Dec 05, 2012 0 Share

Artificial Intelligence

Man with question mark covering face.

As Aspies, we sometimes have trouble reading facial expressions and other nonverbal “language.” (Indeed, some of us are prosopagnostics—we have trouble even recognizing or remembering faces.) That means we can do things like miss the comely young lady who's been giving us “the eye,” bore the heck out of a lunch-table partner with our scintillating knowledge of all known programming languages and even make people nervous by getting into their personal space uninvited. In fact, it also means we can be prime targets for robbers, rapists and serial killers, since we 're less likely to recognize danger in time to discourage the criminal or escape. 

Maybe technology can help? 

As mentioned above, many of us are very comfortable with things like computers. After all, unlike humans, they give us detailed error messages! (The fact that those error messages are just as incomprehensible to those not “in the know” as nonverbal communication often is to us, I think, only makes computers more attractive to many of us. Wow—here's an area of life where we're the in-group!) 

Also, the closest computers come to requiring small talk is the “handshake” between modems, and that's just between each other anyway. Whenever we ask for something, the computer either does it or not ... it doesn't matter what it thinks we feel about it, or how it feels about us, or even what it thinks our real best interests are. And if it doesn't do what we ask, and we seek professional help, they tell us how to make the computer do what we want—not try to “mediate” between us and see how we can pay more attention to the computer's feelings. 

As the lead-in to “Six Million Dollar Man” famously pointed out, we have the technology. For example, for years my laptop has offered me the option of setting up face recognition—that is, only allowing a login if its webcam recognizes my face. My new smartphone gives me the same option. And we can now link up our electronic eyes to some very sophisticated algorithms—artificial brains, in certain respects. For example, SAS Software recently announced a new risk profiling package that improves the odds of detecting suspicious people before the bad ones strike. Meanwhile, others are developing software that can read microexpressions—extremely brief changes on people's faces, which can indicate lying or other problems—possibly better than humans can

So, perhaps within a few years at most we'll be able to take our webcams, smartphones and digital cameras/camcorders out, scan a crowd or even someone we're talking to and know whether to approach, back away or just walk by. We might even be allowed to use them on the job or even during interviews as a reasonable accommodation, so we may know how receptive the other person is to our proposal, a request for a day off or even that brilliant behavioral interview story. Then over time we can learn what different situations and expressions mean. 

Let's use technology to make us stronger people, not helpless weaklings tied to our devices!