Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Emotion & Our Techno-Economic Future

Image source: viralspell.com

Emotions are subjective. The only way you can really know how another person is feeling is to ask them. And even then you’re relying on their emotional intelligence and their ability to communicate, honestly. There are nuances and complexities with emotions, and we’re only just scratching the surface.

Emotions are something that humans have and computers simply don’t, or at least that was the case until recently. Technology is catching up. “And the real world will never be the same,” says Steven Kotler in an article in Forbes.

He’s right, if progress is anything to go by; we’re entering an entirely new realm. One where technology is becoming so advanced that algorithms can read human emotions better than humans can. The future is an exposed place if you prefer a little self-containment.

Kotler refers to the ‘Emotional Economy’ as the next wave in techno-economic development. Think the ‘Internet of Things’ on steroids – a giant network of connections between devices, but with the ability to understand human emotions.

For example, you might be travelling home from work one day, thinking about all the things you didn’t manage to cross off your to-do list, and your car and phone detect your anxiety and fire up the coffee machine for you at home. Or perhaps you’re in a Skype meeting with a colleague that doesn’t seem to be going very well, and your computer alerts you to your colleague’s anxiety level, so you can work on addressing it.

Face-to-face, or in this case, face-to-computer, scientists have also found that computers are better at detecting sincerity of facial emotions than humans. Here, there’s still an element of mystery – computers are only reading a person’s physical response to emotions. They don’t really know what’s going on inside – but they chance a pretty good guess at it.

But that’s where things are changing. Once able to conceal our emotions to suit the situations we find ourselves in or the company we keep, but perhaps not for much longer with the rise of the Emotional Economy. A degree of emotional exposure looks like it will be part of our future, but for now, there’s some comfort in knowing that our emotions are ours for sharing.

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