I’ve been with my fiancée since 2010, and quite honestly, I don’t think I would survive the Tinder era. There’s too much choice and too many dates — it wouldn’t be long before I gave up and declared myself an incel. But as I considered the next generation of introverted weirdos, I wanted to know what was in store for their love lives. Assuming the planet isn’t a barren wasteland left behind by the ultra-rich, what will dating look like in the next decade?
I talked to a number of futurists to find out. According to the experts, it won’t be long before an algorithm presents you with matches based on your DNA and pheromone profile — and you’ll find out if you click after your first date in virtual reality. If not, you can smash an eject button the minute you think it’s going nowhere.
Frankly, I’m not sure singles are ready for what the next decade may hold…
Love Is Just a Click Away
Jason Silva, host of Brain Games on National Geographic: I think one of the double-edged swords of technology is that it floods us with new options — so over the next decade, it will be easier than ever to meet someone new, but by the same token, harder than ever to hold our attention on that person.
The paralysis of choice will be overwhelming. Perhaps monogamous committed relationships will be called into question, simply because our brains will be overwhelmed with mate choice. I also think advances in artificial intelligence will provide us with the option of dating “virtual people” online, similar to the movie Her, and for many this will suffice.
The lure of someone new will be a click away.
Dr. James Canton, Futurist and Author, CEO Institute for Global Futures: Engineering the perfect relationship in the future will be a combination of art and science. By 2020, we will see DNA Dating start, accelerated by personal genomics, AI and big data. People will use their DNA, big data and artificial intelligence to create their Perfect Dates with max compatibility. Their Personal Dating Avatars will find, diagnose and transact to make sure your date candidate is not a psycho. Next, there will be a sentiment and behavioral analysis, along with a a compatibility check for lifestyle, economics, culture and values.
Then, the Intimacy Diagnostic will be evaluated. If this sounds strange in an era of accelerated technologies, well, it is. If you don’t like it, hit the bar…
VR Dates, AI Wingmen and Pheromone Matching
Ross Dawson, Chairman, Future Exploration Network: There’s a big gap still between your image or profile-based dating and just meeting someone in real life — we still meet people in real life, but we still have Tinder, eHarmony, and your profile-based matching. So what we need to do is fill the gap in between, because so many times after seeing photos, reading each other’s profiles, etc, it’s a totally different experience when you meet in real life. Which brings us to Virtual Reality Dating — a way to be able to connect, to be able see what it’s like to be with somebody and chat, interact, without actually being physically there. And that’s when you can decide whether to go out on a real date, because you have to be sure it’s worth your time and your safety to go out on a real physical date.
It’s got a ways to go, but we’re already getting designs for headsets that have cameras on your eyes and your expressions, where AI is able to then build up what the whole face is going to look like and people’s live expressions quite accurately. Then better resolution and better gesture tracking, so we can see the way we’re sitting, looking, turning our heads — it will all be expressed in the virtual reality space.
Another area we’re already seeing progress is what I call “AI wingmen.” AI starts to be very powerful when it can understand how people respond to a particular situation or conversation using massive amounts of data. So in a real-life setting, you could be prepared beforehand or during the date via an earpiece on what to say based on everything AI knows about this person, and what specific situations or conversational lines they respond to best.
We might also see research into pheromones — there is evidence is that you can actually be able to sense and understand the pheromones of people who are going to be attracted to each other. Through pheromone analysis that requires scent, you could be able to pick up the pheromones a potential partner is producing to be able to determine fit.
Julie Austin, Futurist, World Future Society: In order to predict the future, you need to see the big picture, which includes the past and other cultures and countries. As a futurist and innovator I believe history repeats itself, but in a new and innovative way that integrates new technology with old traditions. In many countries there is the tradition of arranged marriages, where family and friends choose your mate based on economics, class and religion. It’s accepted that family and friends know best about who would be a perfect match.
That’s not such a stretch when you think that those are the people who know you best and want the best for you: I introduced my best friend to her future husband when we were 16 years old, and they are still happily married. I imagine in the future that dating will continue to use the technology we have now, which includes behavior-based matching techniques used by companies like Match.com and eHarmony.
It can also become more sophisticated based on the arranged marriage philosophy that family and friends know best, along with a detailed analysis of your own preferences. But technology will never completely replace the fact that dating and mating must include in-person contact. I see the future of dating that includes an “all-of-the-above” approach to zero in on the perfect mate.
The Choice Paradox
Paul Saffo, Associate Professor of Forecasting at Stanford University: My top-level observation is that the proximate issue is over-choice, the problem of the choice paradox in dating. My intuition tells me that it is the single most important factor which will affect both dating apps, and the social norms about dating.
Obviously issues raised by #MeToo are also front and center, but that isn’t a forecast — it is here now.
Glen Hiemstra, Founder of Futurist.com: I think we can note that many countries (Sweden, Japan, etc.) are concerned about the lack of dating and coupling in a declining-population scenario. And we can also note that there are reports in the U.S. that young people are less sexually active than in earlier history. That must be a combination of delayed marriage and the impact of the online world on the analog (dating) world. While people continue to use online dating apps as a way to meet — and many relationships start there — perhaps it does not work as often.
Changing cultural standards about how women are to be treated is another significant factor. As is gender fluidity. Both are changing how we view the old concept of dating.
The future is supposed to be characterized by more use of AI in dating apps to provide better matches, and that could lead to more significant relationships earlier. The challenge for young people will, as always, be one of finding ways to meet once one is out of school or other settings where lots of young people gather.