The Future Of Dating: Mating Games

Courtship will be redefined in the near future. Get the first glimpse

February 01, 2019 Updated 11:51 IST
2019-01-31T11:49:36+05:30
The Future Of Dating: Mating Games

Before we start, a disclaimer: no one can accurately predict the future. Not astrologers, not algorithms, not science-fiction writers. Everything you read in this and similar essays is speculation based on current trends, and re-imagining for India, futurist books and sites that are already inherently speculative—so please don’t base any life decisions (or investments) on it. That said, everything you read here is likely to come true. What we don’t know is when.

What better idea to start with than the future of dating? Spring is almost here, with its promises of new beginnings, fresh starts and true romance around the corner. For Indians who are already tightrope-walking the complex realities of dating in this country, a spoiler alert: it’s going to get messier, but also more interesting.

For the section of society that has relative control over their dating decisions and enough freedom to choose their own partners, a lot of tomorrow’s dating will look like today’s, except it’ll be even more complicated, thanks to our ever-increasing ability to measure both ourselves and other people. In the data age, we’re already able to learn perhaps too much about potential dates’ public selves, but in the future, tech will do this for us. Wearable devices will match you on thousands of choice filters with an optimized date, making the app-swipe decision seem laborious. Customized personal digital assistants will guide your conversation based on your taste, preference and interest data, possibly running your entire courtship banter through autocomplete. Date-rating apps and social whisper networks will help identify predators and flag scammers.

Further in the future, we’ll also be able to visualize our partners’ moods more clearly thanks to smart tattoos and under-skin sensors, and take far better guesses at how much people are actually compatible with or attracted to us, based on simple things like how their bodies respond when they see us. This might sound like a dystopian future when you read it now, but there will actually be more communication, and a far more fine-tuned understanding of consent in courtship. And when mixed-reality smart glasses or smart lenses become commonplace, the future becomes even more mind-boggling—will romance be played out as an augmented-reality video game? Will we be able to change or filter the way our partners look to us? How will the emerging science of behavioural biometrics allow us to handle relationships when we can track our partners’ micro-emotions visually? How much control will we have over our sexual privacy settings?

For those in the ‘arranged love marriage’ section of society, the process of finding a partner is actually going to get a lot more streamlined. If you thought matching horoscopes was a big deal, wait till you meet the age of matching biometrics: your meeting with your intended other will take place under the watchful eye of your artificially intelligent matchmaker, not your family. You already trust the algorithm to tell you what you want to read or buy next, or how long it’ll take you to get somewhere: Soon it will tell you everything you need to know about your future children. 

The key question, of course, is who’s in charge of the settings of the matchmaking algorithm, and what human social prejudices they are bringing into the equation: This technology will definitely enhance already existing human biases, especially if coupled with mass surveillance and social ratings. The DDLJ [Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge] of the 2020s might as well star a young couple who brave the odds and decide to escape their matching algorithms, and go entirely offline to try to find love the old-fashioned random way, however slim their pre-calculated probability of finding happiness together.

 

Samit Basu is a novelist who has spent the last three years researching the near future for his next book. This is the first in a new monthly series.
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