to gasp. Another kick came. The same thing happened. Everyone felt something vivid, and disturbing.…


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