What Happens When an AI Knows How You Feel?

Gottman adds that the Love Lab really operates by method of a social coding system; by taking in the subject matter of the conversation, tone of voice, body language, and expressions, it is less focused on detecting a singular emotion in the moment and instead analyzes the overall qualities of an interaction. Put these together, says Gottman, and you can more dependably come up with a category like anger, sadness, disgust, contempt. When a associate takes part, they are invited to answer a detailed questionnaire, then record two 10-minute conversations. One is a discussion about the past week; the other is about a conflict. After uploading the videos the associate rate their emotional state during different stages of the conversation, from 1 (very negative) to 10 (very positive). The app then analyzes this, along with the detected cues, and provides results including a positive-to-negative ratio, a trust metric, and prevalence of the dreaded “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”’: criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling. It is intended to be used in conjunction with a therapist.

Therapy and mental health sets are increasingly provided by video calls—since the pandemic, this shift has been supercharged. Venture capital investment in virtual care and digital health has tripled since Covid-19, according to analysts at McKinsey, and AI therapy chatbots, such as Woebot, are going mainstream. Relationship counseling apps such as Lasting are already based on the Gottman method and send notifications to remind users to, for example, tell their partner that they love them. One could imagine this making us lazy, but the Gottmans see it as an educational course of action—arming us with tools that will ultimately become second character. The team is already thinking about a simplified version that could be used independently of a therapist.

For the Gottmans, who were inspired by the fact that so many couples are stuck on their smartphones anyway, technology opens up a way to democratize counseling. “People are becoming much more comfortable with technology as a language,” says Gottman. “And as a tool to enhance their lives in all kinds of ways.”

Photograph: Julia Johnson

Email for You, but Not by You

THIS TECHNOLOGY IS already everywhere. It could be impacting your relationships without you noticing. Take Gmail’s Smart Reply—those suggestions of how you may respond to an email—and Smart Compose, which offers to finish your sentences. Smart Reply was additional as a mobile characterize in 2015, Smart Compose rolled out in 2018; both are powered by neural networks.

Jess Hohenstein, a PhD researcher at Cornell University, first encountered Smart Reply when Google Allo, the now-defunct messaging app, was launched in 2016. It featured a virtual assistant that generated reply suggestions. She found it creepy: “I didn’t want some algorithm influencing my speaking patterns, but I thought this had to be having an effect.”

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