Social Intelligence

Broadly defined, Artificial Social Intelligence (ASI) is the application of machine intelligence techniques to social phenomena. ASI includes computer simulations of social systems in which individuals are modelled as intelligent actors, and it also includes methods of analysing social data that employ any of the techniques commonly called “artificial intelligence” by computer scientists.


Affective Computing

Affective computing is an interdisciplinary umbrella that comprises systems which recognise, interpret, process, or simulate human feeling, emotion and mood. For example, some virtual assistants are programmed to speak conversationally or even to banter humorously; it makes them appear more sensitive to the emotional dynamics of human interaction, or to otherwise facilitate human–computer interaction. However, this tends to give naïve users an unrealistic conception of how intelligent existing computer agents actually are.

Moderate successes related to affective computing include textual sentiment analysis and, more recently, multimodal sentiment analysis, wherein AI classifies the affects displayed by a videotaped subject.

social intelligence

Affective computing is the study and development of systems and devices that can recognise, interpret, process, and simulate human affects. It is an interdisciplinary field spanning computer science, psychology, and cognitive science.  While some core ideas in the field may be traced as far back as to early philosophical inquiries into emotion, the more modern branch of computer science originated with Rosalind Picard’s 1995 paper on affective computing and her book Affective ComputingOne of the motivations for the research is the ability to give machines emotional intelligence, including to simulate empathy. The machine should interpret the emotional state of humans and adapt its behaviour to them, giving an appropriate response to those emotions.


Areas of Social Intelligence

Detecting and recognising emotional information

Detecting emotional information usually begins with passive sensors that capture data about the user’s physical state or behavior without interpreting the input. The data gathered is analogous to the cues humans use to perceive emotions in others. For example, a video camera might capture facial expressions, body posture, and gestures, while a microphone might capture speech. Other sensors detect emotional cues by directly measuring physiological data, such as skin temperature and galvanic resistance.

Recognising emotional information requires the extraction of meaningful patterns from the gathered data. This is done using machine learning techniques that process different modalities, such as speech recognition, natural language processing, or .

The goal of most of these techniques is to produce labels that would match the labels a human perceiver would give in the same situation: For example, if a person makes a facial expression furrowing their brow, then the computer vision system might be taught to label their face as appearing “confused” or as “concentrating” or “slightly negative” (as opposed to positive, which it might say if they were smiling in a happy-appearing way). These labels may or may not correspond to what the person is actually feeling.


Emotion in machines

Another area within affective computing is the design of computational devices proposed to exhibit either innate emotional capabilities or that are capable of convincingly simulating emotions. A more practical approach, based on current technological capabilities, is the simulation of emotions in conversational agents in order to enrich and facilitate interactivity between human and machine.

Marvin Minsky, one of the pioneering computer scientists in artificial intelligence, relates emotions to the broader issues of machine intelligence stating in The Emotion Machine that emotion is “not especially different from the processes that we call ‘thinking.'”



In psychology, cognitive science, and in neuroscience, there have been two main approaches for describing how humans perceive and classify emotion: continuous or categorical. The continuous approach tends to use dimensions such as negative vs. positive, calm vs. aroused.

The categorical approach tends to use discrete classes such as happy, sad, angry, fearful, surprise, disgust. Different kinds of machine learning regression and classification models can be used for having machines produce continuous or discrete labels. Sometimes models are also built that allow combinations across the categories, e.g. a happy-surprised face or a fearful-surprised face.

Social intelligence is at the core of both human and artificial intelligence. From a young age, humans can understand, interact, collaborate, and communicate with each other. Most of what we learn is taught by others, or learned in a social context. Thus, a truly intelligent AI agent should be able to understand and work with humans as well as other AI agents.

A Social Intelligence model can help you process huge amounts of data in seconds and make meaningful suggestions to highlight ‘close to check-out’ possibilities that wouldn’t have come up on a manual radar.

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