Digital Relationships to Replace Human Interaction

by Matt Klassen on August 9, 2013

With social networking and instant messaging having transformed the nature of our human interactions, ostensibly digitizing our relationships, how far away are we from humans developing meaningful bonds with technology itself?

At present such a notion resides on the fringes of anti-social geekdom–evidenced by a Season 5 episode of the hit show Big Bang Theory, where Raj, an astrophysicist with a debilitating fear of speaking to women, hits it off with the artificial intelligence in his new smartphone, who happens to be none other than Siri–but how long until technology itself becomes the soul mate we’ve been looking for?

Granted, with artificial intelligence still in its infancy I would guess that few of us have ever given the notion of developing relationships with technology any thought, or if we have, have dismissed it as nothing but fodder for science fiction and comedy. But looking at how drastically human interactions have changed since even the advent of the smartphone, perhaps soon we’ll be able to stop looking for love…and just have it built, customized, and delivered to us instead.

As I’ve written before, even as one who routinely follows and comments on the happenings of the tech and telecom industries, I have a distinctly uncomfortable relationship with technology. As one who has studied the impact of technology of all sorts on society, I’m keenly aware of how our problem-solving and time-saving devices change our ways of thinking so that often times we begin to see the world around us in terms of the technology we have. As the old adage goes, “To the man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”

I began pondering our changing relationship with our technology when earlier today a trailer for the upcoming Spike Jonze movie ‘Her’ rolled across my desk, a rare blend of science fiction and romance that see’s a lonely single man (Joaquin Phoenix) become enamoured with the advanced artificial intelligence voice of his phone (voiced by Scarlett Johansson).

While the operating system technology presented by the seductive voice of Johansson is several years away (given that it seems infinitely more reliable and personable than Siri does), the movie portrayed the artificial intelligence as whimsical and comedic, caring and compassionate…essentially everything you would want in a partner or friend.

It comes as no surprise then to see the main character, having endured a painful breakup, begins to find comfort in talking to this sultry voice, one that comes with no judgment and no risk.

While once again this sort of thinking still largely resides in the realm of awkward science fiction fantasy, I happen to view both the comedic and dramatic representations of human/AI relationships as a social prophecy of sorts, a glimpse into where our human interactions are heading. Not really a surprise given that an increasing number of technological savvy people depend on text, SMS, and social networking to do all their communicating for them anyways, so does it really matter if there’s an actual human on the other end of the conversation?

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Written by: Matt Klassen. Follow by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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