Love and Technology: The Changing Paradigm of Human Relationships

by Matt Klassen on June 23, 2014

Relationships have always been complicated, people fumbling about trying to understand the wants and needs of other equally complex human beings. In fact things have seemingly become that much more difficult as relationship paradigms continue to shift, with the rise of polyamory and the growing popularity of open relationships now meaning many of us are now trying to understand and satisfy the desires of multiple people at once.

In this chaotic cacophony of emotion it truly does seem like relationships with our smartphones, tablets, and computers are often easier, as communication is seamless and straightforward, not to mention the unending stream of data shared between us and our devices often means those lovable gadgets now seemingly know us better than our flesh and blood companions.

So perhaps it’s not beyond the realm of possibility to think that soon relationships with our devices may actually replace the intimacy we currently find with other members of our own species. In fact, noted inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil thinks that we could soon be relating to our devices on a deeper, more intimate emotional level, much like the human/technology relationship depicted in the recent movie “Her,” once again altering the relationship paradigm and giving new meaning to the phrase, “I can’t live without my phone.”

As I’ve said before, with social networking and instant messaging having already transformed the nature of our human interactions, ostensibly digitizing our relationships, how far away are we from humans developing meaningful bonds with technology itself?

While I would say that many of us in this world of mobile gadgets love our devices, in fact might admit that living without them would be onerously difficult, I suspect that few would consider it a possibility that they could be in love with such nuts and bolts technology, no matter how sexy Siri is made to sound.

But like it or not, there exists the real possibility that our children will face a very difficult relational landscape upon reaching adulthood. “Computers will be at human levels, such as you can have a human relationship with them, 15 years from now,” Kurzweil said last week at the Exponential Finance conference, noting that the human/machine relationship depicted in the movie “Her” is likely a realistic vision of the future.

I have to wonder, though, if such a complex notion of love can ever be quantified, if amorphous adjectives like “love,” “sexy,” or even “desire” can be translated into binary code. As freelance tech writer Eric Mack notes, “No matter how powerful our computing ability, no matter how much data we gather, software is designed by humans — woefully flawed and inadequate folks like you and me who will stumble and stutter for several seconds if you ask them to define concepts like “funny,” “romantic,” and “sexy” before likely uttering a stream of equally vague and unquantifiable synonyms.”

Simply put, how could humans ever program machines with Artificial Emotional Intelligence (AEI) if as a species of 7 billion or so people we would likely generate 7 billion or so different definitions for the nebulous concept of love? Now perhaps savvy programmers could gather enough data to diffuse the essence of love from each experience, finding those common threads that might allow a computer to understand some of what love is and the emotions contained therein, but such a definition would likely fail to capture the subtle and indefinable nuances that make love such a sought after state.

As Mack writes, “We’d end up with irritating and needy phones that think they’re in love with us because they understand love on the level that a child understands it as a warm, fuzzy feeling it gets from the sense of attachment and security provided by family or a particular teddy bear,” an emotional state so juvenile that we’d likely never find ourselves truly satisfied.

Simply put, while the relational paradigm depicted in the movie “Her” (one of the best movies I’ve seen in years, by the way) may be the future of human relationships, perhaps such connection with our technology isn’t such a great idea, particularly given that as a species we have yet to fully understand our own emotional states, not to mention that a device with the ability to love would likely come with the concomitant ability to tear our heart out as well, and I just don’t know if I could handle that from my phone.

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

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Gary Smith June 23, 2014 at 7:34 am

Technology has invaded almost all types of relationships. Soon we will start dating mobiles and marry devices…..

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