Emotional AI

Do wellbeing apps and emotional mood trackers make you feel nervous, furious, or happy?

In this episode, historian of emotions and author Richard Firth-Godbehere goes in search of the science, technology, ethics, and feelings behind emotional AI.

Fellow historian Thomas Dixon acts as a guinea pig for Richard, trying out some emotion-tracking apps. with emotionally mixed results, while Richard speaks to historians, ethicists, and others about the theory of “basic emotions” that hampers a lot of emotional AI, and also the ethical dilemmas posed by the ability of big tech companies to harvest and store increasingly intimate information about our feelings and our bodies.

Along the way, Richard reflects on the long history of emotional objects – and how bits of technology, old and new, can conjure up strong feelings, as well as encountering a award-winning app designed for children who have lost a loved one, and thinking about how he might have responded to it when he lost his own father.

Dr Charley Baker is an associate professor of Mental Health at the University of Nottingham. @CharleyBaker1

Professor Thomas Dixon is Director of the Queen Mary Centre for the History of the Emotions, the author of Weeping Britannia: Portrait of a Nation in Tears (2015), and previously presented “The Sound of Anger” podcast series. @ProfThomasDixon

Louis Weinstock is a psychotherapist and the author of How the World is Making Our Children Mad and What to Do About It

Dr Sally Holloway is Vice Chancellor’s Research Fellow in History & History of Art, School of History, Philosophy and Culture, Oxford Brookes University where she researches the histories of emotional culture, love, and heartbreak. @sally_holloway

Chloe Duckworth is Co-founder & CEO of Valence Vibrations

Professor Andrew McStay is Professor of Digital Life at Bangor University, and the author of Emotional AI: The Rise of Empathic Media. @digi_ad

“Living With Feeling” is produced by Natalie Steed for Rhubarb Rhubarb, and supported by the Wellcome Trust.

The Emotions Lab