As humans become increasingly overwhelmed and busy, we are turning to artificial intelligence (AI) to express empathy for us.

According to an Oct. 7 Wall Street Journal report, AI models trained on massive amounts of conversational data are now advanced enough to detect emotions and respond with empathy. Companies like Teleperformance are using AI bots to analyze the conversations of their customer service agents during calls.

The bots use natural language processing to detect emotional cues based on word choice, vocal tone, and pacing. They then score each agent on metrics like empathy.

Doctors and therapists reportedly utilize similar AI tools to suggest empathetic responses to patients needing care or emotional support. The AI reviews patient conversations and proposes thoughtful, caring responses for the provider to choose from.

Even the comforting voice on the other end of a call from your bank may actually be an AI chatbot designed to sound caring and thoughtful using advanced emotional detection and response generation capabilities. Proponents argue AI empathy could greatly improve interactions in fields like customer service, healthcare, and human resources.

For example, some argue an empathetic sales bot could boost customer satisfaction and sales by detecting when a customer is frustrated or confused and responding appropriately. Proponents also claim that therapist bots may help address severe shortages in mental healthcare access using automated conversational systems to provide essential emotional support and therapeutic techniques to those unable to access human providers.

However, some experts caution that AI lacks real emotional experiences and, therefore, cannot truly empathize — it only emulates examples of what is deemed an appropriate emotional response. Bioethicist Jodi Halpern notes that “cognitive empathy,” where an AI recognizes emotions based on data patterns, is not the same as “emotional empathy,” which involves genuine concern from shared emotional experiences. Others warn delegating empathy to AI risks atrophying human skills if used as a replacement rather than a supplement for human-to-human emotional engagement.

As applications for artificial empathy expand, guidelines and transparency will be needed to integrate the technology ethically. While AI may someday perfectly mimic human emotional intelligence, for now, it lacks the shared experiences that create true empathetic understanding. Oversight and wise implementation is key to ensuring artificial empathy augments but does not replace authentic human compassion.

Featured Image Credit: Alex Green; Pexels; Thank you!

Radek Zielinski

Radek Zielinski is an experienced technology and financial journalist with a passion for cybersecurity and futurology.