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Encouraging Professional and Personal Empathy in the Advent of AI
Sean: So if AI can, in fact, supplement the void that’s going to be happening in the area of empathy and spending time with loved ones. We look at the return now to the corporate world and we are seeing right now the axe being put down on some roles in some jobs, and they’re being replaced by AI, and it’s not a shock that they are, in fact being replaced by AI because the AI have become so good in such a quick amount of time. It all took us by, storm by surprise.
And people were saying before all this happened that, “Oh yeah, you shouldn’t be afraid of AI because there’s still a lot of work that require heart and feelings and empathy.” Do you think that’s still true? Do you think that we get to keep a lot of the work that requires heart and empathy, or is AI going to catch up to that?
Minter: Well, the answer is nuanced and it depends. So for sure, there are many jobs that you can automate. There are many jobs where the style of work, which is mechanical, can be replaced by robots augmented by AI. There’s an ability for machines to look at an enormous amount of data that we as human beings are limited in doing so.
Let’s say at the interplay between machines and human beings, there are going to be a lot of new roles that are going to be coming up. And so on the one hand, there are going to be plenty that will be displaced or replaced. Then they’re going to be new jobs that come up, which could be coding for empathy. I mean, they’re just imagining all the opportunities to create AI therapists. I mean, if you’re an entrepreneur, that is one really interesting area to be going into.
And then there are others where you can use the AI to augment your abilities, figure out how you can cut up what you’re doing. Some of it may be easy to farm out at a cheaper level than hiring you, and then how can you augment that and become better at for example, let’s say, writing prompts?
It’s maybe you’re going to be a prompter as opposed to a copywriter, and in that prompt you’re going to refine your abilities to make typed or whatever to a better result. And then you get that result. And then your role isn’t to write the whole article. Your role is to humanize the article, to fact check, or to make it a little bit funnier because you forgot to add the prompt. Make it funny, speak like Arnold Schwarzenegger or something.
Sean: So as leaders now and we’re talking to people who are tuned in to the show CEOs, high level executives, mid-level managers, founders, we are moving towards an era. And you painted the picture earlier where empathy is not going to be that involved in the family life and we’re going to be more self-centered, which means we’re going to be quite literally less empathic to other people because we’re only thinking about ourselves.
We’re only feeling how we feel. We’re not putting ourselves in other people’s shoes as leaders, as C-level executives, managers. What do you think is going to be happening in the workplace? Is empathy also going to shrivel and die up? And is is it going to be such a rare thing to see empathy now?
Minter: Well, it depends on in certain circumstances or countries, there’s a real fight for talent. And in that fight for talent, for the best individuals, you’re going to need to rethink how you’re going to accommodate these people. How are you going to make them feel motivated to join you, to stay with you and to work their butts off with you? So the one area I think that the leaders should be really focusing on is making your work and their work more meaningful.
So rather than just be the best, which is great, but what are you doing with your product such that you can answer the following question, “How will we make the world better off?” If the answer to that is, do we make the best widgets? Well, that’s really not enough. Why are those widgets important? What are we doing with those widgets that are making the world a better place? And the sad truth is, most organizations, if they disappeared tomorrow, the world would be no worse off.
A competitor would jump in and take over and do it. So the first injunction is to think about the meaningfulness of what you are trying to achieve in your business. And it doesn’t have to be huge because we’re not asking for Mother Teresa everywhere. However, think about how you can turn your business towards doing something a little bit more meaningful than just making money for the shareholder.
Sean: That’s amazing. What can we do to encourage empathy in our people? So you’re completely right. I work with a lot of millennials and Gen Z’s. My people are aged 20 to 30 and I could not hide the fact that they’re a lot more self-centered. That’s why we see a lot of them job hopping, having a lot of demands, working from home. And it’s just, for me, not such a pleasant hire.
Whenever I would hire someone in the interview, of course, they would say, Oh, we’re going to stay with you long term. We’re going to work our butts off in three to five years, easy. But after two years, they resigned. Two and a half years, they’re gone. Like, for me, it’s such an irony as well that we have this influx of AI and now their jobs are threatened. But what can we do to teach them about empathy and how they can practice it in their lives and in their work and in their community? Because that’s how we’re going to change the world.
Minter: Well, so I certainly am not convinced that the younger generation have any less empathy than their parents or older people. I think that there have been changes. For example, there’s such a greater awareness and openness to differences that, let’s say, around sexuality or race that has moved along. It’s not perfect, but we’ve moved along what I think is somewhat relevant and I really talk about this as well in the new book, is this idea of doing good. So being meaningful is equated to at some level being good and doing good.
But there are two things. One is that it needs to be realistic. So you’re not trying to save the world because you can’t save the world. That is a one way ticket to being depressed because you’re disappointed in your inability to save the world. The second thing is associate yourself with something that’s good and you. So what I mean by that is it’s very easy to get wound up by any of these big causes. Hashtag Ukraine, hashtag BLM, hashtag save the world, hashtag empathy.
The issue is or the question is how is this truly relevant to you? At a deep level, the number of people that have hashtag Ukraine on their webpage or Twitter profile or whatever and have never been to Ukraine, don’t speak the language. Their name isn’t Shevchenko. They have a normal name, never been there, don’t speak Ukrainian or Russian. And they still put on this hashtag. So I’m not going to poopoo.
Of course, it’s a tremendously important situation, but think deeply about who you are and why you’re going to connect to this cause. So this is sort of an injunction to the younger folks like your 22 to 30 year olds. You get attached to a cause. Yay! Sure. Yet do the work and figure out how it’s deeply important to you. Not at some sort of do good. Put it on Instagram and show the world.
But within you, why does it resonate with you deeply and how is that going to construct your identity in a positive way for you and the world? And I think a lot of people are not doing enough work on figuring out who they truly are and making that connection so that everything sounds great. We got to do all these things.
We’re going to pressure our bosses to do all these things, and they don’t even have empathy for the bosses either, because reality is, bosses need to make decisions. Sometimes they’re tough and help their bosses. Why not in formulating crafting a more meaningful cause that will do well for them? We’ll do well for the business and everybody grows together.
Sean: That is going to be very self actualization, self-realization, self awareness. It’s so easy to say, but a lot of younger people still are, right? You know, you’re nodding your head. You’re raising your eyebrows. Where do you start with that? Minter? Not everyone is blessed to just have that kind of internal map within themselves.
Minter: 100%. And so true. And the reality is I didn’t know myself when I was younger. Took a while. So you need to experience things. I guess the point here is we’ll keep experimenting and checking things out and maybe you’re going to a job hop. That’s okay.
But if you can, little by little, start to craft what’s truly important for you. I call it finding your North by experimenting with different things. What are the things that resonate on a deeper level that are realistic and are true to your core?
And the more you, sort of, filter down and carve out what that means, the better you’re going to feel. So go out, explore the world. But think about it along the way without necessarily knowing who you are, but along the way of experimenting, well, that was really something that was really cool, really deep. And hopefully that’ll help you even to find out more about yourself.
Sean: So you’re talking about like this north, your true north. And would you say that it’s a compass, that you would feel something deep and strong and, you know, that’s it?
Minter: Exactly. Well, so I have a little compass right here. You can for those who are watching, I have a compass that is called your North Star from a friend of mine called Sultan. And the thing about the North Star is that where people get it wrong is that they generally have a broad understanding of who they want to be, especially if you’re young, 22.
But reality is it’s still happening when you’re 50, 60 years old and you have this broad idea of progress. I want to be this happy, wealthy, successful person who doesn’t want to be that. And oh, that’s what I want to be, right? Well. Fine, except it’s too broad. It doesn’t define the specific DNA that’s within you at some level. So the injunction here is to narrow the definition. It’s not like a single point.
It’s not a destination, by the way. Of course it’s a journey. And if you can be a little bit tighter in defining who you want to be, then what happens is that whatever you’re doing, if it’s within that smaller funnel towards this North Star, the things you are doing, A will make more meaning, and two, will bring you energy because you know why you’re doing them, because they’re going to link you to that North Star, that sort of special start your star because every star at some level needs to be different.
Sean: Now, once you’ve found it, are there specific steps that you would encourage them to do, such as, should you create a statement about it and write in, post it in the mirror every morning so that you read it and look at it? And how does it manifest in your life? What should you do with it?
Minter: In my book called “You Lead,” I actually present an exercise that you can do in order to craft this. And I did this when I was 33, so it took me a while to go after Themselves, this. But I’m trying to sort of, let’s say, propagate the idea without needing to have some sort of life threatening change in your life. Go ahead and check this idea out and craft a future vision of you that’s far enough out that it’s intangible for now.
And then when you have your sentence, which really does take crafting, does take rework and sometimes re-editing and understand what it is that you’re doing in every day, some portion of your day that corresponds to that North Star. Because by the way, Sean, it should be noted that it would be highly dogmatic to say that everything needs to be within the North Star.
You know, you’re going to go take a shower, you’re going to go and do a little run to the post office, lots of little things that are not relevant. It’s just about finding something that’s relevant. So, for example, my North Star, I have my mission. It’s so ingrained, I don’t need to write it, but it’s to elegantly elevate the debate and connect dots, ideas and people. And I’ve been living this since I’m 33, and am now nearly 60.
And what I do, for example, is I color in one of my appointments on the day Green, which is a code for my North Star. And so it’s a very explicit effort to make sure that in every part of my day I’m doing something that fits in with really trying to be a North Star. Every time I do a podcast, Sean, for example, I’m constantly thinking about, “How can I use this podcast to elevate the debate, elevate the standard?” And I feel at the end of the day, All right, that’s cool. I did at some point during this day, do something that felt good about that because at the end of the day, there’s also going to be lots of shit, you know, there’s going to be unexpected stuff, bills that you didn’t want, maybe an accident.
Stuff happens and that is also about life. And coming back to this mental health issue, we’ve got to a point where everything is a problem and we’re trying to be too safe. We’re trying to be too good. And life is really all about the challenge. And if we can remember our forefathers, I mean, not to mention our ancestors who went through so much worse time, but even our grandparents who during the Second World War, well, life is full of hardship and it’s how you react to that hardship that matters. We all have a different journey, but let’s get off and stop whining about, you know, oh, someone scratched my Audi.
Sean: With your new book Minter, Artificial Empathy, what inspired you to write this book? What is so important about it that people need to read and realize it well?
Minter: So I put it down into three things. The first is that stuff is changed. I wrote it in 2018, for the first time. And the two things that have changed massively. One is the pandemic. We discovered that we can work remotely in all companies. We discovered that our health systems and the supply chains are problematic for health, especially if you have a bellicose partner or a bellicose supplier. You’ve got the war in Ukraine and that sort of brought war to the fore.
We also have lots of other geopolitical tensions, let’s say China and Taiwan or wherever. And so there’s a lot of issues out there which are making people worried, making business context complicated. And it’s in those difficult times that empathy is even more necessary. You’re stressed, you’re trying for performance, and yet businesses work through people. Of course, they’re robots and all that, but the real juice happens through the people, your employees, your relationships with suppliers and customers and so on. So that’s the first point. The second one is about mental health. Mental health has become a major issue and we’re now seeing that there’s a lack of sufficient therapists.
We’ve got the AI opportunity with therapeutic AI and all the things that have happened in AI to develop helping us deal with this mental health, because the mental health situation and empathy is a key ingredient for helping us navigate through mental health. And the third piece, you’ve got such a massive change in the way AI is working with the more foundational AI and the large language models, the ability for AI to do. So many more things, including empathy and then further on including therapy, it’s fascinating to see. The hope is to sort of alarm people as to, A, figure out how we can be more empathic as leaders dealing with tough calls, difficult decisions. 2, look at the mental health issue, it’s a big deal and figure out how you can be, as a business leader, more empathic with dealing with your individuals, which doesn’t mean being nice all the time. Again, just figure out how to be more empathic because there’s a lot of shit going on. And thirdly, look at AI. It’s fascinating. I mean, it’s just exhilarating to see what’s going on and see how I can augment your business.