Empathy in the digital age: lessons for Artificial Intelligence


brain overlaid with computer dataThe image of the mind as a computer is one that has been developed in recent times. But is it valid?

Not according to neuroscientists such as Antonio Damasio, who argue for a new model that recognises integration between body and brain.

It’s an important concept in this digital age. Traditionally defined, empathy requires human feelings to be involved in the connection to another person’s perspective. But embedding empathy is also crucial to Artificial Intelligence design, according to Hilary Cinis from Data61, the CSIRO’s digital research network.

Hilary Cinis from Data61 presenting a slideshowHilary leads a team of user experience designers and front-end developers working on frameworks for ethical technology production, particularly with regard to Machine Learning.

AI systems are already being introduced in policing, education, healthcare and other sectors and beyond the immediate users there is an “ecosystem of effect”. According to Hilary, empathy is important to understanding the ecosystem and reducing the bias that can be built into machines and the codes that control them.

You can hear Hilary Cinis speak on this fascinating subject at the inaugural conference of Australia21’s Mindful Futures Network, being held at the University of Melbourne on 23 November 2018. 

The Mindful Futures Network was established by Australia21 to provide a national forum for Australians investigating the organisational and societal benefits of mindfulness, empathy and compassion. Now we’re pleased to bring you a compelling lineup of conference presenters who’ll explore the latest research and emerging issues, including the implications for business leadership, education, health and communities.

It’s a great opportunity to learn about innovations and their applications, take part in discussions and mingle with Australia’s leading researchers and practitioners.

Australia21 - Michael BuntingWorkSmart leadership coach Michael Bunting will present the results of world-first ‘Mindful Leadership 360 Assessment’ testing, measuring the links between leadership, mindfulness, engagement and mental health outcomes. Almost 450 leaders from some of the biggest corporations in the world have been assessed, with the help of about 4,000 observers. Participants were provided intensive training in both mindfulness and mindful leadership based on engagement scores from the global Great Place to Work benchmarks. The mental health score improvements of both leaders and their direct reports were measured.

Murray Paterson profile shotMurray Paterson, a partner at Potential Project, will discuss the leadership model of mindfulness, compassion and selflessness. Evidence is now showing that compassionate responses in organisations bolster creativity and innovation by providing the psychological safety that enhances learning. Murray will provide examples of companies around the world that are already applying compassion and mindfulness skills, to give employees the meaning and human connectedness which many performance management systems can’t provide.

Petrea King profile shotPetrea King, CEO of the Quest for Life Foundation, will reflect on the importance of the resilient individual and the ripple effect that has in the wider community — and how mindful individuals can better support themselves, family, and friends for community change. In overcoming her own suffering and in supporting many hundreds of others in their distress, Petrea has learnt the importance of living our lives consciously. By being resourced to choose to change our thoughts to move us forward to better health and happiness as individuals, we can also contribute to the development of empathic communities.

Jenny Donovan profile shotJenny Donovan is the principal of Inclusive Design, which advocates for urban design that aims to improve social outcomes. She has worked for the United Nations and other bodies in post-conflict and post-disaster rebuilding in Sri Lanka, Kosovo and Northern Ireland. According to Jenny, cities are made up of hardware (physical constructions), software (street furniture or more temporary structures) and orgware (policy, legislation and gatekeepers), with all three elements influencing how nurturing or neglectful a place is for its inhabitants. She argues that a compassionate approach to urban design assists in creating surroundings that are conducive to people accumulating life lessons, experiences and achievements, as well as forging the connections and gaining the insights necessary to meet their needs and fulfil their potential.

2018 CONFERENCE Mindful Futures


“If you are interested in and care about this work being implemented on a wider scale, so as to be a force for shaping social change in Australia and the world, then this conference is definitely for you.” 
Libba Granger, Openground Mindfulness Training




Have you booked your ticket yet? Hurry — early bird offer ends soon!

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WHEN: Friday 23 November 2018  |  WHERE: University of Melbourne

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Do you have colleagues or friends who are interested in the science of Mindfulness, Empathy & Compassion?

Please invite them along to Australia21’s inaugural Mindful Futures Network conference. This is a great opportunity to grow the strength and size of the Network, while participating in a very rich and thought provoking day.


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