Roland T. Rust and Ming Hui-Huang’s The Feeling Economy: An Uncertainly Holistic View of the Future
In an era where black is white, up is down, and everything is what it seems or nothing is have become common conjectures in everyday discourse and thought, distinguished professorial figures Roland T. Rust and Ming Hui-Huang present ruminations intriguingly more complex. With the release of their new book The Feeling Economy: How Artificial Intelligence Is Creating the Era of Empathy, Rust and Huang shy away from salutations akin to Hawking’s disastrous prediction of the ever-sentient mechanical god, or the equally glib proposal of a programmable, ‘friendly AI’. Instead they focus on the distinct socioeconomic and psychosocial impacts said AI will have on a global scale, creating a so-called ‘Feeling Economy’ where in lieu of necessary, on-the-ground strategic and critical thinking typical of a pre-techno world human beings will be tasked with expanding upon empathetic values. This, Rust and Huang expertly articulate, may lead to seismic shifts in domestic policy – in effect creating the paradox of reconnecting us by way of superior intelligences overseeing agency and productivity.
Like any true, critical thinker, Rust and Huang don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater concerning their new predictions. In a feeling economy, they note there will still be statistical winners and losers. There will always remain a divide between those who can access the full benefits of said artificially intelligent technology, and those who won’t. In the process, this will rewrite the code of conduct with respect to concepts such as income inequality and trickle down economics, Rust and Huang proposing that the Silicon Valley universal basic income policy will become fully defensible and a mandatory new right in the face of such technological advances. In further chapters of the book, they highlight more specific social issues being impacted by a feeling economy’s rise.
One of the most noteworthy is women’s rights, particularly with an emphasis on perceived gender differences in the physiology of the brain. Rust and Huang boldly cite statistics highlighting observed strengths and weakness in both gender groups, then pull the rug out from under said statistics by imagining the implications the pros and cons rendered obsolete by a genderless, superiorly programmed third party. The result, in Rust and Huang’s minds, will see something of a noteworthy reversal of predominant gender roles as we know them today. In an economy where individuals are motivated not by work-based achievement but through empathetic and complex, psychosocial reasoning, women likely will come out on top due to studied, innate characteristics in females that score higher in said departments than men.
In short, Rust and Huang are too good to sing the praises of a feeling economy like it’s a shining, white knight golden age. But they’re also smart and articulate enough to state for a wide audience the potential benefits and significant game changes it could promise for marginalized groups, technological advances, policy changes, and societal betterment as a whole. The results regardless of stone-cold data are inspiring to think about. That’s to be seriously commended…
Review by Alexander Marais, posted by Nicole Killian