Emotional Intelligence Mirage? Jobs and our Humanity

Everywhere you look today, there are more articles about machines taking job and I am sure it is quite frightening. For your children it means a substantially different job market for certain, but also, the advance of technology likely means a vastly different society too. So in the context of educating our children, we are seeing many articles about “Emotional Intelligence”. Researchers are trying to figure out the skills and traits that will separate us from machines. They believe the key job skills in the future will be linked to emotion. Considering the skills that we ought to teach is a worthy endeavor as people will need guidance on how to best prepare their children for this future. However, I have my doubts about the inability of machines to replicate or approximate emotion. I think in the long run, in a time frame consistent with your children being in the work force, machines will achieve the following:

Emotional Intelligence machines achievements

  1. Approximate love
  2. Demonstrate tenderness
  3. React with empathy and compassion
  4. Operate as caretakers
  5. Be loved by some humans

I think machines will continue to struggle with these emotions or human traits below:

Emotional Intelligence machines shortcomings

  1. Faith
  2. Hope
  3. Dreams
  4. Sympathy
  5. Peace
  6. Joy
  7. Contentment

So what that means for your children and their education is very tricky. Unfortunately I do not have a lot of solutions, but I believe I am getting there through a process of elimination. For example, many of these articles talk about social work and care giving as jobs for the future. I reckon it is not that simple. Let’s try to break this down further.

A nurse in the long term care facility has a whole series of tasks.

— excerpt from http://everynurse.org/do-more-with-a-long-term-care-nursing-career/#whatdo

These types of nurses primarily focus on medical care for their patients. They may be responsible for monitoring and recording vital signs on a regular basis as well as administering medications. Long-term nurses will also perform other therapeutic and treatment procedures, such as massages and range of motion exercises.

Besides administering medical care, long-term care nurses may also be required to attend to some of the daily needs of their patients. This often involves assisting patients with tasks such as eating, bathing, using the toilet, and dressing.

In addition, long-term care nurses are frequently sources of support, guidance, and comfort for patients and their loved ones. They may offer advice on how to deal with a disability or simply provide a shoulder to lean on during particularly difficult times.

Let’s go in order. (task/current human or machine)

  1. Monitoring and recording — Machines exist today
  2. Administering medications — Machines exist today
  3. Massage — Machines exist today
  4. Range of Motion exercises — Machines exist today
  5. Assisted Eating, bathing, using the toilet and dressing — human
  6. sources of support, guidance and comfort for patients and loved ones — human
  7. Offering advice of deal with disabilities — human
  8. shoulder to cry on during difficult time — human

My problem is that I see scientists and researchers already developing technology for each of those items listed. For example, Soul Machines, a group out of New Zealand creates automated companions for people with disabilities. Designed to assist with #5, #6, #7, #8 as one example.

Kiwi startup Soul Machines reveals latest artificial intelligence creation, Rachel
Rachel can see, hear and respond to you - but she's a machine.www.newshub.co.nz

People will be skeptical about a machine’s ability to interact emotionally with people, I understand that. In fact some people will ALWAYS know they are dealing with a machine. They will have a “sense” about it even when machines replicate humans in touch, sight, sound and smell. Some people will ALWAYS prefer humans. That’s a good thing. But not everyone will prefer a human and this fact is already being proven out. Some patients will want their companion 24/7 which is impossible for a human. Others will prefer the dedicated 1-on-1 service offered less expensively by a machine. They will like that their machine has 100% of the most current “advice” to offer about their disability, which, of course, is impossible for human to have. Let’s review those “human” traits from everynurse.org again. This time I will tell you how a machine can do it better (from a certain point of view)

  1. Assisted Eating, bathing, using the toilet and dressing — By being available 24/7, by having human like dexterity and touch (which some machines already have). The machine will be stronger and the patient can rely upon that. Also, the machine is anonymous, so bathing might actually be preferred over a human
  2. sources of support, guidance and comfort for patients and loved ones — let’s talk about what makes up support, guidance and comfort. These are difficult to quantify feelings, but somethings that are done to elicit those feelings are quantifiable. Knowing the right thing to say. Just being there. Past Experience. Information about the situation from others. New developments. A hug. A gentle pat on the back. A kind word. You might not believe it and you may never accept it, but those are all things that a machine will be able to do in the next generation.
  3. Offering advice to deal with disabilities — This is experience and knowledge based, both traits that machines will quickly aspire to, catch up and surpass
  4. shoulder to cry on during difficult time —Not to make light, but machines can have a shoulder. The real issue is will we want to cry on it. Some will and some will not. Depends upon how life like the machine is, how comfortable the crier is with the machine, the shared experience of machine and man. It’s pretty rare that we cry on a stranger’s shoulder, so clearly the relationship is the key in this example.

One point of this exercise is to highlight that many of these “emotional” intelligence pieces to jobs are about two entities not one alone. So if a machine can build experience, reliability, consistency, knowledge and rapport with the human, then these once “human” skills can be transferred to machines. I know not all will accept this. Those who place a high value on pure “humanity” will provide some work for humans through their preferences. Those roles will exist, there will simply be less of them. When we reach that point, I will have a new question for you, will you always know that an entity is human? It is likely that there will come a time when you will NOT know. Then we have to question what it means to be human.

This line of reasoning may feel gloomy and it is meant to be. But not because I am down on humanity or the value of emotional intelligence, but rather because I want to make sure that there are no heads buried in the sand. “My job is safe, because I deal with people.” Much of the things that constitute work are tasks. Machines specialize in tasks.

This is a wake up call for people to evaluate the things that make us truly human. I’m talking about the things that when humans do them, it’s obviously special, like self-sacrifice. Think about this example. If a machine is programmed to protect you when you are in danger and it executes its job, that is expected. You’ll be thankful, but you are as likely to pat yourself on the back for a good investment.

Now imagine that same protection came from a human. It is unexpected, It is beautiful even. Not a single thought about investment money, just sheer gratitude. The machine, at least currently, gets no joy out of providing its service. But the one who sacrificed, receives joy and praise publicly. But inside,where it matters, there is deep soulful satisfaction of knowing that your life had a purpose even for those few minutes. If you’ve experienced it, you know what I am talking about. If you haven’t, try it. You will repeat it I promise.

So that is the emotional intelligence that is NOT a mirage. When humans live, for others, rather than for themselves, our humanity will thrive. There is so much good needed in the world and it takes a high emotional intelligence to deliver it. Instead, we live in a world that celebrates “self”. These are my rights, this is what I believe, here is what I have to say, look at my pretty pictures. Tech-enabled self-absorption. And why not? We believe we are 100% self-sufficient. What can’t we accomplish on our own, armed with the internet, machines that we can teach to think on our behalf and our smartphones. The real mirage is that self-sufficiency, we are so specialized in our lives, that if the highly-interconnected structure that is society today breaks down even a little, many people will be in for a rude awakening.

Maximizing your human life includes: love, sharing, self-sacrificing, comforting a loved one and sheer human-connectedness. The more of those traits you can bring to bear on your life and the lives of your children, the better off they will be in the coming AI & Automation dominated world.