FutureFive NZ - Digital dating - The next step...

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Digital dating - The next step...

After a weekend away with friends that included a wedding, one of the main topics of conversation was dating and how much it has evolved over the years.

Two out of the four girls there had met their beaus on Tinder, and we got to talking about how internet dating isn’t so much an issue as it once was.

It got me to thinking about where dating was headed. If over the last five years the stigma of internet dating was slowly dwindling away, I wondered what it would be like in another five years. Would internet dating be the norm?

Then I started thinking about the film Her, starring Joaquin Phoenix as Theodore, and Scarlett Johansson as the voice of Samantha, an operating system Theodore had purchased and began to date.

Theodore is a lonely, introverted man who is unhappy due to his impending divorce, and purchases the operating system that is designed to adapt and evolve. Samantha proves to be constantly available, always curious and interested, supportive and undemanding. Perfect woman right?

If someone told me they were dating an operating system, I would find it hard to not scoff or at least not to think their all sorts of strange. But then what gives me the right to be that judgemental?

Just like people once judged those whose preferred method of dating was online, who am I to decide if there is anything wrong with a lonely, introverted man preferring to date a computer system rather than going out of his comfort zone just to appease others?

If technology keeps going the way it currently is, the scenario presented in Her doesn’t seem that crazy. While films about relationships with artificial intelligence is nothing new, Her is a particularly fantastic portrayal.

Not only does it make you think about the idea of people forming an attachment to a computer, it explores the idea of that computer forming relationships with more than one person (in this case Samantha has relationships with 8316 different people), the computer falling in love with some of those people, and when the time comes that the operating system advances past their human counterparts and decide to leave the human who originally made the purchase.

This idea is terrifying; surely one of the benefits of dating an operating system rather than an actual person is that it removes rejection – if your computer, that you bought no less, rejects you as well – I don’t even know how I would handle that.

But possible rejection aside, you can see how this technology is attractive. If you can buy a system that you can talk to in the same way you chat with strangers online, it’s a safety net that allows you to avoid going out and meeting new people in public, an idea that scares many people, weirdos or not.

You could argue that the possibility of this technology becoming a viable dating option will have a negative affect on people’s communication skills and behaviours, but if it’s a lifestyle that suits a certain sector of society – where is the actual harm? Just like how internet dating is becoming more and more accepted, more and more normal – will dating, forming relationships, with operating systems become accepted one day too?

I think it will be a long time before anyone could confidentially say they’re in a relationship with their operating system without a super judgy reaction, but it won’t surprise me at all when it one day it does start to happen.

I wonder if they will bring out lines of operating systems featuring famous people’s voices. If they do I might get a Joseph Gordon Levitt one.

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