Blog: Aspies, AI, and Social Integration
Note: The following is based solely on my experiences and what I believe I could benefit from. This certainly would not be the solution for every person with Aspergers, especially when you consider the way in which Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is experienced differently for everyone.
It is a well-known fact that Aspies struggle with social communication and meeting the current standards in society. Being able to cope is often a challenging task, mainly due to never truly knowing the way one should adhere to these mysterious ‘social rules’. At the current moment in time, it does not seem like humans are willing to adapt their standards to accommodate for those of us that would fail to pass the Turing test (that’s a joke). So, how do we create an environment that works for the less socially capable of us? I believe the solution will come with integrating artificial intelligence into our social lives.
My view may be a tad far-fetched with today’s standard of artificial intelligence, but a time will come when machines can efficiently understand human’s social interaction and be integrated into wearable systems. So, let’s get into my entire view on this topic.
Artificial Intelligence and Social Communication
The modern age has introduced a wide variety of intelligent systems designed to communicate with human beings in a reasonably human-like fashion. However, they have yet to be able to genuinely process social cues, unique speech patterns, and the tones used in verbal communication. But, what happens when artificial intelligence is capable of communicating with us with the same level of intelligence as any other person?
This level of intelligent communication could be implemented into portable systems with the specific purpose of processing social situations and advising the user on the best method of responding. However, some issues could be introduced when implementing such systems into our society. The most prominent problem, in my opinion, would be determining whether a conversation is authentic if the responses are coming from the robot and not the individual.
Tackling the Big Issue
Humans are very social creatures, we require interaction between each other not only to survive but also to thrive in this age. This could be put at risk if we allow artificial intelligence to lead our interactions, so how do we ensure communication remains genuinely human while giving those suffering from communication disorders the best chance of functioning in society?
I believe the solution will come down to determining the individual needs of a specific user, some may require guidance on the core conversation and some may need support for analysing social cues and the general demeanour of the person they are conversing with. By providing specific user support, an intelligent system could ensure the conversation and social situation will be unique based on the mindset of each user. Just like social media platforms, these systems could analyse interests, hobbies, actions, and general thoughts to provide appropriate guidance without making the scenario seem entirely robotic and forced. My personal experience with Aspergers can often lead me to lack the ability to engage in ‘small talk’ with others and seem as though I am neglecting the conversation as a whole. Based on my experience, I feel such a system could benefit me by giving me prompts to ask the small questions and provide me with guidance on finding topics of ‘small talk’ to discuss. On a social level, I struggle with continuing conversations due to my lack of thought regarding asking the other participants questions about themselves. An intelligent, artificial being would, hopefully, be able to analyse the conversation and give guidance on appropriate questions to ask to ensure the discussion continues. But, how do we counter the belief that the user may not genuinely care about the response to the question asked?
There are many valid concerns when it comes to determining if an individual genuinely means what they say, especially when a machine is giving the prompts and questions to ask. However, we must recognise that an individual has their own free-will to take notice of prompts and is the only one that controls whether a question will be asked. Based on this, we can assume that the majority of people requiring this assistance technology would only make use of the prompts if they genuinely cared enough to do so. I, for one, would just ask the questions that I cared enough about to hear a response from the other participants. Naturally, some individuals may find this system not to be best suited to them and opt-out of using it altogether.
Sticking to the theme of my previous posts there is one more concern with such a system that I must look into and give my thoughts on: Privacy. Many computer users, myself included, already have concerns that social media and corporations massively violate user privacy with the vast amounts of data collection; so how can we not worry about a technology that processes and analyses all the visual, vocal, and written data that occurs during a standard social situation? Well, the short answer is: we will never be able not to worry. However, all hope is not lost for those of us that want to keep our private life private.
Artificial intelligence requires a set standard to ensure it is giving a correct solution to the problem being presented. All of these systems, therefore, would need the basic understanding of human interaction, emotional processing, and recognising the stance of conversation partners. Based on these standards, it could be possible to ensure the technology only stores the information you want it to save while introducing a real-time analysis of unique social situations. The use of real-time analysis should make the need to store information about previous and current conversations relatively obsolete, thus ensuring end-user privacy from the creators of the system. Furthermore, I would like to see such technology be introduced as an open-source platform to guarantee optimal privacy. In general, I believe all systems designed to provide assistance to those with additional needs should be released as open-source systems and should be provided as free access. But, that topic is for another time.
My Final Thoughts
All of these thoughts will heavily rely on the way technology advances and how far we can push artificial intelligence. The integration of artificial intelligence into portable systems, such as glasses and mobile devices, will be reliant on the computing power offered by the hardware. I am relatively new to technology, given my age, but I would give a prediction of 10–15 years to reach the technology capabilities of handling the processing power. As artificial intelligent is in its infancy, I would not like to give a prediction on when it will reach the stage of genuinely emulating human social interaction, however one can hope it will align nicely with our hardware advancements.