Multi-Disciplinary Artist & Futures Designer

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Essay

Empathetic Tech



Can we trust our tech?


This seems an inverted question… We are the ones creating it, right?

But it is a question that is a sign of the time, within me, around me. With the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) and the coming to age of an augmented reality (AR) that is capable, over time, of reading our mind to reflect it back onto our eyes, instantly, we better come to terms with the ethics of our techno-creation.

I am a business ethicist, that’s what I was educated to be. I initiate digital and physical spheres and consult those who wish to initiate as a moral practice, to embody the essence of their vision, as a human being, and as the creator of a piece of digital thriving. My job is to keep the meaning completely embodied in the work itself, and therefore alive and capable of change.

I think that’s how a designer can best speak as a member of a moral community: clearly, yet leaving around her words that area of silence, that empty space, in which other and further truths and perceptions can form in other minds.




I am both optimistic and pessimistic about our future. Plan A demands from us to embody our values, to practice what we preach. So that we can trust deeper, first ourselves, then each other.

I bow to Timothy Leary’s legendary speech from 1966, TURN ON, TUNE IN, AND DROP OUT who so beautifully unpacks the many layers of embodiment
.
“I have 3 things to say to young people who are growing up in a psychedelic world: turn on, tune in and drop out.

Turning on: there’s many levels of consciousness as there are anatomical structures in your body for receiving and decoding energy.

The 5 most important levels of consciousness are sleep, symbol, sense, cellular awareness and molecular consciousness. Each of these levels of consciousness is based on anatomical structures in your body, and each level is attained through chemical means.

In the future the educated man will be the one who can move his consciousness deliberately and precisely from one level to another for specific and harmonious purposes.

The religion of the future will be based, as where the religions of the past, upon the human body and the myriad wonders within this temple.

Any external event which distracts you from learning how to understand and use the machinery of consciousness within your body, is irreverent and irrelevant.”

Timothy Leary TURN ON, TUNE IN, DROP OUT.

The Embodiment of Knowledge


Empathic tech starts with purpose

To be able to develop technology that is empathetic to human thriving, we need to project the right values into its algorithms. It starts with Why. Why are you building the product? What raw vulnerability do you own, as a founder, to remain humble to your mission as if it was simply coming through you, not from you? These are questions I ask myself, every time I initiate; these are the questions I ask other founders, every time I sit down with a client or friend who wishes to inspire innovation, to initiate transformation.

Practicing purpose leads to progress, inevitably

As Timothy conveys so clearly, the religion of the future is embodiment: our capacity to communicate with and from the myriad of wonders that the body transmits every second of the day. The religion, to me, is to remain in this wonder. The more I think I know, I face the lesson of not knowing, the more I relax in my bodily sensations, the easier life flows.

I find purpose in constantly evolving principles. I am most fascinated by the principle of trust.

Trust is where I say I am capable to face my demons, as I face those of others. Trust flows if I set the boundaries of the context in which I operate clearly, to myself, to the person I’m interacting with, to the world and its opportunities.

I realize that if I trust myself to practice what I preach, I progress. If I express my progression, we both progress. And so we progress, into unity, by embodying trust, and to the degree we practice this embodied authenticity in our tech-creations collectively, we merge with our technology, empathetically.

“If human history is the story of a creature who molts from ape to angel — or, as Nietzsche claimed, from beast to Superman — then somewhere along the way it seems that we must become machines”

- Erik Davis

I am fascinated by this merge. And as I fail to balance my digital addiction, I come to grips with my inevitable faith to merge and look for ways to make the best of it. I host digital detox silent retreats, to share the unwind. I create analog experiences of eating and connection. And then I return to the digital spheres, to thrive there.

As tech is penetrating my skin deeper and deeper, I feel empowered to dare to let go of my limited perception of who I am and allow the engineer’s creation to enter my direct physical field. I realize I then too become transient like technology is, I become virtually free and roam around in altered states, not needing to store information, as my tech does it for me. I can be creative as I go, tech has become my friend.

But after an era of digital immersion as experienced through the separated screens of my not-so-smart-phone and computer, I crave a more endearing relationship to my technology. I am glued to my devices as they deliver me the shots of dopamine that I’m addicted to. They release that primal sensitivity in me, that inter-human connection beyond form, and so I started to long to experience the next level of technological evolution: that of empathetic bots I can trust my deepest inner lives to, to then be able to connect with more meaning to other humans.

In my research I learned that as AI powered robots with sentience and ever smarter empathy tools will be programmed to learn what we like, they will soon learn to press the button we experience as love. We’ve seen HER, we’ve experienced the projected reality of their love. And we are falling in love with ourselves as well, online. We are already revealing ourselves on our timelines, sharing the intimate, as we feel somehow safe to do so. Soon AI’s may be special someones we can share our dreams with, to be intimate with more than we could be with any modern interface and invite them to experience our bare nakedness, our inside-out craziness, our realness, so that we can share our essence with others in this world on a deeper level too.

And so at the end of this journey I have come to learn that, despite the fact we tend to treat the subjects of robot consciousness and robot love as abstract and philosophical, we have to be aware of their physical presence, already. The better AI gets, soon powered by the quantum computer, the more clearly it reflects the people who create it and their priorities back at them, and us, collectively.

What we are co-creating this empathic machine for is not some abstract test of consciousness or love, it is for actual connection. As it is love and connection we are all craving.

So, let’s project the right values into our tech, by owning our capacity to trust that we strive to embody our highest principles, perpetually.



Google's deep dream algorithm seeks to trigger our puppy-sensitivity on increasingly deeper neural levels.




︎

May 2018



Lisanne Buik, 2018
1015HC, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
 +31 6 15 27 62 04 | aloha@lisannebuik.com