International Conference on Affective Computing and Intelligent Interaction (ACII 2019/SEAIxI)

Early September saw me in Cambridge for the International Conference on Affective Computing and Intelligent Interaction (ACII 2019) for a workshop organised by NeurodataLab on Social & Emotion AI for Industry SEAIxI. In my invited talk I argued that in multiple ways (not all good) technologies that function in relation to emotion are coming of age, at least to those outside of the affect, empathic and emotion community.

This seems to be occurring at along at least two ways: the first is methodological (it’s not just about accuracy, but whether the right questions are being asked of the thing being sensed); and the second is in relation to governance questions, which includes normative ethics, but goes beyond to involve questions around design, business cultures, regulation and law.

Seems to me there is still a long way to go for this community and that it is incumbent on those of us on the social/civic side of things to engage with the affective computing community. Key problem is Idhe’s “multistability”, i.e. that the moral charge of a technology comes out of how it is used (repeat though folks, tech is never neutral!). This adds complexity to ethical deliberation, especially for communities fixated on delivering higher levels of accuracy from vision, voice and biometric technologies. We have to do better in thinking about applied ethics for emotion and empathic tech; they (students, researchers and industry) need to do better in asking questions developed by us at the beginning of the production process, not the end.

Andrew McStay