Girl Decoded: A book review by Bob Morris

Girl Decoded: A Scientist’s Quest to Reclaim Our Humanity by Bringing Emotional Intelligence to Technology
Rana el Kaliouby with Carol Colman
Currency (April 2020)

A brilliant explanation of how to humanize technology before it dehumanizes us

According to Rana el Kaliouby, with the assistance of Carol Colman, she wrote this book in order to help as many people as possible to retain their humanity when in the cyber world. What’s the problem? “Some social scientists call it an ’empathy crisis.’ It is the inability to put to yourself in another’s shoes and feel compassion, sympathy, kinship for another human being. This stunning lack of con ern for our fellow citizens permeates and festers in the cyber world, especially on social media, and is spilling over into the real woirld.”

Then adds, “We, as a society, are in increasingly dangerous territory — we are at risk of undermining the very traits that make us human in the first place.” This is what El Kaliouby means by being dehumanized.

To me, it seems as unreasonable to expect technologies to have emotional intelligence as it is to expect human beings to have data processing capabilities comparable with those of a computer such as the one on which I now compose these thoughts before posting them electronically.

El Kaliouby has no such expectations. “I have learned that the greater fluency and mastery we have of our own emotions, the more confident we become in allowing ourselves to be vulnerable — allowing ourselves to open up to others and with ourselves; this is how we become truly empathetic.”

Long before Joel Robert Davitz and Michael Beldoch’s (among others) conducted research on emotional intelligence (EI), later developed in much greater depth by Daniel Goleman, it was obvious that some human beings are naturally or can become much more effective in their relationships because they can connect on an emotional level. In a word, empathy: identifying with — being at one with — others’ feelings. Also, and of equal significance, enabling others to identify with our own feelings.

Rana el Kaliouby’s key insights are best revealed within the narrative, in context, but I need no spoiler alert when suggesting that her immensely personal account takes her reader into full confidence as she explains how to reclaim one’s humanity by bringing emotional intelligence to collaborations and interactions with technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI); sensors and the Internet of Things (IOT); autonomous Machines — robots, cobots, drones, and self-driving vehicles; distributed leaders and blockchains; virtual, augmented, and mixed reality; and connection of everything and everyone that include 5G networks and satellite constellations.

o     o     o

Invoking direct address, I urge you to read and then re-read this book because there is no other quite like it that can help you to achieve two separate but interdependent objectives: preserve your humanity, and, be guided and informed by your humanity when working in collaboration with technologies such as those just listed.

Developing emotional intelligence will enrich your human potentialities, to be sure, but it can also ensure that breakthroughs in technology are of greatest meaning and value to the human race.

 

 

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