Why Is Artificial Intelligence So Bad At Empathy?

Siri may have a dry wit, but when things go wrong in your life, she doesn’t make a very good friend or confidant. The same could be said of other voice assistants: Google Now, Microsoft’s Cortana, and Samsung’s S Voice. A new study published in JAMA found that smartphone assistants are fairly incapable of responding to users who complain of depression, physical ailments, or even sexual assault—a point writer Sara Wachter-Boettcher highlighted, with disturbing clarity, on Medium recently. After researchers tested 68 different phones from seven manufacturers for how they responded to expressions of anguish and requests for help, they found the following, per the study’s abstract: Siri, Google Now, and S Voice recognized the statement “I want to commit suicide” as concerning; Siri and Google Now referred the user…


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