A Christmas Day Truce 2017

Christopher G. Moore in CulturMag:

CgmSwimming pools of ink have been emptied in the discussions of the intense verbal warfare in America about politics as the president fires tweets like a machine-gunner at a wide range of enemies. In all of these dramatic battles, there’s not been much discussion about a central question that defines our humanity: have we loss our sense of empathy? Exactly what makes empathy a desirable trait? I recently read an interview with Nick Bostrom, Professor in the Faculty of Philosophy at Oxford University and Director of the Future of Humanity Institute, who writes about the danger of AI; he is worried that mankind might suffer an existential crisis should AI lack empathy. In an interview with Andy Fitch of the Los Angeles Review of Books Bostrom draws what is, I believe, a useful distinction between two different meanings of empathy.

In the first sense, empathy is our ability to read the mind of others: their intentions, emotions, and feelings. Our theory of mind is based on the words, gestures, posture, and the context that provides enough information to make a reasonably good prediction of what another person wants or is seeking to obtain from his or her own actions. If you can predict with reasonable accuracy what someone is after, this is a huge opportunity to take advantage of another’s vulnerability.

In the second sense, empathy is using the theory of mind to dissect the wants, urges and desires of others, and genuinely being interested in and caring about their intentions and feelings. What makes us human is this innate sense of caring.

More here.