ILLUSTRATED BY AUSTIN WATTS.
On the whole, romantic relationships in the developed world have been influenced by the digital revolution. Online dating has expanded the idea of the personal classified ad far beyond the local newspaper, while apps like Snapchat have turned sex into something that can be done remotely, and instantly, with partners you might never meet in real life. What else can we expect?
Fast Company recently spoke to Terry Young, CEO of Sparks & Honey, about his predictions for the future of relationships. This is typical territory for Sparks & Honey, a company that specializes, among other things, in advertising concepts including "wave branding" and "culturally infused social media." It has previously released speculative reports on careers of the future and the rise of the "citizen doctor."
Young points to some of the tech we already know — Grindr, teledildonics — as indicators of an even more remote love landscape to come. He posits a Gattaca-like future in which we are matched with partners based on genetic compatibility and receive post-breakup reports that provide "an analysis of what went right and what you need to optimize next time."
What the article and Young don't address, however, are the potential effects of these developments. Young says things like "instant gratification social media platforms have turned courtship into a sped-up process" and believes "that sentient artificially intelligent entities could start to compete for our affections." Is this a future we should be celebrating or fighting?
Young states that "large numbers of men are no longer physically attracted to human women." (Assuming that he's referring to heterosexual men who do not identify as asexual, this claim is questionable without data to back it up.) "With better 3-D-printing, sex toys will become printable," writes Fast Company. In reality, this has already happened.
So, what's the takeaway here? The future is never certain. Disneyland's Monsanto House of the Future, for example, amazingly predicted the penetration of microwave ovens in American homes, but its chief forecast — of mass-produced, modular, plastic homes — never came to fruition.