Artificial Intimacy (Rob Brooks, NewSouth)
According to evolutionary biologist Rob Brooks, the future holds an abundance of artificial intimacy. New sex technologies, from sex robots to virtual reality porn, will anticipate our every desire. So clever will the algorithms mining our personal data be that they will predict our every need. Dating apps will cut out the time wasted swiping and scrolling, express matching us with life partners we never knew we were meant for. Even further, machines could learn fantasies we never knew we had. If all this sounds daunting, Brooks does weigh the possible negatives. Too much time spent enjoying ArtInt (artificial intimacies) could take time away from real-life relationships; behemoth tech companies knowing your most private desires wouldn’t be able to resist the financial opportunities. But on balance, Brooks believes, the good will outweigh the bad: the lonely and sex-starved will get some relief and society will benefit from a more contented population. From primatology to today’s incel culture of sexually frustrated young men, Artificial Intimacy takes a historical survey of human sexuality, employing the disciplines of economics, psychology and evolutionary science. Witty, accessible, always fascinating but surely contentious, this is popular science that will appeal to readers of Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens.
Chris Saliba is a co-owner of North Melbourne Books and a freelance reviewer.