Dr. Rana el Kaliouby is the author of Girl Decoded and a leading expert on technology and empathy and the ethics of AI.
This past June, Affectiva, the company she co-founded, was acquired by Smart Eye. In this virtual sit-down, we set out to learn more about what inspires Dr. el Kaliouby and how new innovations will change how we interface with technology and connect and communicate as humans.
Q: Dr. el Kaliouby, tell us how you got started on your journey to exploring the role of emotion in today’s technology-driven landscape?
el Kaliouby: I was born in Cairo and my parents were both involved in the technology industry, so I was exposed to and inspired by the digital world at a very young age. My education and career pursuits led me to Cambridge and later MIT, which meant I spent a lot of time in front of devices communicating with family back home. There was very little face-to-face interaction and what struck me is that, although I was in constant touch with family and friends through technology, it was almost impossible to have any idea what was going on with my loved ones from an emotional and mental standpoint.
Q: What was your biggest takeaway from this experience?
el Kaliouby: It became clear to me that the majority of our communication is conveyed through non-verbal cues: facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language. But, for the most part, those signals are lost when we’re on our smartphones and other devices.
When I got deeper into my research in computer science and artificial intelligence it became obvious that technology has a lot of cognitive intelligence (IQ), but no emotional intelligence (EQ). This is problematic not only for how we interface with technologies, but how we connect and communicate with one another.