The best books on artificial intelligence and emotions & empathy

Why am I passionate about this?

Having studied literature at university and been a closet nerd, coding at night in a dank basement room, I've always been intrigued by the interface between human and machine. Then, as a senior executive in a large multinational, I was acutely aware of the value of empathy as a leadership skill. In a world that is increasingly divided and divisive, I’ve become an empathy activist. I believe that the business world can be a force for positive change, but as a society we will need to engage in a much more meaningful and rigorous debate about the ethics involved in the opportunities offered by using artificial intelligence and robots in the workplace. 


I wrote...

Heartificial Empathy: Putting Heart into Business and Artificial Intelligence

By Minter Dial,

Book cover of Heartificial Empathy: Putting Heart into Business and Artificial Intelligence

What is my book about?

Heartificial Empathy looks at why and how companies should learn to flex their empathic muscle, and how to encode empathy into Artificial Intelligence. Empathy is a key skill for every aspect of your business and to create a powerful culture. This book is for any business executive looking to accelerate their transformation efforts, upgrade customer centricity, improve customer service, drive innovation or boost employee engagement. It explores specific business cases and the prominent ethical questions, all the while providing practical advice and concrete tips. The author reveals a very real experience of interacting with an empathic bot for five full days. 

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Killing Sophia: Consciousness, Empathy, and Reason in the Age of Intelligent Robot

Minter Dial Why did I love this book?

Telving’s book is ahead of its time in exploring the deep questions of what our humanity is, with perspectives on our future life with AI and intelligent robots. I was particularly intrigued by the ways that the author explores how we evaluate our own consciousness, how we tend to anthropomorphize animals and objects, and the tricky ethical questions around how to legislate a life with robots. Telving deals with one subject that had been far off my radar in the form of the difference between the hard and easy problem of consciousness. It’s a very philosophical question, but in today’s world, where our values, beliefs, and interactions are in mutation, this understanding of consciousness is ever more pertinent.

By Thomas Telving,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Killing Sophia as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Humanlike robots and digital humans are both fun and useful in many situations. But the more we interact with technology with human traits, the more we believe it to possess real human characteristics like consciousness and personality. As a new breed of artificial beings enter society on a large scale, many of us will start believing they deserve moral consideration and perhaps even rights. In this entertaining and humorously written book, Thomas Telving argues that even though the above scenario is close to inevitable, we should still do all we can to avoid it. Presenting us with thought-provoking future scenarios,…


Book cover of The Empathy Edge: Harnessing the Value of Compassion as an Engine for Success

Minter Dial Why did I love this book?

What I particularly like about Maria Ross’s approach in The Empathy Edge, is that it is at once pragmatic and persuasive. Ross makes a compelling call to action for all leaders to embrace empathy as a core skill. I particularly enjoyed how Ross brings in her personal stories and adds in numerous case studies. She provides a very real sense of the benefits of creating an empathic culture, supported by plenty of data and studies. At the end of each chapter, Ross has a section called "Sharpen Your Empathy Edge" that summarizes the key concepts and gives concrete tips and tricks—so many of which are actionable. 

By Maria Ross,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Empathy Edge as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Furious customers? Missed deadlines? Failed products? The problems your business faces may stem from a single issue: lack of empathy.

Being empathetic at work means seeing the situation from another's perspective, and using that vantage point to shape your leadership style, workplace culture, and branding strategy. Pairing her knowledge as a branding expert with proven research and fascinating stories from executives, change-makers and community leaders, Maria Ross reveals exactly how empathy makes brands and organizations stronger and more successful.

Ross shows why your business needs to cultivate more empathy now, and shares the habits and traits of empathetic leaders who…


Book cover of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Minter Dial Why did I love this book?

While I’m typically not prone to read much fiction, I must insist that this novel is a must-read for anyone looking at how our society is evolving. First published in 1968, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (the basis for the film, Blade Runner) explores our relationship with one another, animals and machines. Dick invented a test called Voigt-Kampff that was designed to discriminate the human being from the replicant, notably by detecting involuntary empathic responses. Empathy is a core concept in the book, becoming one of the fundaments of the human being in a robot-run world. As Dick writes, the Empathy Box (a device Dick invented as part of the Mercer religion) "is the most personal possession we own." The topic could hardly be more relevant for today and tomorrow. In any event, reading good fiction is a solid way to develop your empathy!

By Philip K. Dick,

Why should I read it?

15 authors picked Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

As the eagerly-anticipated new film Blade Runner 2049 finally comes to the screen, rediscover the world of Blade Runner . . .

World War Terminus had left the Earth devastated. Through its ruins, bounty hunter Rick Deckard stalked, in search of the renegade replicants who were his prey. When he wasn't 'retiring' them with his laser weapon, he dreamed of owning a live animal - the ultimate status symbol in a world all but bereft of animal life.

Then Rick got his chance: the assignment to kill six Nexus-6 targets, for a huge reward. But in Deckard's world things were…


Book cover of Applied Empathy: The New Language of Leadership

Minter Dial Why did I love this book?

With business conditions and prospects looking so difficult, we will need to be ever more strategic in the use of our resources. In this light, Michael Ventura’s practical approach to inserting empathy into leadership and how businesses should function with a higher degree of empathy is a tremendous read. Ventura uses a host of case studies based on the work he’s done with his company, Sub Rosa. As such, the material is real life and the book is packed with a host of great and practical exercises. While it’s all about empathy in business, the book is also a good reminder of how empathy can be useful in our private lives, our intimate relationships and in society in general. 

By Michael Ventura,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Applied Empathy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Michael Ventura, entrepreneur and CEO of award-winning strategy and design practice Sub Rosa, shares how empathy - the ability to see the world through someone else's eyes - could be what your business needs to innovate, connect, and grow.

Having built his career working with iconic brands and institutions such as Google and Nike, and also The United Nations and the Obama Administration, Michael Ventura offers entrepreneurs and executives a radical new business book and way forward.

Empathy is not about being nice. It's not about pity or sympathy either. It's about understanding - your consumers, your colleagues, and yourself…


Book cover of How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed

Minter Dial Why did I love this book?

As we continue to make advancements in artificial intelligence, it’s no doubt that our imagination, fiction and neuroscientific study will heavily influence the field of AI. This book provides fascinating insights into the functioning of the brain and the formation of the mind. Kurzweil explores how we might formulate artificial consciousness. I particularly loved the parts where the author explores how we think (e.g. non-directed and directed) and pattern recognition. While some of the material is a little hard to follow, what remains is a positive and reasonably optimistic vision of how we will live with machines and AI in the future.

By Ray Kurzweil,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked How to Create a Mind as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The bold futurist and bestselling author of The Singularity is Nearer explores the limitless potential of reverse-engineering the human brain

Ray Kurzweil is arguably today's most influential-and often controversial-futurist. In How to Create a Mind, Kurzweil presents a provocative exploration of the most important project in human-machine civilization-reverse engineering the brain to understand precisely how it works and using that knowledge to create even more intelligent machines.

Kurzweil discusses how the brain functions, how the mind emerges from the brain, and the implications of vastly increasing the powers of our intelligence in addressing the world's problems. He thoughtfully examines emotional…


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Trial, Error, and Success: 10 Insights into Realistic Knowledge, Thinking, and Emotional Intelligence

By Sima Dimitrijev, PhD, Maryann Karinch,

Book cover of Trial, Error, and Success: 10 Insights into Realistic Knowledge, Thinking, and Emotional Intelligence

Sima Dimitrijev, PhD Author Of Trial, Error, and Success: 10 Insights into Realistic Knowledge, Thinking, and Emotional Intelligence

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

My core value is realistic education—learning from each other’s errors and successes, but with full awareness of the difference between the determined past and the uncertain future. We can benefit from uncertainty, which I’ve been doing for a living as an engineer, academic researcher, and inventor. I make use of knowledge and science as much as possible, but I also know that strategic decisions for the uncertain future require skepticism and thinking to deal with the differences in a new circumstance. With my core value, I am passionate about sharing insights and knowledge that our formal education does not provide.

Sima's book list on realistic knowledge and decision making

What is my book about?

Everything in nature evolves by trial, error, and success—from fundamental physics, through evolution in biology, to how people learn, think, and decide.

This book presents a way of thinking and realistic knowledge that our formal education shuns. Stepping beyond this ignorance, the book shows how to deal with and even benefit from uncertainty by skeptical thinking, strategic decisions, and teamwork based on enlightened self-interests.

This bottom-up thinking is thought-provoking for leaders who wish to build teams rather than herds. The insights in the book will help you to be better prepared for the unexpected, less likely to conform when you…

Trial, Error, and Success: 10 Insights into Realistic Knowledge, Thinking, and Emotional Intelligence

By Sima Dimitrijev, PhD, Maryann Karinch,

What is this book about?

Everything in nature evolves by trial, error, and success. They didn't teach you this in school, even though you should know why the rigid laws of physics don't rule nature and don't inhibit your free-will decisions to try, fail, and succeed. As a guide to success, this book shows how skepticism, prudent use of science, and thinking lead to strategic decisions for the uncertain future.
 
Presenting real-life examples, the thinking in the book combines sharp analyses with broad analogies to show:
 
How to identify realistic knowledge and avoid harm due to overgeneralized concepts. How to create new knowledge and solve…


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Interested in empathy, artificial intelligence, and robots?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about empathy, artificial intelligence, and robots.

Empathy Explore 155 books about empathy
Artificial Intelligence Explore 292 books about artificial intelligence
Robots Explore 97 books about robots