As technology disrupts and defines how we live our lives, two nonfiction books explore how it has shaped society up to this point and how it will affect what it means to be human in the future.
In a nondescript building in an office park in Southern California lies the future of human relationships. Or that’s what Abyss Creations founder Matthew McMullen would have us believe. In Sex Robots and Vegan Meat: Adventures at the Frontier of Birth, Food, Sex, and Death, journalist Jenny Kleeman speaks to CEOs like McMullen, as well as scientists, professors and ethicists, to investigate new technologies that are poised to change essential industries and human interactions.
As McMullen competes with other robotics companies to bring the first fully functional, lifelike sex robot to market, the world must contend with the ethical implications of subservient sex robots that are designed to look and act human but that consist of artificial intelligence, silicone and complex circuitry instead of warm flesh and blood. In other chapters, Kleeman investigates the new industry of plant-based, vegan “meat,” which tastes like a burger or steak without the abattoir, animal suffering or impact on global climate change. She then moves on to the future of childbirth (which involves artificial wombs called “biobags”) and a 3D-printed device that could make euthanasia more accessible. Thoroughly entertaining and written with humor and sly intuition, Sex Robots and Vegan Meat is an account of the future that will have you questioning whether technology is helping or hindering human progress.
As current technologies, especially artificial intelligence and robotics, continue to develop, they will force changes in how we structure our work and family lives. One example from history is the plow. It changed humans from egalitarian, freewheeling hunters and gatherers into a society of small families with strict gender roles and private land to cultivate. In Work Mate Marry Love: How Machines Shape Our Human Destiny, Harvard Business School professor Debora L. Spar examines historical links between technology, gender, work and family to imagine what the future might look like.
Starting in 8,000 B.C. and writing all the way into the present, Spar argues that nearly all the decisions we make in our intimate lives, including sex and marriage, are driven by technology. This detailed and deeply researched book lands at the intersection of history, feminist theory and futurism and will enrich your understanding of humanity’s pliant adaptability. Most of all, Work Mate Marry Love lends insight into whether technology can help us live more equal, fulfilling lives in the future.