Roland Rust and co-author Ming-Hui Huang are experienced education figures whose book The Feeling Economy: How Artificial Intelligence Is Creating the Era of Empathy predicts a brighter future for the growing AI revolution than the chorus of naysayers cautioning against its increasing influence. One can ascribe a progressive point of view to Rust’s and Huang’s ideas, but I can’t stress how important it is we divorce political persuasion from contemplating this issue. The writers believe AI has the wide-ranging potential to improve human interactions on a variety of fronts.
It is impressive how strong they argue this point in relatively few pages. Despite its diminutive duration, The Feeling Economy benefits from an abundance of references and research. It never obscures the fine writing present from beginning to end. The writers, despite their academic backgrounds, never “talk” above the heads of their readers and relate several involved concepts to the reader in clear unvarnished terms. This willingness to connect to readers on their level is a principal strength driving this book and will help it endure long past its publication date.
Some of their arguments might seem specious. The idea that recent American political events, such as the 2016 election of Donald Trump, illustrate the increasing dominance of emotion over rational thought disregards ample historical examples of politicians cannily manipulating the body politics’ emotions in pursuit of power. This isn’t a recent development. For every miss, however, Rust and Huang nail multiple examples of how the increasing power of feelings in society shapes our present and future.
It isn’t all cheerleading for AI. Rust and Huang explore its dark potential at various points during the book’s sixteen chapters. They stress that any possibility of a singularity, AI surpassing human intelligence in all areas, exists decades in the future. They do not consider such end points as a foregone conclusion, however, and this is where they differ sharply from many other authors on the subject. Focusing on that dark potential might make for a more gripping article or book, but is only a small part of a much larger picture.
Visual aids are present within the book. Figures, charts, and tables are important for fleshing out the material in a different way. They are simple in design and communicate their intended information.
Roland Rust and Ming-Hui Huang’s book is an important contribution to the burgeoning body of literature examining artificial intelligence and will not soon seem passé. The Feeling Economy: How Artificial Intelligence Is Creating the Era of Empathy provides readers an extensive look at one of the defining issues of our time. We are indebted to them for bringing such a thoughtful point of view to the fore and there’s much to be gained from reading this book. Let’s hope they continue to write about this subject more as its effects continue to tighten their grip on the modern world.