Dan Chen’s Intimacy Machines, or “Making friends by making them.” “What is intimacy without humanity?”
At least since the release of “Her”, the science fiction film written, directed and produced by Spike Jonze in which the introverted Theodore falls in love with the mellifluous and understanding voice of “Samantha”, his new intelligent computer operating system, we have been questioning the extent to which human feelings such as intimacy, emotional security and affection can be replaced — or even satisfied less painfully, given the virtual absence of rejection, failure and worry in this scenario — by artificial systems. Surveys suggest that in countries such as Japan, sex now plays a less significant role for younger generations, who apparently regard the emotional involvement that inevitably accompanies sexual relationships as too complicated. Moreover, predictions suggest that in future the search for a partner will increasingly shift to the options offered by dating websites, their success rates primarily powered by algorithms rather than hormone-driven emotions. That first date, those stumbling moments of first acquaintance, those damp palms and butterflies in the stomach — they all seem so long gone in a romanticised vision of the past. But how do moments of intimacy in the virtual world differ from those experienced in reality?