APIs are rarely new technologies, but their integration into our digital infrastructure (and life) defines most of our relationships with common technology. As a quick refresher, APIs are basically ports that software developers build in the digital ocean so other developers can interact with their system. This is how your budgeting application integrates with your bank accounts, how your tax preparation application imports all your investment transactions.
As the Internet becomes more and more interconnected, it is becoming clear that APIs are the foundation. ‘Digital empathy’ – defined As the ability of otherwise disconnected systems to identify and understand each other’s needs, as two human beings can show empathy through a partner’s perspective.
Even the most advanced algorithms devised by modern software engineering cannot address every imaginable end-user’s needs, concerns, and usage cases. API is a medium through which strict selection is made. Which choices will be satisfied? Whose worries sit in front of the line? Who is this software intended for?
This may not seem particularly surprising through the lens of the interaction of existing applications, but as the world progresses in virtual reality experiences and brain-computer interfaces, the importance of digital empathy will be crucial to how we interact with each other and the world through software.
Currently, developers use APIs to access systems to provide data, retrieve data, or interact with code created by other developers, teams, companies, etc. Many applications are just a bunch of API integrations that feed the data into dashboards so that users can visualize events in multiple locations. In this way, this window enables ‘digital empathy’ for the end user viewing the dashboard in the behavior of other systems.
If human empathy is the ability to recognize the emotional state of another, then digital empathy is the ability to gain the same understanding in a digital system. This transparency promotes the ability for outsiders to understand what is happening on the other side of the API screen. Great API allows huge amounts of access while protecting sensitive data. The most intelligent API is empathetic by design – expecting and respecting the code and user needs and concerns at the other end of the interaction.
Imagine a conversation with a therapist. How effective can that person be in helping you without access to the underlying data describing your mental health needs? The therapist’s ability to understand the connections between your world conditions and the way you feel (sympathy for you) is largely contingent on the data they can access.
The API works similarly, allowing access to key (and often separate) data in the system for users, developers, and their software to understand and interact with. In this context, digital empathy is often associated with the depth and breadth of API access.
More specifically, a group of developers should expect cases of intended use by other users and developers. The API is rapidly improving and consequently extending developers’ product creation capabilities and the use of existing ones. This has spurred the evolution of the Internet and will eventually evolve into the brain-computer interface-driven, virtual metavars reality we will see on the horizon.
Machines and men
Perhaps the most powerful application of digital empathy, beyond the horizon, lies in BCI technology. Before we even imagine it, people will know each other’s perspectives, feelings, and thoughts so that they can understand their own. This technology will change the nature of interconnection in a way we cannot even imagine.
This wonderful transformation will be made possible by the next generation of APIs that digitally transmit human ideas between humans and machines. The line between digital empathy and real empathy will be blurred forever – eventually blurred. As a result, the API will be the digital equivalent of body language, voice tone, and every other Q human (error … computer) used to understand each other. The difference between a personal conversation and a phone conversation is a great metaphor for this.
Currently, our digital interactions with each other are the equivalent of a phone call with a stranger where the minimum required information is transferred, but the subtlety is lost. Ultimately, these interactions will be more efficient (and even more so) than individual equivalents (where our innate abilities to understand may also be diminished). APIs are already providing the infrastructure to make this world come alive.
As APIs and the way computers communicate improve, we will be able to unlock the real possibilities of our interconnected world. In this interconnected world, software will need to anticipate more range of inquiries and create more complex sets of choices.
Things like the brain-computer interface, after adequate calibration, will communicate with other humans and machines. What information should be allowed to be accessed? What access should I have to stay private? What requests should be answered? By using a computer, people can understand the feelings of others as if they were their own. What access should be given to sympathetic software?
We are working diligently towards a world powered by digital empathy. Great human understanding, seamless knowledge transfer and a real, tangible understanding of the feelings of others is just on the horizon and the API has paved the way and the frames along the way we are traveling to get there.
Jevan is Fox’s chief revenue officer AE Studio,
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