How technology is shaping the future of love

Love buzz: Researcher David Levy claimed there is a “real possibility of marriage with robots”.

Will machines help us make strong relationships? “The course of true love never did run smooth,” wrote Shakespeare — before AI and virtual reality. Here are five big changes facing dating…

1/ Relationships with robots. You may think that humans falling for robots only happens in movies. In Her the lovelorn Theodore Twombly becomes smitten with a female-voiced computer. And the hero of Blade Runner 2049 has a hologram for a girlfriend. But art could soon imitate life. In Japan a generation of young people already choose virtual partners over humans. And AI expert David Levy claims that humans will marry robots “sooner” than 2050.

2/ Virtual dating. Young people already date less than their parents. A study found that 56% of 14-18 year olds went on dates in 2015. For Generation X the figure was 85%. Psychologist Jean Twenge claims that smart phones have caused teenagers to spend more time “communicating electronically”. By 2050, virtual reality could allow singletons to go on dates without leaving their homes.

3/ The death of monogamy. Love is often equated with the search for “the one”. This could soon become a quest for two, three, or four, or more. With gay marriage legal in America and the UK, some campaigners argue that polygamy should also be allowed. Academic and activist Meg-John Barker claims: “The idea that monogamy is ‘natural’ or ‘normal’ in humans is hard to sustain.”

4/ Wearable love gurus. Imagine you are walking down the street when someone catches your eye. Your heart flutters. And as you look closer, augmented reality contact lenses project the beautiful stranger's name and suggested conversation topics before your very eyes. The seeds of this technology exist now. The app Yac ranks people around you based on hobbies and mutual friends, while Samsung is making computerised contact lenses.

5/ DNA matchmaking. Dating is all about “chemistry”. And love could get a lot more scientific. A study suggests that genes play a key role in attraction. And advancing technology could make genome sequencing available to all for as little as $100. In the future, people could simply upload their genomes to dating websites and receive suggested matches based on DNA.

But will technology help us create stronger relationships?

Love machines

“Robots will bring us together,” say some. A lot of people think they are unlucky in love, but advances in DNA matches and machines will help them to find the perfect person (or people). And the idea that humans can create machines with enough intelligence and emotion to prompt love should be celebrated.

“Machines will drive us apart,” others respond. Love at its deepest is mysterious, complex, and human. No matter how sophisticated we make robots and matchmaking programmes, nothing will change that. In fact, relying on technology too much will kill those real human connections upon which love is built.

You Decide

  1. Should people be able to marry robots?
  2. Can all emotions be explained by genetics?

Activities

  1. Without using a dictionary, write definitions of the words “love”, “passion”, and “desire”. Do you think it is possible for a robot to feel these emotions? Why/why not?
  2. Read the link from Business Insider in the Become An Expert section. Which of these possible advances do you think is the most plausible? Are there any that you think will never happen? Which change do you think would be the most important?

Some People Say...

“Love isn’t something you find. Love is something that finds you.”

Loretta Young

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
This year a 31-year-old Chinese man called Zheng Jiajia “married” a robot he had built himself. However, this marriage was not recognised by the authorities. Computerised contact lenses are still in development and have not yet been made compatible with dating software.
What do we not know?
It is impossible to isolate a finite number of genes that specifically predict to whom humans will be attracted. Complex emotions like love could also be influenced by other factors such as environmental.

Word Watch

Generation of young people
Known as “otaku” in Japan, meaning people obsessed with computers, games, or fantasy worlds. A 2010 report by Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare found that 36% of Japanese men aged 16 to 19 had no interest in sex.
Study
From Jean Twenge’s 2017 book iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy--and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood, published by Atria Books.
Generation X
Broadly refers to the people born between the early 1960s and 1980s.
Polygamy
The practice of having more than one husband or wife at one time. It is currently legal in 58 countries.
Augmented reality
Technology which superimposes computer-generated images onto the user’s view of the world.
Study
Study led by Dr Albert Tenesa from the University of Edinburgh. It found that a gene which controls people’s height links to how attracted they are to others.
Genome sequencing
Procedure which maps the entire DNA sequence of a person’s genome — the set of biological codes, or genes, that determine how people are formed.

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