The Future of Love

Although we still get butterflies, the way we find and interact with the loves in our lives has been changed dramatically. From Skype, virtual and robotic sex, and all kinds of dating apps, our love live has gone digital.

Jump forward another twenty years, and our digital love lives will have changed once again. Here are three technological developments that may enhance love in the future:

Emotion Chip

Picture this: You’re meeting your date and you start to smile that crazy smile of infatuation, gesture more like you’re still a teenager, and your voice goes up a notch. All these changes will get noted by the smart devices that surround you, and they will start to adapt to your new emotional state.

Spotify will change its tune to a romantic one. The lighting adjusts to show you off at your best. The heating sets itself ever so slightly warmer. Your clothes shift shape towards an almost unnoticeably sexier design. Your kitchen starts to chill the wine and spits out some tasty nibbles. Your sports program gets postponed, and your walls and ceiling show an ocean view with a distant sunset…

And this is just the start. Because smart devices will learn over time. They will match your emotional states and favored responses to thousands of patterns online. New devices can tap into this knowledge instantly, as it’s hosted in the cloud.

As we speak (2016), about 6.5 billion devices are connected to the Internet. That’s a 30% increase from 2015. The big research agencies project a growth rate of 280% of connected devices in 2020.

More and more devices are being fitted with optical and audio sensors to monitor your emotional state. The only real big thing is the intelligence those devices need to develop to leave you in peace: at this point, they clutch you at your knees like a needy toddler and start to bleep their messages, wanted or not.

Brain Uploads

Picture this: you just met your new love, and he is really into martial arts. What better way to get to know him, than to put on a good fight. The only problem is, the closest you get to a kung-fu move is the kick you deal when the cooky jar doesn’t want to part from its lid. But not anymore. Because you can upload kung-fu skills directly to your brain.

Recently, an experiment was done with the ability to fly a plane. the brain activity of professional pilots was analyzed and patterns of electrical stimulation were designed to emulate it. People who had never flown a plane before got a cap on their head with electrodes to stimulate the precise brain areas that the pilots had used. Then they were asked to join a flight simulation as a pilot. They competed with a group who had no brain stimulation. And the remarkable result: the stimulated group outperformed the nonstimulated group by over 34%.

When you learn a new skill, new neural paths develop. The researchers are looking to replicate those paths in unskilled brains. We’re only at the beginning of understanding specific neural pathways and patterns, but progress is fast.

Touchy Feely

The good thing about all this technology is when it enhances our abilities and skills to a level that helps us to interact with others in a constructive way.

When you think about it, the best thing about all this tech is when it helps people with severe disabilities to (re)capture a ‘normal’ life. To have real feeling in prosthetic limbs and to experience touch even when paralyzed.

Presently, electrical wires in prosthetics are attached to pressure and grip sensors on the one hand, and to nerves at the other. This means that a prosthetic limb passes information to the brain about the surface you touch and how much pressure you need to exert, or is exerted on you.

Brain implants can already read electrical activity in the brain and turn that information into action. External robotic skeletons or prosthetic limbs can perform actions and in their turn inform the brain about the feeling of that action. That’s huge when you’re talking about making love.

While prosthetics, exoskeletons, and brain implants still look clumsy or fake, advances in cosmetic surgery, humanoid robotics, and new materials are moving rapidly towards a life like experience of skin, muscles, and bone. It’s a matter of time before we won’t be able to tell the difference between a natural and an artificial experience.

The Good, the Bad, and the Lovely

How these technologies will affect our society is hard to predict. However, futurists think that we will want to control our environment and lives more and more. We want to think we’re the master of the world. Literally. Because we experiment with genetics and artificial biology. We can create new plants and other life-forms by tinkering with DNA and even invent new DNA. It’s quite possible that more humanoid species will wander the world once again. With different levels of inbred technologies.

The Good

People with several physical disabilities will be able to hear, see, feel, move just like people without. We will achieve a level playing field at last.

The Bad

Not everyone will have access to new technology. The gap between rich and poor will manifest itself in new ways. Inequality scares me. It’s one of the causes of unrest and upheaval for the have-nots. And one of the causes for wanting repressive measures at the other end. I wouldn’t want inequality to grow: people without access will truly stand outside the society, increasing the odds of violence. In that scenario, technology may be used in bad ways: without your consent, to monitor your thought, change your skills, and mutate your loved ones.

The Lovely

Will an overload of technology make us go Amish? I don’t think so. We just have a hard time envisioning a situation in which we need that technology. Like in the late 1990s, when we felt that a cellphone was the last thing we needed. Imagine. People disturbing you all the time, while they can just as easily write you a letter! And look at us now. We use our phone for everything, even dating. We swipe photo’s on our smart phones until we see a lovely face. And then we send a heart.