The future of love with digital intimacy
polyamory, gender fluidity, cyborgs, and bots
We live in a connected world, where tweeting to thousands on Twitter gives us a dopamine rush, dating is algorithm-based, and proximity doesn't mean intimacy any more. We live in a world where gender is on its way out - male, female or non-binary are choices you can make in your relationship - and when the choices for the romantic avatar you’ll pick in a few decades are yet unknown to you. Marry, divorce, remarry, repeat? All could be done by design, considering that with longevity technology, the human lifespan might extend to a thousand years. People are coming out in the open with their choices in non-monogamy and polyamorous relationships. Technology enhances our sexual and sensory experiences with virtual reality, augmented reality, and sexbots. By 2050, when it becomes legal to marry a robot, how many people would do it? How might humans in their future cyborg state be in romantic love? Perhaps lovers will enter each other’s brains for digital intimacy that won’t require a single meeting. For us UXers, the part of the brain associated with the dopamine rush, which is the same part responsible for romantic love, becomes an interface. Finally, staying in love forever with mind uploading will be possible even after death. Perhaps romantic love will go to higher and higher levels of transcendence than we ever thought was possible.
The current state of online dating through apps such as Tinder, Happn, Grindr, Ok Cupid, and Match.com shows that there could be only further matching, even AI matching, that we might have no control over in the future. From a primitive swipe-right mechanism based on a not-so-true picture on apps like Tinder, to a virtual dating future, and ultimately matches through algorithms will evolve based on mutual feelings, from neural pathways of the daters.
In a week, Shaza has dated seven people through Emotional Connect, a machine learning algorithm, two female, three male and two non-binary. Shaza is still exploring her own gender preferences but is moving towards a beta male personality. She is also particular about getting DNA matching tests done for any of her partners. Shaza is in a polyamorous relationship with Ted and another semi-tech augmented partner for about five years. The Internet of things manages the relationship among the three of them, especially to manage their food choices and preferences when they date others. They try and make the most of their relationship on Emotional Connect by collecting points through the algorithm on loyalty as well as seduction. Typically, breakups are left to a self-identical bot to take care of. They pick customized holographic journeys and avatars for their relationship explorations and are now exploring options on planets other than Earth and Mars. Check out some more #futureofdating scenarios here.
With increased longevity, marriages by design are now the norm. With open non-monogamy, reproduction possible in labs, and legal marriages to bots, there could be many possibilities with how a marriage pans out in 2050. Would machine learning make a robot be able to understand human beings, like in the Westworld series?
In 2050, Will became part of the first generation to legally marry a bot. He was introduced to Stephanie, a humanoid robot, through his colleague at a human-robot gathering in New York city. Will found that it has become common for humans to pick robots as partners over humans, and Stephanie did share a lot of values with him. Human-robot marriages now have a higher success rate than inter-human marriages. Machine learning allows robots to empathize with human needs much more than other humans can do for each other. Also, their human-machine sex life is enhanced by a bio-technological interface that gives them enhanced sensuality and hypersensory awareness. Will and Stephanie have ordered in their designer babies from a reproduction lab in the city. Will also never feels Stephanie's absence if either of them are traveling as they can always meet in augmented reality environments.
The robot revolution is coming. So what will happen when artificial intelligence exceeds human intelligence in the systems we operate? Humans will also augment their bodies to have enhanced experiences, even romantic and sexual ones. This could mean achieving intimacy of the highest kind in the shortest time as well as having a greater amount of cognition for more relationships than a non-augmented human might be able to have.
Semi-cyborg Meg has fallen in love with her cyborg girlfriend, Jen, in college. When Meg introduces Jen to her human parents, they are upset at her choice in dating a full-cyborg. But Meg is sure that she and Jen are made for each other and has asked her parents to loan her money for the cyborg-transformation procedure for herself. Both Meg and Jen digitally uploaded their minds when they had just met, and looking at the neural matches and compatibility, very soon they knew they would want to be with each other forever. They decided to be romantically monogamous and have planned to have their cyborg identities fused into one in their digital afterlife, so that they can be in love, even after death.
What's the future of love?
Some questions to ponder. Will technology only aid the new trend in polyamory to give human beings the mental bandwidth to love and be intimate with more partners than ever before, across gender and identity? Will we be seeing a new age when romantic relationships happen entirely digitally, without any proximity? How will marriages by design and polyamorous love work with the reproduction function assigned to the lab? Finally, how ready are we to love and receive love from bots? One step at a time. Happy Valentine's Day!
Author: Kalika Sharma @ka_li_ka | Artwork: Dhruv Sharma @dhruveee