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Conversation: Empathy, Technology and Collective Intelligence

Pixel ache

Throughout history, collective intelligence has secured the survival of our species. The vital importance of collaboration is resonated in the numerous neural mechanisms we have that give rise to empathy, comprising of skills for understanding other people’s thoughts, feelings, and for acting altruistically. At the moment humankind is facing problems of tremendous urgency and scale. Simultaneously, we have been able to devise a fantastic tools that have made humans more connected than ever before. However, our digital tools for collaboration are still in their infancy. Ironically, they do not support many things that are highly important for functional human interaction such as feeling of shared context, physical touch, synchronisation and rich expression of emotionality. Very often, these shortcomings seem to inhibit the emergence of empathy in digital environments, and as a consequence, collective intelligence. The digital realm is of course just one of the structures within which humans interact. All of these structures can either support or inhibit empathy and the emergence of collective intelligence. In the digital realm the problem stems mostly from the narrow bandwidth of emotional information that is available, two-dimensionality, over-emphasis of language, and neglect of other senses than the visual. In other contexts, empathy and collective intelligence can be inhibited by the structures that guide our conduct, for example the emphasis of competition over collaboration between individuals, or simply by the rules and goals that are set out for our interaction. The panel discussion, in its contemporary manifestation in countless events, seminars and festivals, can be seen as one of the most empathy- and collective-intelligence-inhibiting structures guiding interaction known to man. Too often these events act as podiums for broadcasting personal expertise, contrasting rather than combining viewpoints, and therefore ultimately not fostering empathy or fruitful problem-solving activity. In this seminar we would like to use the time we have not for highlighting or showcasing the impressive knowhow, expertise and individual intelligence of our participants, but put it to use for solving problems of empathy. Ultimately solutions to vicious problems do not arise from personal knowledge or capability but from the process of these becoming animate and transcendent in interaction with others. The seminar will therefore not be a panel but a joint problem-solving discussion where our brilliant participants try to find a solution to a few impossibly difficult questions. In this seminar, we will apply knowledge of what is needed for collective intelligence to emerge in discussion. Based on previous research, this requires quite simply the following: Empathy skills Short speeches, no monologues More positive than negative commentary Responsiveness towards the commentary of others Everyone gets a chance to speak Keeping these boundary conditions in mind, we ask the participants to have a discussion in order to find an answer to the following questions: In order to solve problems created by climate change and the increasing loss of biodiversity, which structure for interaction should be more empathy-enabling? Is it the Internet? Is it a structure guiding political decision-making? Is it a structure guiding consumer choices? How would you increase empathy in these structures? What would happen as a result of more collective intelligence emerging in these structures? The seminar is facilitated by Katri Saarikivi, Valtteri Wikstöm and Petri Ruikka. Marte Roel (MX), Katherine Behar (US), Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen (FI), Jaana Ristola (FI), Aleksander Nikulin (BG). The seminar took place on Friday the 23rd of September in the seminar room from 6.30pm to 8.30pm.

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Keräyksessä Mediataiteen verkkosivuja 2016


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