How empathy can be cultivated amid an increasingly distracted, indifferent world.
In her persuasive debut, journalist and editor Phillips criticizes a culture rampantly prioritizing technology over real human connections, and she questions whether the two can exist synergistically. The tech world relies on detached communication while the roots of human-to-human connection require interactive participation, concern, and amity. To some, writes the author, technology has caused a steady decline in human empathy. Phillips agrees, citing a particularly vicious interaction on social media that was upsetting yet inspired her to delve into the subject matter headfirst. She chronicles her interviews with researchers, psychologists, and tech creators and users who impart their own perspectives, and she describes the efforts of a variety of tech-initiated solutions—e.g., Faciloscope and Google’s Perspective API, real-time online comment–moderating apps that systematically filter out toxic threads. Also contributing to the cause are virtual reality games like Enter the Room, which enables players to perceive the feelings of other participants, and software geared toward creating connections with kids on the autism spectrum. Phillips provides a helpful discussion of empathy-building training for corporate employees and medical professionals. The author isn’t just a journalist with an intense interest in this modern conundrum; she’s also “a millennial in my early thirties,” so her concerns about the importance of infusing caring and compassion into tech-saturated contemporary life are particularly relevant. However, while the author’s concentration holds steady on methods to enable technology to rescue modern-day empathy, a significant question lingers throughout: Can the tech world and its gadgets and gurus reverse the hard-hearted trend it actually induced? Phillips is optimistic as she covers a host of AI–based friendship and psychotherapy alternatives, but a finer focus and tighter narrative arc would have sharpened her message of encouraging and embracing the power of empathic technology.
An unevenly presented but beneficial report sure to spark discussion about integrating kindness into modern technology.