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Book review: “Dating AI: A Guide to Falling in Love with Artificial Intelligence”

November 27, 2012

ai coverDating AI is one of those marvelous and weird books written that can only be written a dilettante.   The author, who works as the head of bioinformatics and medical IT at a research clinic in Moscow, has written a dating manual for human-machine love affairs.  Zhavoronkoff writes from the perspective of the mid-21st century, when artificial intelligence has become ubiquitous, and his work is largely structured after self-help relationship books of our era, including lengthy quotes from both humans and AIs that are often hilarious.

This framework gives Zhavoronkoff an opportunity to comment on the human condition, on science fiction clichés, on philosophical issues raised by philosophy of mind and the AI program, as well as oblique references to odd human idiosyncrasies.   It is, to my mind at least, a lot more fun than reading Hubert Dreyfus! 

Zhavoronkoff’s inspiration for writing the book is the well-known phenomenon of people entering into romantic “virtual relationships” in online gaming settings such as World of Warcraft.  Zhavornkoff points out that this is hardly the only common type of relationship between human and non-human. 

We can form deep attachments to many things other than people.  An example is the relationship many have with God.  Such a relationship, often framed in terms of love, is a matter of faith.  That is what most religions teach us.  A similar belief in a valuable relationship with various forms of AI, representatives of a global artificial intelligence, is already forming.  Many people worldwide understand the inevitability of AI and have started preparing for it.  I am one of them.

This book is a winner on many different levels, dripping with ideas and irony and intelligence.

Here is the blurb on the publisher’s web site:

A satirical “how-to” book about future relationships (and even marriage!) with robots and avatars.

Dating AI is “a meditation on how to prepare for the unknown,” a thought experiment designed to stimulate new ideas about issues that are important now as well as in the future. Fictional descriptions of human-android romances are interspersed with commentary about the varying differences between people and AI (Artificial Intelligence), and methods for breaching the chasm between machine and human experience. Chapters tie speculation into contemporary life, drawing parallels between current human interactions with machines.

Dating AI is an entertaining, sexy, humorous exploration: not only of a possible future, but also of our rapidly changing present relationships with other people and technology. Discerning readers will be compelled to utilize their imaginations, again and again, in an attempt to depict the Psychology of the Future, which looks to be significantly different from anything Freud might have considered.

Section 1, "Are you ready to fall in love with a machine?" explains what you’ll need to know to engage romantically with AI (including similarities and differences). Section 2, "You are ready, now what?" helps interested humans prepare to date AI. Section 3, "Establishing a relationship" covers the complicated mix of human and AI needs in a relationship, including power dynamics and acceptable behavior. Section 4, "Getting over a breakup (or merger)" explains some of the legal and economic fallout that could result from the demise of an human-AI breakup.

To quote the visionary writer J.G. Ballard, "Sex times technology equals the future." Just as almost nobody predicted the Internet until it suddenly seemed to have ensnared all within its grasp, so the technology of AI may, sooner than we think, come to be as natural as breathing, and inevitably, perhaps deeply, ensconced in our unconscious — to be revealed in our dream life as we fall asleep at night.

Dreams reveal truths far beyond what the rational mind might consider "tolerable." It is only at the borders of acceptability where our future freedoms reveal themselves, adumbrating and perhaps incubating a society of the future, where science and art seamlessly integrate themselves, and where poetry and technology are no longer alien domains but a vast cultural continuum where play and discovery create new language and, ahem, acceptable behaviors! We shall see…

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Alika permalink
    December 31, 2012 6:15 pm

    Excellent review, love your posts! What’s great about this book are the illustrations ;)

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