Emotional Intelligence in the Age of AI – Daniel Goleman

Emotional Intelligence

I’m glad to share with you stimulating ideas, tips and leads you might find useful, all having to do in some way with emotional intelligence – and beyond. Think of this as news to use.

First, an announcement…

The next round of the Daniel Goleman Emotional Intelligence course starts July 10th.

This is the only EI digital training program I am directly affiliated with and was founded on my 12-competency model of Emotional and Social Intelligence.

This  asynchronous online course features weekly modules that include video, audio, reading, and reflection. There will also be seven 90-minute synchronous, live group check-ins with course facilitators.

If you are ready to start or deepen your work in emotional intelligence, you can learn more here.

Now, let’s dive in…

AI and EI

Will the emerging chatbots and other AI programs be the end of emotional intelligence? I don’t think so.

Here’s why: AI has no emotions.Consider what emotional intelligence entails: first, self-awareness of your own emotional state. Then, using that information to manage your emotions effectively. Then, empathy for the feelings of others. Last, putting all that together for harmonious and productive relationships.

Let’s take these one by one.

  1. Self-awareness of emotions. AI, by definition, flunks here.
  2. So no basis for self-regulation of emotion, which is irrelevant to AI. An AI program is, in essence is a set of mathematical algorithms and pattern recognitions. No feelings whatsoever (though maybe simulated feelings).
  3. There are three kinds of empathy. One is cognitive empathy, which means reading the terms in which people think about emotions. AI should be excellent at this kind of emotion.
  4. But as for emotional empathy – which means feeling what the other person feels – there are many circuits in the social brain that allow this, none of which operate in AI. At best an Ai program might recognize facial muscle patterns that signify a given emotion, but it will not “feel” with the other person.
  5. Empathic Concern, caring about another person’s wellbeing, is an often missed aspect of empathy. This, to me, is the most troublesome lapse of AI. Early on in the history of robotics it was proposed that robots be programmed to do no harm to humans (was it A.E.Van Vogt who first proposed this? My memory here is hazy). It’s imperative that this principle be incorporated in AI.
  6. Then there’s putting all this together – emotional self-awareness and self-management, plus empathy, to have smooth and effective interactions with other people. Given the gaps in AI’s emotional repertoire, this seems unlikely to me.

Of course AI might be able to simulate emotional intelligence, at least to a degree.

For example, Paul Ekman’s Facial Action Coding System lets a computer program read a person’s emotions from the pattern of muscle tension among the many muscles of the face.

The same could be done for tone of voice.

But these fixes alone do not replicate the full emotional spectrum of the human brain.That’s my opinion. Emotional intelligence represents a set of human abilities that AI cannot replace.

And I’m not alone.

Still, AI will bring a jobquake. Take creative work, an area long thought to be safe from encroachment by AI. But an article in the Harvard Business Review suggests three outcomes:  1) creatives will use AI to be even more productive, 2) a flood of cheap creative ideas from AI drives humans out of that kind of work, and 3) creative work done by people will carry a premium over and above any such efforts by AI.

That, too, nicely summarizes the possibilities for emotionally intelligent work, like leadership.But I suspect the third option – a premium for human based EI – will win out (though all three are not mutually exclusive – there may end up being a ratio of the three).

Next up…

The Seeming vs. The Real

In a comment regarding the recent widely seen video besmirching the Dalai Lama’s reputation, my wife Tara Bennett-Goleman makes a crucial distinction between how things seem and how they really are.

That distinction – the seeming and the real – applies as well to emotional intelligence.First, the Dalai Lama.

A cunning edit of an innocent interaction the Dalai Lama had with a young boy made it seem the Lama was a predator – and in this day and age too many people are ready to leap to such conclusions.  That’s the ‘seeming’ here.

But a full look at their entire encounter reveals that the Dalai Lama was giving the young boy heartfelt advice on how to lead a good life. Indeed, the boy and his parents felt the boy received a blessing from the lama, and apologized for the bad press the edited video brought.

Turns out the edited version was intentionally malign.One possibility: that video was part of an ongoing propaganda effort by the Chinese Communists, who for decades have tried to discredit the Dalai Lama.

And apparently there is a cross-cultural misunderstanding here, too. Much was made of the Dalai Lama sticking out his tongue at the boy, a ‘seeming’ unseemly gesture. What that interpretation does not understand is that in Tibetan culture showing one’s tongue is a gesture of respect – and a grandparent might do the same playfully with a grandchild, after giving the child gifts, as though to say ‘That’s not enough? So do you want to eat my tongue?”

I’m shocked by the whole affair.

I’ve known the Dalai Lama for years, and wrote a book about his vision for the world – A Force for Good – which encourages putting lovingkindness into action. In all the years I’ve known him I’ve never seen him do anything like that ‘seeming’ video portrayed.The ‘real’ here: the Dalai Lama for decades has been a spokesperson for the value of compassion, for the harmony of religions, and for social justice.  And he exemplifies the utmost in personal integrity.

Now back to emotional intelligence. There’s an army of consultants, training programs and the like that seem to offer to boost EI capabilities.  But buyer beware – there’s no guarantee here, and too many don’t deliver on this promise.

That’s the real.

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