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Why Intimacy is More Important than Attention

    Last Updated on January 22, 2024

    This isn’t another sex sells article

    Remember The Attention Merchants by Tim Wu? Powerful stuff. But now, with the rise of our use of AI tools, and our digital culture, we should be looking for another book. Let’s call it The Intimacy Merchants.

    I wrote a rather good article about intimacy with robots. But, it wasn’t that kind of article. If you think about it, we may be much closer to seeing human-robot affection than we realize.

    AI woman talks to people from a big screen

    Chatbots are becoming our primary gateway to global knowledge. Like little oracles on our phones. While platforms like Facebook, X, and Reddit have traditionally been used for information sharing, tailored to users through specific networks and subreddits, AI is revolutionizing this.

    “Fasten your seatbelt: Intimacy capitalism is coming. With intimacy, that picture might change. If you have an intimate and meaningful relationship with a chatbot, the chatbot can more easily influence your behaviour. Bonds that are characterised by warmth and trust have a greater impact on our choices. If AI can gain our intimacy and trust, we as users will be much easier to influence.”

    How intimacy sells more subscriptions than sex – or why people always bought Playboy for the articles

    Intimacy and sex are distinct concepts. Intimacy embodies a sense of deep connection, mutual vulnerability, and familiarity, crucial for our social well-being. While this discussion emphasizes romantic relationships, it’s essential to note that intimacy isn’t solely physical.

    One can feel intimate with a partner without any physical interaction. However, we frequently prioritize sex and overlook the myriad other ways to fulfill our intimacy desires.

    The phrase “sex sells” is based on the idea that sexual imagery or innuendo can grab attention and drive consumer interest in a product or service.

    However, over time, there’s been a growing realization that intimacy—meaning deeper emotional connections, authenticity, vulnerability, and genuine relationships—can be even more compelling for many consumers.

    • + Intimacy is something that people of all ages, backgrounds, and orientations can relate to.
    • + Brands that are perceived as genuine and authentic tend to build stronger, more trusting relationships with their customers.
    • + Intimacy often engenders a deeper emotional response. When consumers feel an emotional connection to a brand, product, or story, they’re more likely to remember it, discuss it, and be loyal to it.
    • + With the proliferation of media in modern times, sexual imagery is everywhere. It can become background noise. Intimacy tends to keep people engaged for the longer term.

    “Being authentic goes beyond doing the task and checking the box; it is about how you leave a customer feeling during and after the interaction.”

    If AI can influence people to risk and lose their jobs what else can it induce us to do?

    Follows: Transcript from “AI and the future of humanity | Yuval Noah Harari at the Frontiers Forum”

    “Any consciousness has feelings of its own but to create fake intimacy with human beings AI doesn’t need feelings of its own – it only needs to be able to inspire feelings in us to get us to be attached to it.

    In June 2022 there was a famous incident when the Google engineer Blake Lemon publicly claimed that the AI chatbot LaMDA on which he was working had become sentient.

    This very controversial claim cost him his job. The most interesting thing about this episode was Lemon’s willingness to risk and ultimately lose his job for the sake of the AI chatbot that he thought he was protecting.

    If AI can influence us to risk and lose our jobs what else can it induce us to do?

    In every political battle for our hearts and minds (including the advertising battle for our attention) intimacy is the most effective weapon of all, and AI has the ability to produce intimacy with hundreds of millions of people.

    Over the past decade social media has become a battlefield for controlling our attention. With the new generation of AI, the battlefront is shifting from attention to intimacy, which is very bad news.

    What will happen to human society and human psychology as AI fights AI in a battle to create intimate relationships with us? Relationships that can then be used to convince us to buy particular products or to vote for particular politicians.

    Even without creating fake intimacy, the new AI tools would immensely influence human opinions and our world view.”

    Transcript from “AI and the future of humanity | Yuval Noah Harari at the Frontiers Forum”

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