[Note] This phenomenal project has been a vulcan mind-meld with my colleagues Zahra, Carl and Karen. We met in June over the internet through a joint course at University of Houston and OCAD exploring Future Design Fictions.
I was interested in the Future of Relationships and how they were evolving. I disagreed with the idea, going around the web at the time, that technology was decreasing positive human interactions. I had a different experience. Technology enabled me to be more intimate with people regardless of physical proximity. I expressed an interest in exploring this topic; Carl, Karen and Zahra were equally interested and we quickly formed a research team.
The results of our collaboration, a corporation that creates embedded emotion communication devices, was presented our session at SXSW: The New Age of Technology Enhanced Intimacy. Where we had a provocative conversation with our audience (tweet archive #techimacy). (Voice recording will be posted shortly.)
We're comfortable expressing ourselves on blogs, twitter and facebook. Some people think there is a problem with oversharing. (In the early blogging days, this was called naked blogging.) We're equally comfortable consuming, commenting and conversing with other people.
There's an awareness that people process emotions differently. But it's often hard for people to really understand the difference in emotional expression/understanding. I particularly like autism reframed as neurodiversity, rather than a disease. (Perhaps this is a way of the human being responding in evolution to environmental changes. We don't know.)
In the future, I envision a language of emotions and a further language of intimacy. Take this heat map of emotions. From a body perspective we can see where we "feel" these emotions. But in what intensity? And who is to say that I feel happiness the same way you do. Or love. Or fear. Or anger? We don't have a baseline emotional alphabet - yet. We're just starting to have the technology available to construct this alphabet. This baseline emotional alphabet is critical for a variety of reasons.
It's a pre-requisite for emotion to emotion communication - to have a syntax of emotion. And it's absolutely critical for the development of AI systems. We've got a great understanding of logic - but emotions? To messy. However at some point, for AI to evolve - it will have to have an emotional understanding. And not just a programmed emotional understanding.
I like analogies. I'm a writer. I communicate emotional states through words. Poetry does this. Putting together combinations of words to map to the complex emotional state I am experiencing, that I want to share with you. A good poem does that. But imagine being able to really feel what I am feeling.
We're entering a new frontier.
Twitter for Emotions.
I describe EMP-Connect as Twitter/Instagram for emotions. Like both Twitter and Instagram, you curate what you put out and at what level of vulnerability: publicly, selectively or privately.
Imagine you are walking on a beach, feeling calm and peaceful and connected to the world. You want to take a snapshot of that experience and share it with a friend, or you mom, or maybe you want to keep it to revisit it later (for example, during Zahra's 14 hour work day). Maybe you want to take a snapshot when you're in a deep meditative space to share with others what it feels like to have a deep sense of calm and peace. Maybe you want to take a snapshot at the protest rally, when a cop beats you. Or you are sexually harassed. So that others can feel what it feels like.
It's not about Sex
“If there is increased empathy, compassion and tolerance, and you are able to deeply, intimately connect, then you can choose to have down and dirty sex or you can choose to have really soul connecting sex,” Schlegel says.
By 2027, adult performers could be sharing their orgasms with viewers, according to the UME Corporation website. Sex workers could also sell their emotional experiences recorded during sex to many customers, without having sex with them.
People intrigued by sex acts they aren’t ready to try might also be able to buy the experiences, Schlegel adds.
Sex can have intimacy. But sex doesn't always have or need intimacy. While sex, intimacy and technology is titillating, I find it obvious and thus, not very intellectually challenging. There are many applications outside the realm of sex (many headlines are in the presentation above and were discussed in the session). Check out UME's guidance modules for the tip of the iceberg.
I find it exciting to envision a technology that increases a literacy of intimacy. What would a world with increased intimacy literacy be like? I imagine it to have more tolerance, compassion and empathy - both for others and ourselves. An increased sense of awareness of other perspectives - and respect that goes with a deep visceral understanding that these other views, perspectives do not threaten yours.
My mind was blow when one of the audience members asked, "How do you scale intimacy?" Since the panel, I've been thinking not just the infrastructure necessary for this (this seems fairly obvious following the network and wearables trends) - but the implications! What are the implications of a world with scaled intimacy? That's what really excited me.
Update: Carl just sent this article that shows how a combination of facial recognition and computer algorithms can read your emotions better than people! This video reads straight out of early UME Corporation marketing!
Update 2: I just found this fantastic Talk by TJ Dawe on Collective Intelligence, Empathy and the Dualistic Brain. It's really great! h/t @goonth