Using fiction to teach empathy… to machines

Sure, why not outfit them with gatling guns while you’re at it. And make sure their eyes can change colours between the soft blues of “War and Peace has taught me compassion for you, squishy human” to the piercing reds of “hasta la vista, baby”

One idea that researchers are exploring is teaching our intelligent machines about empathy by having them read our great works of literature. Immersing ourselves in fiction allows us to enter and better understand the worlds of others. Maryanne Wolf, in her book Reader Come Home, makes the connection: “Reading at the deepest levels may provide one part of the antidote to the noted trend away from empathy. But make no mistake: empathy is not solely about being compassionate toward others; its importance goes further. For it is also about a more in-depth understanding of the Other, an essential skill in a world of increasing connectedness among divergent cultures.”

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