I loved this animated talk, and I wanted to share it. It's only 10 minutes long, and every minute is compelling. I love how the study of child development is an important part of the conversation here.
Jeremy Rifkin on "the empathic civilization" Video on TED.com
This also puts me in mind of the Roots of Empathy curriculum, a Canadian program that I came across a couple of years ago. Very exciting ideas.
I'm also reminded of the work of Kenneth Dodge, a psychologist and researcher at Duke University who is interested in (among other things) studying children with aggressive and violent behavior. He and his fellow researchers are finding out that these children (and adults) haven't built the skills of reading another person's facial expressions and body language, and therefore are less able to empathize with the other person's feelings. Since they are unable to decode the others' cues, they tend to assume the worst and then act out. One of the things they are doing is breaking down the complex process of reading the cues of others, and then teaching these children how to do it, one step at a time.
There is very good work going on out there.