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The Assault on Empathy: The Promise of a Friction-Free Life

  • International House, Chevron Auditorium—2299 (map)

Attached to our digital devices, so many of us would rather text than talk, to the point that I have argued a “flight from conversation.” Its appeal: a life that seems friction-free, without the stress of face-to-face conversation and negotiation. It’s a way of life that comes with a view of the good life that has significant psychological, social, and political dimensions.

With the possibility of communicating from behind the safety of our screens we can avoid each other or split our attention when we are with each other, even in intimate family settings or the settings of psychotherapy. These days, we move even further from each other with a new kind of AI: not artificial intelligence but artificial intimacy, machines that seem to care, from sociable robots to online programs that present themselves as “empathy machines.” Here, in two linked lectures, Turkle argues that people, embodied people, are the only “empathy app.”

About Sherry Turkle

Sherry Turkle is the Abby Rockefeller Mauzé Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology in the Program in Science, Technology, and Society at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the founding director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self. She has spent the last 30 years examining and studying the psychology of people’s relationships with technology. Trained as a sociologist and a licensed clinical psychologist, she is an expert on culture and therapy, mobile technology, social networking, and sociable robotics.

A prolific writer, Professor Turkle has published many books, including Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet (1995), Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other (2011) which have been translated into eleven languages, and most recently, Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age(2015).

Earlier Event: February 5
Later Event: February 6
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