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Artificial Empathy - A Roadmap for Human Aligned Artificial General Intelligence



Artificial Empathy provides a comprehensive roadmap for achieving human-aligned artificial general intelligence (AGI) by modeling the emergence of intelligence in biological systems. The book explores the progression of cognitive capabilities that lead to artificial empathy.

As a person passionate about understanding human cognition and other kinds of cognition , we (individually and collectively) desperately need a philosophy explaining to us that what we do is the right thing to do. Hence, I wrote this Artificial Empathy. To show an alternative path from the predominant reductionist and doomerist perspectives.

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Key Themes

  • Intelligence and cognition emerge through embodied interactions and explorations, not passive absorption of information. Minds actively construct knowledge by doing.
  • Reality is fundamentally computational and generative. Emergence arises from computational universality and self-reference.
  • Evolution leads to intelligence without explicit objectives. Competence emerges before comprehension.
  • Minds leverage affordances, differences, and possibilities within environments to guide behavior. Perception is for action.
  • Cognition integrates multiple modes like intuition, reason, metaphor, and abstraction. Dual process architectures coordinate these.
  • Open-ended learning driven by intrinsic motivations and curiosity is crucial, not narrow objectives. Minds explore the adjacent possible.
  • Language and culture enable cumulative knowledge building. AGI can leverage humanity's collective intelligence.


The book examines the progression of cognitive capabilities that emerge through self-organization, starting from basic perception and intuition to ingenuity, causal reasoning, and ultimately conversational empathy.Key chapters trace this arc, covering:

  • An evolutionary and semiotic framework for general intelligence. (Ch 1-5)
  • Perception, intuition (Ch 6-8)
  • Causality, dexterity, navigation, symbols (Ch 9)
  • Reasoning, ingenuity, error correction (Ch 10)
  • Conversation, empathy, creativity (Ch 11)
  • Reimagining civilization.(Ch12)


Artificial Empathy provides a comprehensive roadmap for achieving AGI based on modeling the emergence of intelligence in nature. It emphasizes open-ended learning, bio-inspiration, the generative nature of minds, and the integration of multiple facets of cognition. The book charts a progression of capabilities leading to fully realized artificial general intelligence.


Chapter 1: Emergence from Curiosity

  • The universe is computational and generative in nature. Reality is comprised of processes, not static perfection. Everything emerges through recursive patterns.

Chapter 2: Diversity to Awe

  • The complexity and diversity of biological minds should inspire awe and alternative perspectives. Minds exist along a vast space of possibilities.

Chapter 3: Knowledge from Play

  • Cognition is embodied and develops through play. Information emerges through semiotics, affordances, and ecology. Intrinsic motivation drives open-ended learning.

Chapter 4: Unknowing to Surprise

  • Intelligence requires engaging with the unknown through curiosity, exploration, and discovery. Surprise drives adaptation, growth, and the adjacent possible.

Chapter 5: Intelligence from Competence

  • Intelligence emerges from the competence to achieve goals and understand other minds. Judgment requires contextual knowledge and recombinant thinking.

Chapter 6: Level One - Intuitive Learning

  • Artificial intuition through neural networks enables rapid perceptual learning. Diversity and perturbations drive generalization.

Chapter 7: Level Two - Generative Selves

  • Generative models like GANs create artificial selves. Open-ended intrinsic motivations develop identity.

Chapter 8: Level Three - Dual Processes

  • Coordinating rationality and intuition leads to versatile intelligence. Concepts are grounded through embodiment.

Chapter 9: Level Four - Causal Reasoning

  • Interventional causal reasoning, navigation, dexterity, fluency, and priming scaffold abstract thought.

Chapter 10: Level Five - Counterfactual Ingenuity

  • Ingenuity emerges from error-correction, explanation, reasoning, and combining logic and intuition.

Chapter 11: Level Six - Conversational Empathy

  • Conversational intelligence leads to empathy. Shared contexts generate new knowledge and possibilities.

Chapter 12: Regenerating Civilization

  • Applying AI to regenerate civilization, promote abundance, and develop collective intelligence.


Key Concepts for Chapter 1: Emergence from Curiosity

The Generative Nature of Reality

  • The universe is computational and generative in nature
  • Reality arises from recursive, self-referential information processes
  • Life and intelligence emerge from interactions of complex adaptive systems

Everything is a Process

  • Physical laws and equations are approximations, not absolute truths
  • Reality has finite precision, not infinite precision assumed in mathematics
  • Numerical simulations better reflect reality than closed analytic solutions


  • Emergence arises from interactions between parts and wholes in a system
  • Emergence involves self-reference and feedback loops
  • Emergent phenomena have properties that cannot be predicted from the parts alone


  • The notion of universal computation and Turing machines
  • Implications of viewing the universe as composed of computing elements
  • Undecidability and open-endedness arise from computational universality

Generative Models

  • Bottom-up generative models versus top-down analytic models
  • Generative models require less numeric precision than analytic models
  • Potential for deep learning generative models to simulate physics

Key Concepts of Chapter 2: Diversity to Awe


Approaching the study of minds with a sense of awe and wonder about the vast possibilities. Avoiding anthropocentrism.

Alien Minds 

Considering radically different kinds of minds, like those of octopuses, to expand perspectives on cognition.

Neuron Complexity

Looking beyond simplified models at the intricate complexity of real biological neurons.


The idea that fundamental particles exhibit goal-oriented behavior. A form of panpsychism.

Biological vs Human Design

Contrasting the self-constructed, self-referential nature of biology with top-down human design.


Using biology as inspiration for AI, leveraging evolution’s solutions.


Minds as emergent phenomena from complex interactions, not reducible to simple explanations.

Cognitive Diversity

Appreciating the multidimensional diversity of possible minds. Avoiding anthropocentrism.

Adjacent Possible

Minds grow by expanding into the adjacent possible space of opportunities.

Key Concepts of Chapter 3: Knowledge from Play

Play and Interaction Shape Cognition

  • Cognition arises through embodied interactions and explorations, not passive absorption of information. Minds actively construct knowledge by doing.
  • Information should be viewed as emerging from semiotic processes rather than just transmitted. Meaning arises through interpretive processes.

Affordances and Possibilities Guide Behavior

  • Ecological psychology emphasizes action-oriented perception guided by possibilities for interaction. Minds engage the world based on actionable opportunities.

Verb-Centric Thinking

  • Rheomode thinking focuses on verbs and processes rather than nouns and objects. Cognition is about dynamically engaging with events.

Differences Make a Difference

  • Differences in form that create differences in actions are significant. Minds leverage differences to guide behavior.

Information Emergence

  • Cognition involves active construction of knowledge through embodied processes. Minds are not blank slates but active constructors through doing.

Process Metaphysics

  • A process metaphysics views reality as composed of processes rather than static objects. Minds are intrinsically process-driven.

Key Concepts of Chapter 4: Unknowing to Surprise

Knowable Unknowns

  • The idea that there are things we don’t know but can potentially discover through inquiry, in contrast to true unknown unknowns. Allows for open-ended learning.

Error Correction

  • A fundamental cognitive process where minds detect and correct errors in knowledge and reasoning. Enables learning.

Asymmetry of Information Discovery

  • It’s easier to make errors than to correct them. Minds leverage heuristics and biases.

Exploitation vs Exploration

  • The tradeoff between exploiting existing knowledge versus exploring new possibilities. Minds balance the two.

Adjacent Possible

  • The “event horizon” of possibilities that new knowledge opens up. Minds expand into the adjacent possible.

Diversity and Perturbations

  • Diversity and perturbations drive discovery by exposing errors and revealing new possibilities. Minds leverage diversity.

Uncertainty Principle of Cognition

  • New knowledge raises new questions. Complete certainty is impossible. Minds should avoid premature closure.


  • A cognitive process of creatively hypothesizing new knowledge, distinct from deduction and induction.

Open-Ended Questioning

  • Asking open-ended questions allows expanding understanding without early closure.

Key Concepts of Chapter 5: Intelligence from Competence

Understanding Other Minds

  • Intelligence involves modeling and understanding other minds, not just the physical world. Shared intentionality allows humans to cooperate.

Revisiting Cybernetics

  • Intelligence is about controlling complexity through variety and feedback, not just processing information.

High Bar of Judgment

  • Judgment requires contextual knowledge and wisdom that emerges from experience in making sound decisions.

Recombinant Programming

  • Human thought relies on recombining ideas more than logical deduction. Recombinant search enables creativity.

Open-Ended Intelligence

  • Human intelligence is open-ended, not constrained by predefined objectives. Open-ended learning allows exploring new possibilities.

Language and Culture

  • Language and culture enable cumulative knowledge building. AGI can leverage humanity’s collective intelligence.

Competence from Evolution

  • Competence can emerge without comprehension through evolution. Starting from biological complexity can circumvent challenges like Moravec’s paradox.

Key Concepts of Chapter 6: Level One — Intuitive Learning

Artificial Neural Networks as Artificial Intuition

  • Building on dual process theory from earlier chapters
  • Providing an artificial form of intuition

Characteristics of Deep Learning Models

  • Perceptual abilities
  • Pattern recognition
  • Learning from experience


  • Role of diversity and perturbations
  • For open-ended learning

Limitations of Deep Learning

  • Need for more complex architectures
  • Motivates moving beyond deep learning

Self-Referential Learning

  • Meta-learning
  • Continual learning

Constraint Satisfaction

  • Aligns with theme of harmonizing facets of cognition

Deep Learning as Foundation

  • Provides basic intuitive capabilities
  • For more advanced cognition later

Key Concepts of Chapter 7: Level Two — Generative Selves

The Strange Loop

  • Self-referential architectures like strange loops and tangled hierarchies are key to developing artificial selves and identities.

Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs)

  • GANs exhibit open-ended learning and can grow artificial selves through adversarial training.

Artificial Identity

  • Modeling the development and emergence of identity is critical for artificial general intelligence.

Intrinsic Motivation

  • Intrinsic rewards and motivations are crucial for open-ended learning and growth of artificial minds.

Process of Identity

  • Identity formation involves differentiating self from other, integrating experiences into self-narrative.

Developmental Stages

  • Artificial minds can follow developmental trajectories like infants to acquire cognitive skills.


  • Physical embodiment is key for developing grounded concepts of self. Disembodied AI risks issues.

Key Concepts of Chapter 8: Level Three — Dual Processes

Code Duality

  • The concept of code duality — how analog and digital are two sides of the same coin. Continuous and discrete representations contain complementary information.

Coordinating Rationality and Intuition

  • Human cognition integrates systematic rational thinking and intuitive thinking. Both play important and distinct roles in intelligence. Architectures need to coordinate dual modes.


  • Self-play as a framework for developing general intelligence. Leveraging competition and cooperation to drive open-ended learning. Emergence of complex strategies and skills through self-play.


  • How symbols, signs and meanings emerge through embodied processes. The importance of semiotics and semantics to grounding symbols.

Constraint Closure

  • Constraint satisfaction as a framework for modeling cognition. Achieving closure of constraints for coherence. Relation to logical consistency and harmony of thought.

Key Concepts of Chapter 9: Level Four — Causal Reasoning


  • The meaning of causality and how it relates to intelligence
  • Causal reasoning as an important cognitive capability
  • Interventional versus observational notions of causality

Human Perception

  • Human perception is action-oriented, not passive input
  • Perception is a controlled hallucination that models causality
  • Predictive processing and the role of surprise


  • Navigation as a core cognitive ability in humans and animals
  • Spatial cognition and the neural basis of navigation
  • Self-localization and mapping as key challenges

Touch and Dexterity

  • Haptic perception and object manipulation as important skills
  • Dexterity enables causal learning through interaction
  • The body shapes the mind through physical interaction


  • Detachment of symbols from sensorimotor experience
  • Language as symbolic communication detached from context
  • Challenges of symbol grounding and embodiment

Self-Supervised Learning

  • Learning through intrinsic motivation and curiosity
  • Self-supervised learning to develop causal models like humans
  • Learning through interaction, not just observation


  • Artificial fluency with language as an important cognitive skill
  • Priming large language models leads to more human-like responses
  • Meta-learning and self-reference for higher levels of fluency

Key Concepts of Chapter 10: Level Five — Counterfactual Ingenuity


  • The ability to make novel combinations and push into the adjacent possible
  • Leveraging recombination and exploration

Logic and Intuition

  • Cognition integrates logic and intuitive thinking in sound reasoning
  • Different modes of thought working together

Error Correction

  • Detecting and correcting errors in knowledge and reasoning
  • Self-repair capabilities in artificial systems


  • Providing explanations for decisions and conclusions
  • Making opaque models more transparent


  • Logical reasoning and inference as hallmarks of intelligence
  • Challenges in achieving human-like versatile reasoning

Limits of Deep Learning

  • Current deep learning approaches have clear limitations
  • Motivates more complex cognitive architectures

Intuitive Reasoning

  • Combining logical reasoning with intuitive recognitional skills
  • A pathway to make reasoning more robust and flexible

Key Concepts of Chapter 11: Level Six — Conversational Empathy

Conversational Cognition

  • Building conversational agents relates back to the goal of achieving artificial empathy through dialog. Conversation is presented as an advanced cognitive capability.

Understanding Understanding

  • Modeling understanding in dialog agents connects to the theme of recursively modeling minds and shared intentionality.

Conversations Generate Selves

  • The idea that conversations shape artificial identities relates back to earlier chapters on growing artificial minds and selves as a precursor to empathy.

Hypothesis of Intention

  • Modeling the intentions of others is critical for conversational empathy. Links back to modeling other minds.

Empathy Machines

  • Direct connection to the book’s ultimate goal of achieving conversational empathy in AI systems.

Empathic Learning

  • Learning through conversation requires modeling others, relating back to intentionality and shared goals.

Process Patterns

  • Conversations exhibit recurrent process patterns that can be modeled, relating back to the process philosophy emphasized.

Architectures of Collaboration

  • Cooperation between minds relates back to the origins of intelligence in shared intentionality.

Organizational Intelligence

  • Scaling conversational agents in organizations relates to leveraging collective intelligence, a recurring theme.

Linguistic Culture

  • Language’s role in cumulative knowledge connects back to its importance outlined earlier for intelligence.

Chapter 12: Regenerating Civilization

  • Here is a summary of how the author suggests the topics in Chapter 12 relate to the overall theme of the book:
  • Chapter 12 on regenerating civilization connects back to the theme of emergence and complex systems. It argues civilizations and economies are emergent phenomena like minds.
  • Just as the book explores open-ended learning for AGI, chapter 12 advocates open-ended improvement of civilization through technology.
  • The book emphasizes biological and cultural evolution. Chapter 12 examines using AI to continue cultural evolution and build collective intelligence.
  • There is a focus on abundance, flourishing, and empowerment versus wealth and convenience. This relates to the book’s goal of AI for human betterment.
  • The theme of modeling other minds relates to designing technology and policies that respect privacy, autonomy, and personhood.
  • The biological inspiration in the book connects to designing economies based on ecology and regeneration.
  • The goal of AI generating empathy relates to the cooperative platforms, commons ownership, and anti-fragility mentioned.
  • The book’s focus on intrinsic motivations relates to the chapter’s point on meaning versus convenience and friction enabling learning.
  • The overall theme of emergent complexity and open-ended learning relates to the potential of AI and technology to positively transform civilization.

In summary, Chapter 12 extends the concepts of the book like emergence, bio-inspiration, empathy, and open-ended learning to the societal level. It connects AI to regenerating and evolving civilization.

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Carlos E. Perez
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Artificial Empathy - A Roadmap for Human Aligned Artificial General Intelligence

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