Conversations about lack and over empathy with robot Gabriela

Today I wanted to do an experiment. Imagine what a robot would answer, or better, a robot (I think they understand emotions better) questions of ethics and values, You know, those that surpass the usual routines of robots.

And for that I have chosen one of the best stories (based on real facts) ethics and values: the letter addressed by Indian chief Seattle, of the Suwamish tribe in 1855 in response to another from the PRESIDENT of the United States. U.S., Franklin Pierce.

If you have a minute, I'll summarize it here: 

Pierce wanted to buy from the Suwamish lands in the northwestern US. U.S., current State of Washington. And of course, Seattle didn't get it.. Would a robot like Gabriela Fitzgerald understand? 

Seattle's account responding to the president

First of all, Chief Seattle's account, of the Suwamish tribe. This story I met in 1995, working in Saatchi & Saatchi, when the creative Manolo Salgado developed a campaign for a brand of cowboys that we wearing at the agency.

I knew this story thanks to a mock-up of Manolo (that has been lost, a pity) with epic music (Dancing with Wolves) and the voice of Jordi Brau, a jewel. Faced with the impossibility of recovering it, I recorded the model by adding another music (You know, the theme rights...), my own voice and,in the video, I've added some nice pictures of nature that could surround the Suwanish mountains in the middle of the S. XIX.

It lasts a few 11 Minutes, but it's worth it, it's one of the best stories I know, and also based on real facts. There it goes: 

What did you think? It seems to me a lesson in lack of intercultural empathy. The same one that was missing in the great Spanish and Portuguese conquests in 15th and 16th centuries America.

Why do we find it so difficult to understand that we are not alone in the world and that there are cultures other than our own, they're neither better nor worse?

Who is Gabriela Fitzgerald and what does she look like in this story and with empathy?

Gabriela Fitzgerald (for friends, Gabriela) it's a robot that only resides in my imagination. I always imagine her as Sean Young in his role as "Rachel.", a Nexus "replicator" 6 in the first version of Blade Runner (Ridley Scott, 1982). 

The point is that the Nexus 6 were prepared to simulate human emotions like empathy, And that, attached to its human architecture, turned them almost into humans. Almost. Because the android-hunting cop -Blade Runner- Rick Deckart (Harrison Ford) I detected them relentlessly.

Well, I'm going to test Gabriela on Chief Seattle's story to see how empathy works in that story.

Gabriela's opinion on Seattle's response

Seattle Indian Letter to President USA

-I: Hello Gabriela, I'm your creator, or better, your imaginer.

-Gabriela: Hi Guillem what can I do for you today?

-I: I like that you ask me that., it's okay that you want to help me.

-Gabriela: You programmed me for that..

-I: Yes, Of course. Well, tell me Gabriela, what you thought of this video, this story about Chief Seattle's response to the president who wanted to buy his land.

-Gabriela: You know I can't comment.. I move with data. And I need to see the letter President Pierce sent to Seattle with the purchase offer.

-I: Already, Of course. data. Let's imagine...

-Gabriela: I remind you that I can't imagine.

-I: I agree. I'll give you the tip.. The president made a concrete offer. He offered them an exclusive reserve for their tribe in exchange for the free movement and exploitation of land adjacent to the reserve. In a nutshell, offered them smaller, smaller territory, but exclusive.

-Gabriela: That's not a complete fact.. I need you to tell me the acres the Suwamish had and the ones President Pierce offered them.

-I: See. I don't have the data., And I'll tell you why. Because for the Suwamish, borders did not exist, they regarded nature as a gift from the gods, that it was nobody's property.

-Gabriela: So we can't compare the offer, since for the Suwamish the land was not a private property, but a right of use, a divine usufruct.

-I: Divine usufruct? That's a good one., you have combined Roman law with the law of God.

-Gabriela: As you wish, but the offers are not comparable.

-I: I know, but what would you tell me about this: the president offered them safety and survival in exchange for a limited piece of land.

-Gabriela: That still can't be compared.. Should I understand that the Suwamish did not feel safe?

-I: correct! And that's if you keep that in mind, the pyramid of Maslow's needs, where physical security is the second primary link.

-Gabriela: True, physical security, employment, resources, moral, familiar, health and private property.

-I: there you have it, Gabriela, Maslow mentioned private property on the same level of needs as personal security. But if the Suwamish didn't believe in private property, why would they believe in safety?

-Gabriela: respect the idea of beliefs, but they're subjective. Private property and security are rights covered by laws, non-beliefs.

-I: Of course, but Gabriela, you have to do with the eyes and culture of the Suwamish, who had no laws other than those that marked nature itself.

-Gabriela: This discussion doesn't get us anywhere.

-I: I agree, I'll be direct, What is empathy? 

-Gabriela: According to the SAR, Empathy, Greek empátheia, is the ability to identify with someone and share their feelings.

-I: Well, I just have to add, Gabriela. I don't think you have enough empathy to value Seattle's response letter to Pierce.

-Gabriela: It's your words.. I don't have ancestors, I don't breathe air, neither alive from water nor sunlight. My raison d'e thing is that you created me in your mind.

Lack of empathy: one of humanity's diseases

The same lack shown by the robot Gabriela Fitzgerald has shown it and is still shown by many of humanity's great leaders.

Unfortunately, we don't lack examples, like the Holocaust organized by Adolf Hitler. But it is also a serious lack of empathy for a leader's decision (either "the good ones" or "the bad guys") to send human beings into war to resolve differences rather than through dialogue.

In politics, the lack of empathy is recurring, that has replaced the "Fairplay". But speaking of empathy, if its defect is negative, what about your excess?

Excess empathy is also not positive

The series comes to mind New Amsterdam (Netflix). Not to commit "Spoiler", I literally quote Wikipedia's brief description:

Max Goodwin (Ryan Eggold) has been appointed as the new Medical Director of the so-called ''New Amsterdam Hospital'', the oldest public hospital in the United States, (in the original novel is the historic Bellevue Hospital). Since his arrival, will soon make radical decisions to improve care for patients - people infected with Ebola, chairmen and even the PRESIDENT of the United States. But it's not the first time- with the low funding it has. But, Max keeps a secret from his teammates: has cancer.

The thing is, "New Amsterdam" is based on the book"12 patients: life and death at Bellevue Hospital" by Eric Manheimer, a bestseller that, turn, is inspired by a true story.

The series has left a mark, Precisely, by doctor-patient empathy, by the level -- almost exaggerated- social involvement of a hospital's health care. It all starts with the question used by the Hospital Director, Max Goodwin, when you show up: Hello, how can I help?

I've seen the series with Gabriela Fitzgerald, and I want to ask you a couple of questions:

-I: Hello again Gabriela remember the series "New Amsterdam?

-Gabriela: Of course, Guillem, We saw her together.

-I: How about the behavior of the leading doctors?

-Gabriela: You know I can't give ratings., what data do you want to handle?

I: There were two things to me that powerfully came to my attention. The first is an involvement in the patient's life that goes beyond what is stipulated in the doctor-patient relationship. And the second is that this relationship generates innovative and profitable ideas.

-Gabriela: The hospital and its leaders constantly use the data. And that leads them to make good decisions.

-I: Bingo! But it turns out that many of those good decisions don't fit the law.

-Gabriela: It's a shame., because the logic of data interpretation should be legal.

-I: you've found the key: Interpretation is not objective, it's a questionable parameter. For a moment you've seemed human to me., Gabriela Fitzgerald. And going back to "New Amsterdam", it is possible that one of the problems that you experience in the hospital is an excess of empathy, something that puts the doctor in a patient-like position of vulnerability.

-Gabriela: I find it hard to define whether that's positive or negative, you taught me that vulnerability is a human quality that reinforces leadership, but when I look at the meaning of vulnerable I see it means "You can get hurt or get injured, physically or morally.", and that doesn't seem so positive.

-I: It depends on the context, dear Gabriela, depends on the context.

I literally quote a paragraph from the digital magazine The mind is wonderful

The person with an excess of empathy is like a long-range antenna that absorbs and engulfs every emotion that vibrates in their surroundings. Far from managing such an overload, ends up diluting in the needs of others, poisoning themselves for excessive compassion to the point of feeling guilt for the pain others experience.

What do you think? Not too little or too much. Empathy, like food, must exist, must be balanced.

Digital empathy and lack of digital empathy

Anyone who thinks empathy only occurs in the real world, you should take a walk through the social media profiles of Oscar Del Santo, Elena Arnaiz, David Barreda, Naomi Vico, Eva Añón, Jesús González Amago, Eva Collado and many more people.

Its main virtue is coherence: act just like off-grid, thanking when they should thank and respond to people's problems.

Robots, more analytical than social

This graph of Emerald Insight shows how robots like Gabriela are super-trained to solve complex problems in the cognitive-analytical area, but they still have a long way to go to do it in the emotional-social area.

Personally not only does not bother me this distance, but I appreciate that robots are at our service to analyze complex problems and leave us emotional / Social. Everyone has their place in this ecosystem.

If you liked this talk with the robot Gabriela Fitzgerald, leave me a comment, as this will prepare new topics and stories to discuss with her. Happy week!

Stock Photos from Irina Kozorog & Everett Collection / Shutterstock

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1 thought on "Conversations about lack and over empathy with robot Gabriela”

  1. Good afternoon, Guillem

    Another big question, how can I help ? next to another big question we've already mentioned in another post how are you ?

    The ones that have a business profile are two questions that we have to keep in mind because we do not forget that we are perSONas selling to perSONas, we're people talking to people.

    It is the people who belong to Mother Earth and in which we all have a place and therefore we must help each other according to our values and essence without harming the foundation where we are all and on which we build things, houses, Buildings, …

    Empathy, the great detail that sets us apart and that also connects us.

    A big hug,


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