cover image The Future of Feeling: Building Empathy in a Tech-Obsessed World

The Future of Feeling: Building Empathy in a Tech-Obsessed World

Kaitlin Ugolik Phillips. Little A, $24.95 (238p) ISBN 978-1-5420-4184-3

Journalist and debut author Phillips explores the interaction between human feelings and technology in a survey whose ever-shifting scope results in a collection of interesting parts that never coalesce into a satisfying whole. Phillips opens with a Facebook interaction gone wrong, which inspired her “search for hope about the future of empathy.” It starts promisingly, with a discussion of empathy’s perceived decline, and solutions for addressing this, such as the app Faciloscope, designed to detect indicators that an online conversation is derailing into an unproductive flameout, or an interactive online game, Face the Future, which asks students to imagine a future in which feelings can be transmitted online through ubiquitous smartphone-like devices. As the book progresses, the focus blurs, as a discussion of virtual reality’s empathy-building potential shifts into an entire chapter on the technology’s use in news reporting. Phillips’s tone is optimistic about the devices and programs she covers, but the notion that more technology is actually the best solution for tech-induced empathy gaps is questionable. Readers who reach the end of this fitfully stimulating book may instead feel that, as one interview subject notes, “the best thing you can do is talk to people.” Agent: Jill Marsal, Marsal Lyon Literary. (Feb.)