Intimacy of the future - lone wolf or part of the pack?
With technological and societal advancements, norms change. The same can be expected of intimate relationships. The future of intimacy will integrate body technologies and virtual emotions, redefining our experiences and preferences. Single person households, DNA compatibility, polyamorous and virtual love are some of the scenarios of such a future. Whether these are sustainable trends or just examples of a confused technological overload is for time to tell.
Given the technology and options available in the future, it is no surprise that consumer trends are predicted to be very demanding. Citing the “Future Love” survey conducted by online dating agency EliteSingles, The Loop gives a breakdown of how expectations from the relationship will change in the future. For one, the freedom that comes with independence will question the nature of commitment. The survey predicts that many would prefer staying single or would instead commit to loose-relationships to pay more attention to themselves. The trends indicate that common-law marriages will become the preference, displacing legal complications of marriages or divorce. Subsequently, this would make letting go easier leading to a preference for temporary companions who’d offer relationship dynamics that are in line with one’s expectations. As the relationships will be temporary, there will be less of an emphasis towards making things work, leading to a stricter set of requirements for a proposed partner.
– DNA match as a family maker?
This preference for temporary companions will pave way for completely different forms of matchmaking. One such revolutionary form would be dating based on genetic compatibility. Already gene codes are being used to profile individuals. Amber Kelleher-Andrews, CEO of matchmaking firm Kelleher International, thinks that in the future dating to see one’s compatibility would become unnecessary. She predicts that potential partners would meet online and check for ‘chemistry’ via DNA checks. Instant Chemistry, a company that brands itself as being wholly scientific, is already issuing compatibility kits. In these kits, the partners send their DNA samples and a filled psychological test and in return get a detailed analysis of their genetic makeup and its potential effects on their relationship. The company plans to translate its DNA compatibility services onto location-based apps and use it for matchmaking. Dr. Wendy Walsh who is a renowned author, radio celebrity and ‘America’s relationship expert’ calls the kit a ‘game changer’ and claims such practices will result in healthier relationships.
With that in mind, it can be expected that the dating service industry which is worth $2.5 billion in the US alone, will invest heavily into scientific methods to find methods that provide surer results on matchmaking. Given the future generations’ expected reliance on big-data, the demand for such data-backed services will continue to grow.
The future of love or love-making does not have to be limited to humans alone. Many have predicted the advent of fully modifiable cyborg companions. Elon Musk insists that the future human will augment themselves by merging ‘biological intelligence and machine intelligence’. This machine intelligence can also serve to better exploit and enjoy the rules of love and love-making. Amy Anderson, a matchmaker, imagines the culmination of this scenario is only a century away: "People will be able to come in and basically pre-program what they're looking for. We'll be able to create this cyborg person who is half robot and half human." However, there are those who insist that being human, even if partially, would not even be a prerequisite to seeking companionship. Wasley Chan, who is a partner in Google Venture, quoting a visiting genetic expert claimed that: ‘In the future people will only have sex for fun, not to procreate’. This would happen due to the creation of lab babies who would be genetically modified to keep the best and most sought-after traits. Hence, love making will be purely based on pleasure. This simplification of sorts would allow people to be more experimental, something the $30 billion a year Sex Industry is seeking to cash on. For example, Harmony, a computerized version of the RealDoll, besides showing the basic emotions, can also ‘hold conversations, tell jokes and quote Shakespeare’. In a way, sex dolls are being designed to incorporate machine learning capabilities of digital assistants with the added advantages of a physical form wholly shaped in one’s choice of preferences. With similar advancements, sex robots like Harmony will most likely substitute partners on the whole.
This scenario brings to question the need for emotions in a relationship. Sentimental values play an important part in unions these days. Will we give away the need for emotions in the future? Will companionship solely be to derive sexual pleasure? Even so, would we be able to experience sexual pleasure without the range of human emotions complementing it?
Freed-up identities leading
to more creativity and openness
Ghislaine Boddington who is a specialist in body responsive technologies and immersion experiences is one of the speakers at FutureFest this year. She believes that hyper sensory awareness and enhanced sensualities will change the way we think of relationships in the future. The expansion of our understanding of intimacy will escape the physical confinements of human bodies into a more virtual setting. Technology, which once attached to body cells, will give symbiotic experiences. Such an experience could also be triggered remotely, giving a new approach towards long-distance relationships. Moreover, the future of intimacy according to Boddington will encourage shifting identities consisting of "freed-up, genderless” people who’d be more creative and open to different experiences. “Coming out”, a sonic installation in FutureFest also reflects a similar future where relationships and emotions will go beyond social expectations and norms. Nicole Logan, a performer in the project insists that in the future we will be “baffled by reports of transphobia and homophobia in mainstream society and that it never used to exist at all in modern society”.
the new norm?
Polyamorous relationships are still far from the norm but they’re becoming increasingly visible in recent times. Such unions are no more hidden and their participants insist that they should be considered as families. According to Kelly Cookson, an independent academic, up to 2.4 million people in US alone have tried sexual non-monogamy. Similarly, agreements on satellite lovers, open relationships with numerous partners on the side, are estimated to be around 9.8 million. More recently, poly-identified individuals are seeking legal recognition of marriages and are protesting the social stigmas attached to their children. Terry Conley, a researcher at the University of Michigan, claims that monogamous couples can learn a lot from their poly counterparts. In one of her studies, she found that polyamorous couples were more social, better at communicating and were more prone to practice safe-sex rather than cheating individuals in a monogamous relationship.
If the future individual would be more open to experiences and will prefer loosely-linked relationships, intimacy with many partners might become the norm. This will also work into the advantage of being economically efficient as many lovers will be able to divide costs of things like rent, transport by sharing a communal space. In that manner, the future of families will escape the concepts and restrictions of a nuclear family and will instead become a largely networked sub-community of efficiency seeking individuals. Or, humans will revert back to the concept of relationships of today, exhausted from the lack of emotional support such arrangements would bring with them. Yet again, only time will tell.
Data-backed, scientifically proven methods of matchmaking will be the norm of the future. Their demand would be based on the freedom to experiment and the need to maximize the utility out of relationships. Such attitudes, in return, will lead to a booming of industry trends that will revamp the sex-tech industry and dating services.