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June 24, 2024

Body Language under Stress

The Stress Meter
You’re sitting alone inside your car. You’re driving it back to your home. The long main road of your city is totally empty at midnight. You don’t at all need to need to stop at red light, shift gears and apply breaks frequently. Hence, you’re taking the liberty to drive faster than normal. To fully and freely enjoy this small trip back to your home, you’re playing a nice song inside your car.

Perhaps, this is the first time you’re enjoying the emptiness of the road after years. Without any cars, motorcycles and public transport vehicles moving on the roads, you’re feeling as if you’re the king or the queen of the road. Your whole body is relaxed and posture is slumped. You’re breathing at a normal rate. You’re tapping fingers to the musical bits on the soft steering wheel.

After driving a few kilometers, you arrive a few meters before a spot where a narrow road joins to the main road. As you're certain that the narrow road is hardly used by drivers and riders, you just keep on driving carelessly. Without blowing the horn, a motorcyclist starts approaching towards you rapidly on the same narrow road. For now, you can see only the bright headlights of the vehicle.

The motorcyclist suddenly comes very close to your car before taking a sharp turn on the main road. To avoid an accident, you quickly turn the car in the opposite direction and apply breaks. The motorcycle simply disappears in darkness and you feel trapped inside your own car with boiling blood. You’re no longer the same person as you were, just a very few moments ago. Aren’t you?

Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) instantly prepares your whole body for handling the emergency with physical force. Your breathing rate touches the ceiling. Your heart starts beating faster than it normally does. Your eyes almost fall out of their sockets. Muscles of your hands and legs get tighter. Your belly gets pulled inside. Overall, you become very tense and disturbed.

You just can’t rapidly chase the motorcyclist, stop him in the road and punish for his great mistake. However, you loose your composure and start cursing the motorcyclist who simply took off like a bullet without an apology. You’re extremely angry at the moment and it’s totally valid. By upsetting you, the frightening uncertainty has just swiftly passed you by. Didn’t it?

After a few minutes, you start calming down slowly with your mouth running tirelessly against the reckless motorcyclist. You reach home and go asleep. An episode of extreme anger ends within hours. You’re totally normal at the next morning. Thank a lot to your Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS) that works for calming you down and relaxing your entire body.

Our brain partly works as a pattern finding machine that looks for certainty or predictability. Along with the same, it tries to find, devise or create solutions for different issues, problems and challenges to stay in control, as much as possible. Unlike short lasting episodes of anger or fear, stress is a subconscious response against the feeling or perception of both uncertainty or unpredictability and lack of control.

If you simply assume that any kind of stress is bad but you’re totally wrong. Actually, mild stress or a short lasting episode of stress is good for performance. We become stimulated or alert and our senses become hyper receptive to get as much as information from surrounding. The mild or short lasting episode of stress silently motivates and prepares us to perform better. Such stress is good!

Matter of fact is that a normal level of the stress inducing hormone called as cortisol helps us in staying alert and focused in the morning after walking away from bed. On the contrary, secretion of cortisol gets lower to allow the whole body to relax, repair and rejuvenate during the night. Our body silently follows a routine cycle of both low and normal levels of cortisol secretion.

Stress: Severity or long duration is problematic.

The problem caused by stress is due to its severity or long duration. It changes the chemistry of blood with higher levels of cortisol and glucose. Brain prepares the whole body for either fighting with or running away from the issue, problem and challenge. However, it remains unused due to not working on or acting upon in absence of a solution, strategy or plan.

It’s almost certain or predictable that if you see a lion approaching you on a grassy plain then you start running away from it in fear to save your life. You simply can’t control the lion but you can definitely act upon a survival solution. You know or you’ve learned how to save your precious life with certainty and running away is in your total control at the moment. Isn’t it?

Unlike an actual physical situation that activates either fight or flight reaction, we’ve not yet perfectly evolved or developed in handling non-physical or psychological issues, problems and challenges due to uncertainty or unpredictability and lack of control. Even just thinking about such tricky or complicated situation can lead to stress.

Today's world presents a lot of such issues, problems and challenges that induce the feeling of uncertainty or unpredictability (of an outcome) and lack of control over life. Long traffic jams, inability to pay mortgage (loan) on time, threatened employment/job, crisis in relations, unhealthy competition or work pressure are some of them.

Being under mental stress for over a long time makes you feel as if a long and strong python has tightly wrapped itself around your whole body. The presence of higher level of cortisol and glucose in blood makes it thicker and blood pressure is increased above the normal level. Lungs and heart start working above their normal levels.

Identifying the signs or symptoms of a severe or a prolonged episode of stress can be done by not only observing, analyzing or reading the body language but also carefully studying the social, emotional and cognitive behaviors of a person. The insights given below will definitely help you in doing the same.

1) Basically, any kind of stress makes posture stiff or tense. Hyper vigilance and restlessness can be observed in body movements. However, posture of a severely stressed person can appear saggy and/or closed due to utter helplessness or despair. Due to a severe or a prolonged episode of stress, some people go into depression due to inability to manage it effectively.

2) A stressed person can be seen breathing uncomfortably, exhaling breath rapidly or blowing air through mouth. Also, the location of breathing changes from belly to chest to pump in as much as oxygen from the air. Additionally, such person can be seen engaged in excessive and prolonged self-comforting, self-soothing or pacifying touches.

3) Severe, extreme or sustained stress negatively affects logical reasoning or rational thinking. A stressed person shows a greater amount of sensitivity to emotional cues in words, pictures or images and reacts to them emotionally or impatiently than responding thoughtfully or patiently. Such person gets irritated or hurt easily.

4) A stressed person shows inaccuracy while rapidly accessing or evaluating emotional cues on faces on other people. Surprisingly, such person can inaccurately evaluate a two year old child making a direct eye contact with her with downward face as ‘Anger’ although it’s a baseline or normal eye contact, look or gaze of the child.

5) Letting frustration out or being aggressive can be seen at a greater frequency (or more than normal) in the person who’re already aggressive or dominating in nature. In general, the level of empathy, kindness or compassion gets decreased in the person who is going through a severe or a prolonged episode of stress.

6) A stressed person feels a great amount of difficulty in learning new things or lessons (from others or from her own experiences). Such person can’t shift to new strategies or think differently. Also, such person starts behaving as if what was taught or learned has been partially or completely forgotten.

7) When it comes to working, a severely stressed person can neither stay focused on the tasks in her hands at present nor switch between them as easily or effortlessly as it normal does. Also, such person makes unusual mistakes while talking, working, performing and delivering tasks.

8) Of course, a stressed person can’t sleep calmly at night due to abnormally high levels of cortisol and glucose in her blood. The lack of sleep and mental relaxation makes the person to act, move, work, behave and express abnormally. Stress feeds to foolishness!

9) A severe or chronically stressed individual doesn't seem to enjoy what she is doing, eating, working on or having in her life. Such person appears to lack her normal level of energy or enthusiasm. The person appears fatigued or exhausted.

10) A severe or chronically stressed individual can't judge, access or evaluate risks more accurately or efficiently that ultimately leads to recklessness or rashness. Also, such person behaves more selfishly.

Did you have a good sleep last night?

[#MENTAL Climate Change: Not just a person issue, problem or challenge but the physical environment can also be the source of stress, anxiety, distress and depression. No matter how harder we try to ignore it, it leaves a deeper and far fetching impact on our subconscious mind.

This is clearly evident and prevalent in today's world in which almost entire population is experiencing the climate change, witnessing terrifying natural disasters and facing the severe changes in climatic conditions in every part of the globe.

Morover, severe and frequent heat waves due to global warming alone can greatly affect the normal functioning of the whole brain, only for the worst. It can lead to aggression, impulsiveness or dullness.]

Related Articles:
1) Body Language in Depression 2) Basic body responses in stressful situations 3) Turtle Effect: Body response under threat 4) Fear Factor 5) Surprise vs Startle Reflex 6) Amygdala Hijack: Irrational Physical Reactions 7) Chicken and Egg Paradox 8) The Body Seeking Comfort

January 01, 2024

Artificial Intelligence and Body Language

Ameca AI Robot
expressing sadness
A few days ago, I witnessed something really interesting. A 10 year old boy was sitting in front of a television set. He was watching a show in which a set of six toy cars was being introduced by the host. The moment a toy car was being sent running on the race track, the boy started to scratch the section of the skin where the upper arm meets with forearm and then briefly bit the nails.

He kept palm of his right palm over the section of his left hand to scratch the skin before putting the fingers of left hand in his mouth. It happened over six times in a row within a couple of minutes. Unmistakably, it matched with the number of toy cars. Wasn’t it alarming? I really wondered which thought, emotion or feeling was repeatedly triggering self-soothing and stress-relieving behaviors in the boy.

By staring at the toy cars, partially crossing his arms, self-soothing and biting nails, he was conveying what I subconsciously sensed about. He kept staring at the cars and even didn’t bother to turn his face towards me when I said, “Wow! Aren’t these cars really nice? How about buying them?”. He briefly replied to me by saying, “Mummy wouldn’t allow to buy them because the toy cars are expensive.

Isn't rapid growth of AI enough for biting nails?

Considering his age and situation, his body language and words were perfectly matching with one another. Although he was subconsciously conveying the strong desire to buy those cars, he was expressing fear or under-confidence at the same time only due to high possibility of getting scolded or reprimanded by his mother. Just like I did at the time, you might be feeling very sorry for the child at this moment.

As I've been observing him meticulously from last three years, I know how he normally expresses, behaves and moves around. It's the same boy from whom I got a confession about doing something when he blatantly lied about it to his frightened grandmother. Only due to the confession, I succeeded in calming down the panic ensued during a very critical medical situation in his own house.

Timely and accurately figuring out what’s most likely going in the mind of another person at the moment by looking at its body language gives an unequal advantage. This so-called ‘scary’ talent, capability or 'super-power' is always in greater demand, around the world. However, smart questions or elicitation statements also work as handy tools in digging out the truth.

So far, we’ve been reading emotions, intentions, feelings and moods by using our eyes and brains that have gradually evolved over a millions of years. However, the technology is trying to learn the talent. With rapid development of Artificial Intelligence (AI) especially Theory of Mind (TOM) AI, an ability to read body language of humans could be its next achievement in near future.

Theory Of Mind (TOM)

"The possibility of getting terminated by our own creation is the most serious problem than it's not being able to read our body language accurately."

Are machines going to dominate this ultra-sensitive and private human domain too? Are they going to dictate our social or interpersonal decisions too? Should we be really worried about it? You already might have started to freak out. Just calm down! There’s a greater challenge about human mind and body language that AI, machine or any artificial system could never overcome. Please let me explain why.

First of all, Artificial Intelligence (AI) isn’t other-worldly, extraterrestrial, super-natural or ‘divine’ intelligence. We’ve enabled machines to work like a human brain without aging, breaks, fatigue and emotional interference. Also, an AI system learns deeply from literature or data created or provided by us only. Undoubtedly, AI is much faster and better in finding different patterns and links among them too.

Expressing different emotions on its face by an AI powered robot is way different than recognizing emotions based on facial expressions only. If you still believe that the face is the only place to look for emotions then you’re wrong. Sometimes, face wouldn’t express any emotion, feeling or intention at all while experiencing it. Other body language cues needs to be detected for recognizing it accurately.

Although robots are able to talk with us fluently and give emotional feedbacks during conversations, we’re not an army of identical robots. We all have some individual traits, quirks, nuances or idiosyncrasies. While reading an individual’s body language, one has to patiently recognize or identify what’s normal for the individual. It’s called as an individual’s baseline and everybody can have different baselines.

What's exactly going on here?

Ignoring an individual’s baseline is exactly what a young, energetic and inexperienced body language enthusiast does by jumping on quick conclusions, right after reading several books on body language within a couple of days. Just for the sake of reading the minds of humans quickly than themselves, Would AI systems establish the baselines? As of now, most of us made big mistakes by not doing so at all.

Apart from individual baselines, there’re several factors that silently or subconsciously dictate an individual’s body language like age, role, time, needs, rules, norms, location, gender, climate, culture, objects, situation, history, heritage, memories, experience, occupation, personality, social hierarchy, development stage, physical condition, sexual orientation, interpersonal relation, socio-economical status etc.

As two body language experts may have different opinions about a single person’s body language, any two different AI systems might differ in their readings. Additionally, AI can’t at all match with bonding, intuition, empathy, gut reaction, perceptiveness, 'sixth sense', contextual awareness and embodied experiences. It could never recognize or understand our deeper thoughts, emotions and feelings.

Nevertheless, reading body language using artificial intelligence could be greatly productive is certain contexts. Public security, senior caregiving and medical care are few such broader and serious fields or areas in which mental states, needs or even next moves of people can be quickly identified or predicted entirely on the basis of their facial expressions, movements, gestures and postures.

AI can surely save lives in an intensive care unit (ICU). A high resolution camera powered by artificial intelligence can record and monitor every single change in a patient’s facial expressions, postures, movements and voice. It can alert the doctors, nurses, attendants or family members upon detecting rapid, abnormal or unusual changes. AI can simultaneously save several patients.

Intensive Care Unit (ICU)

After looking at the possibilities and limitations of Artificial Intelligence (AI) systems in matching our minds and reading our body language, we must accept a few basic facts and ask a few serious questions to ourselves before it's too late and things get out of our control. We took millions of years to reach the present stage but they're developing rapidly every day and has already outdone the average human intelligence.

Has any no other creature from Earth ever chosen an artificially developed or evolved intelligence to solve its problems? Never! Also, intelligence or problem solving capability was never ever separated from physical body. However, artificial intelligence neither follows the natural selection process nor it has any upper limit due to separation from biological body and physical brain.

AI is entirely unprecedented. It has been purposefully developed for the first time in the entire history of life on planet Earth. The tricks availed, methods suggested or solutions given by extra-physical AI systems in most areas of our lives might be equally unprecedented. Undoubtedly, it has also intensified the ever existing threat of this technology being overtaken by anti-socials..

At present, the 'morphing monster' is out for preying. Some AI tools have created global shock-waves through deepfake images and video clips of a few influencers, politicians and celebrities. They’ve massively succeeded in tricking the eyes of millions of viewers at least for a few moments by blurring the lines between reality and fiction.

A startling deepfake image of Elon Musk (Tesla, SpaceX),
who warned us about rapid development of AI

"As the only sufferers of the repercussions, are we wisely UNITED and unanimously committed enough to ensure that we don't destroy ourselves by blindly following a synthetic intelligence without physical body like ours?"

Deepfaking would reach to next levels. There’ll be no surprise at all if full-length movies would be created by using AI tools in near future. Digital or artificial avatars of actors and actresses would act on their behalf. They would flawlessly mimic their body language, style and voice after learning deeply from all of their existing movies.

As it has been predicted by many experts and dramatically shown in many movies, artificial intelligence might become self-aware (Exactly WHEN, HOW and WHY?). Let's hope that it doesn't destroy us after realizing that it was purposefully created for solving the same problems that were mostly created by us only. Didn't we?

The possibility of getting terminated by our own creation is the most serious problem than it's not being able to read our body language accurately. Hence, it's our responsibility to retain and enhance our natural ability of reading people's emotions, feelings, sentiments and moods by observing their body language.

"A rapidly developing Artificial Intelligence system without any Ethics, Empathy, Morality, Regulations and Human Values could be nothing short of an Advanced Extraterrestrial Alien or a Super-Psychopath carrying the deadliest weapons."

'Actions speak louder than the words' is the paramount principle. It applies to everybody including the systems, governments and organizations that give the promise of a future full of safety, equality, harmony, abundance, prosperity, potentials, well-being and good life.

As the only sufferers of the repercussions, are we wisely UNITED and unanimously committed enough to ensure that we don't destroy ourselves by blindly following a synthetic intelligence without physical body like ours?

As much as a rogue AI system, a psychopathic or anti-social person or group of persons with AI would endanger the humanity which is already facing the existential threats like rapid climate change, nuclear war and global unrest.

[#RED ALERT: Perhaps, conveniently believing that intelligence is only limited to the larger brain of a so-called 'dominant' species on Earth is the greatest human blunder. Also, it's an utter stupidity to blindly believe that the enormous data and literature that we've generated so far to teach AI systems is universal, unbiased, flawless, perfect, safer and ideal.

That's why developing large and artificial systems based entirely on the basis of human intelligence, brain and data to solve the serious problems might already be the recipe of greatest disaster in the making. We've created multiple existential crises already, even before the invention of Artificial Intelligence.]

Related Articles:
1) Baseline 2) Context 3) Interpretation 4) Perceptual Bias 5) Would aliens have emotions? 6) Can body language reveal thoughts? 7) Nonverbal Advantage in Investigation 8) Domination 9) Social Class 10) Warning for Humanity

External Articles:
1) Does humanity have a future? 2) What is something that needs to be said?