Why we confide in robots

New forms of «empathetic computing» are helping human users feel more comfortable in opening up to a program.

Why it matters: Our mental health has taken a major hit during the COVID-19 pandemic, while social distancing means it’s harder to meet in person with therapists. That has opened a space for emotionally attuned machines to help us.

By the numbers: survey of thousands of employees and executives released earlier this month by Oracle and the HR research and advisory firm Workplace Intelligence found 68% of people reported they would prefer to talk to a robot over their manager about stress and anxiety at work.

  • 80% said they were open to having a robot as a counselor or therapist.
  • «Workers said that robots can support their mental health better than humans because they can provide a judgment-free zone,» says Dan Schawbel, managing partner of Workplace Intelligence.

Of note: In April, the FDA suspended many of its rules for digital therapeutic devices for psychiatric disorders because of the pandemic, which led to an increase in doctors prescribing new forms of digital therapy.

What’s happening: Last month Maslo.ai, a startup that works on AI-driven empathetic computing, released new open-sourced toolkits that allow developers to build apps to address mental health.

  • Maslo uses signal processing techniques to «read» voice, text and even the body language of a human user to identify a baseline level for mental health.
  • «We can extract the linguistic aspects of what a person is saying, but we can also look at acoustic elements as well — volume, loudness, intonation,» says Ross Ingram, Maslo’s CEO.
  • That data can help Maslo’s partners build better executive performance coaches, for example, or even help with online dating.

Between the lines: study by researchers at Maslo and the University of British Columbia found that while robots overall were seen by humans as having significantly weaker qualities of mind compared to people, younger users were much more likely than older generations to see machines as potentially capable of processing emotions.

Reality check: AI cannot yet feel or process emotions in any real way, which limits the effectiveness of therapeutic robots.

My thought bubble: Personally, I’d rather talk to my manager than a robot about stress and anxiety at work, but I have a really good manager.

-Postponing the jobs of the future

Postponing the jobs of the future

Many of the digital jobs of the future have suffered during the later stages of the pandemic, while in-person health care jobs are on the rise.

Why it matters: Automation and digitization will profoundly change the U.S. labor market, but that future has been delayed as COVID-19 forces companies to shift into survival mode.

By the numbers: The consulting firm Cognizant this week released the third-quarter numbers for its Jobs of the Future Index, which tracks the emergence of new jobs in the digital and automated economy.

  • For the first time since the index was launched at the end of 2016, postings for jobs of the future declined in the third quarter while job postings overall rose.
  • Jobs in the algorithms, automation and AI family fell by 13.2% in Q3, while jobs in the fitness and wellness family rose by 42.8%.
  • Home health aide grew by nearly 300% year-on-year, as the pandemic increased demand for health care at home, while health information manager/director fell the most over the year, declining by 56%.

Flashback: Early assumptions — including by me — were that the pandemic would accelerate the adoption of automation, but the sheer economic carnage means that change hasn’t yet been reflected in jobs.

What they’re saying: «The jobs of the future are collateral damage of the pandemic,» says Robert Brown, vice president at Cognizant’s Center for the Future of Work. «American companies are focused on keeping the lights on rather than investing in digital growth.»

Yes, but: This doesn’t mean the disruptive effects of automation and AI have been postponed permanently.

The bottom line: Don’t drop out of that AI course yet.

Πηγή: axios.com

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