Human beings are hard-wired to love. As babies, we rely solely on the love of our parents for our survival. As adults, our instinct to love keeps us producing those babies.
So what is the future for love?
Guest blogger Lindsey Mountford investigates:
Love is a drug.
The state we call the “honeymoon period” is known as being in limerance, and there are specific things going on in our brains (darling, when I look at you my ventral tegmental area lights ups with the power of a thousand suns and my caudate nucleusis floods with enough dopamine and norepinephrine to fill a thousand seas) when this happens.
The pharmaceutical industry will cotton on to this and produce pills to keep the spark of love alive. We already take vitamins, Viagra and Prozac by the bucketload to improve our standard of living, so why ignore this incredibly important aspect of our emotional lives?
If Big Pharma is clever it will market the drug as a health supplement.
Worried that it’s not ‘real’ love? In the future the lines between what we think of as real, virtual, enhanced or fake will be more blurred anyway. We won’t mind.
Prenuptial agreements will be accompanied by brain scans which will ‘prove’ we’re marrying for love. Marriage counselling could take place in the EEG/fMRI scanner, with new versions of neurofeedback therapy helping us get our relationships back on the right track.
Love is good for your health.
Once we’ve all given up smoking and we eat well and exercise, what’s next on the agenda? We may be seeing NHS leaflets encouraging us to go speed-dating. We may even be prescribed the Love Drug described above.
More likely, we will be offered more education about love, which starts in schools and continues at the GP. It’s happening already. Interpersonal psychotherapy is an evidence-based talking therapy which helps people with relationship skills. The benefits are improved mental and physical health, which last a lifetime. The NHS is already investing more money in IPT, and will continue to do so.
Love is big business.
The truth is, there are lots of unconscious things going on when we fall in love. We are not always good judges of our own characters (and we can’t help lying in our profiles.) We’re not good judges of characters of others and we often don’t have a good understanding of we should be looking for in a partner that will make us happy.
OKCupid are doing some very interesting things with the data they’re gathering from their millions of members which finally gives us real data about what makes a good match. When Google gets involved, things will get interesting and result in love.google.com
We won’t need to spend several hours writing our profiles trying to sell ourselves.
A Google spider will find all the things we’ve ever written online (On Buzz, Twitter, blog, social network profiles etc.), then text analysis software like Alceste will scan it and suss you out based on:
- keywords (i.e. I mention ‘books’ a lot on my blog)
- frequency of keywords (I mention books a LOT)
- moods (i.e., I complain a lot, especially in the mornings)
- thought patterns (i.e. I can get overexcited and Tweet a lot)
- sentence structure, grammar (i.e. I’m an informal writer, but I don’t use three exclamation marks in a paragraph and I don’t write LOL.)
Then Google Love will look at all that juicy data it has about us as individuals:
- film/TV/music preferences (Lovefilm, Spotify etc.)
- interests (browsing history)
- food and household purchases (Tesco clubcard)
- travelling and going-out habits (Oyster card)
- sociability (activity levels on social networks)
- relationship history (on social networks)
Google Love will gather an overwhelming amount of data on millions of people and track the course of their relationships. Using all this knowledge, eventually Google will be able to create a Love algorithm to find the ideal partner for everyone.
The Google Love algorithm will be big and beautiful, and it will work.
Marriage, sex and robots.
Most visions of love in the future involve a lot of casual sex (thank you male sci-fi authors.) As sex becomes safer with improved contraception, people will be doing more of it. Google Love won’t care if you’re unavailable, if your data is there then you can be ‘headhunted’ by a love interest. If you were told you had a 98% chance of falling in love with someone wouldn’t you want to meet them?
‘Traditional’ marriage is a crazily outdated concept. In what other area of life would we accept a contract that we sign when we are intoxicated (see ‘Love is a drug’ above) that is binding until death? As life expectancies continue to increase, marriage must have more flexibility. Perhaps similar to a mobile phone contract – minimum of 10 years with a rolling annual contract afterwards.
There’s definitely a place for the robot girlfriend and BritneyBot. The BoyfriendBot version will be sophisticated software only, programmed to send romantic/loving messages and emails throughout the day to satisfy her need to feel adored.
Love is a meme.
That instinct for all-encompassing love from an all-powerful, benevolent, omnipotent being we have as babies never leaves us just because we become adults, so we invented God to fill the gap. For a long time, religious love was seen as True Love. We evolved to believe we’re the centre of the universe and it’s a heady feeling to be told that God loves us.
But now the philosophers have dug a God-shaped hole in our heads, what replaces it? Look at the popularity of the Twilight Saga to see what is happening already. The fantasy of romantic love and our instinct for religion meet in stories like this, and the result is 85 million books sold worldwide.
Stories about love (seen in films, books, magazines, perfume adverts, family and friends) propagate the love myth and make it stronger. The supernatural love meme will become stronger and more powerful. Vampires aren’t going anywhere.
If music be the food of love, play on.
For your listening pleasure, here is a a collaborative Spotify playlist of love songs.
Thanks for reading! It would be very romantic of you to leave a comment below.
Oh, and do subscribe to be notified of the next entry in this blog series.
syn·es·the·sia syn·aes·the·sia (sĭn’ĭs-thē’zhə):
- A condition in which one type of stimulation evokes the sensation of another, as when the hearing of a sound produces the visualization of a color.
- A sensation felt in one part of the body as a result of stimulus applied to another, as in referred pain.
- The description of one kind of sense impression by using words that normally describe another.
It is widely considered that synesthesia arises in brains where from a young age, neurological paths that service our sensory perception do not become entirely defined, resulting in cross-chatter between the senses.
Famous synesthetes reportedly include painter David Hockney, who perceives music as color, shape, and configuration; composer Wassily Kandinsky, who had a four senses combined: color, hearing, touch, and smell; and physicist Richard Feynman who percieves elements of equations as different colours.
What a cool way to see the world – a totally unique perception of reality. And how hard must it be to express this reality to others?! Synesthetes must feel in some part driven to demonstrate their unique perspective, perhaps driving them to create great cultural artefacts that we can all enjoy.
One filmmaker has produced their interpretation of a reality touched by synesthesia. I urge you to watch this great short film for a taste of the condition:
Can anyone out there think of a way us non-synesthetes might be able to experience the world like this, via the medium of Augmented Reality?
Would love to explore some ideas.