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The Future of Feeling

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The Future of Feeling

Building Empathy in a Tech-Obsessed World

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15 min read
10 take-aways
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Technology created an empathy problem. Might today’s developers use technology to solve it?

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Empathy allows people to love and care for one another, and differentiates human beings from machines. Yet as people’s dependence on technology continues to rise, empathy appears on the decline. In this timely text, journalist Kaitlin Ugolik Phillips asks if developers might use the technologies that caused these problems to fix them. She found she’s not alone in pursuing this question. Phillips’s research takes her – and the reader – into a growing movement made up of developers, journalists, educators, advocates and others who see empathy as an essential component of future technologies.


Empathy allows people to love, raise children and help their fellow human beings.

Genuinely feeling someone else’s experience is impossible; imagining how someone feels is as close as you can get. “Cognitive empathy” means intellectually grasping another person’s mental state. “Affective empathy” refers to your emotional response to what another person is feeling. Empathy differs from compassion in that you share an emotion with people, rather than feel an emotion for them. Empathetic people handle stress better, are more at ease showing their feelings and are more successful in business. In an increasingly technological world, the human capacity for empathy sets people apart not just from animals, but also, from machines.

Does technology alter people’s ability to empathize? The connection may be difficult to quantify, though researchers are exploring how screen time alters people’s brains and their ability to communicate. Young people growing up with digital technology become adept at sharing digital messages, but their communication often lacks substance.

Increased social media use...

About the Author

Journalist and blogger Kaitlin Ugolik Phillips writes for VICE, Institutional Investor and the Columbia Journalism Review.

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