The future of AI in dating isn’t about finding better “matches” on online apps.
The impact of AI and emerging tech on dating will ultimately lead to a transhuman condition where “love” as we know it is hardly pursued at all. Dating (more broadly: Sex, companionship, relating) is part of the conatus of humanity, and it’ll be one of the prime drivers of the transhuman transition.
In this article, I’ll briefly lay out some of the phases of AI’s impact on the future of dating – in addition to the social and business implications of the changes we might see in the coming decades.
Artificial Intelligence in Dating – in Six Phases
1 – Match people with similar interests and values – This may or may not involve AI at all. Firms like match.com have been doing this for years.
2 – Match people based on proxies to correlation to long-term satisfaction – AI may find proxies for compatibility for dating or longer-term relationship success with enough data about people, and about their relationship success. These proxies will always be somewhat speculative, and only the firms with massive data sets (again, match.com comes to mind for the US market) will be able to attempt his approach.
3 – AI-enabled VR training for specific dating scenarios (overcoming awkwardness / etc) – Virtual training for nursing, law enforcement, manufacturing, and other sectors already exist – but they’re certainly in their infancy. At some point, computer vision and audio sensors in VR will allow a person to “practice” flirting on a date, or approaching someone they don’t know, or “making a move”, in AI-generated VR environments. They won’t be perfect, but they’ll likely be useful. In business, the same tech will be used for sales training, hiring (or firing) training, etc.
The short film Sight did a good job at extrapolating what this technology might look like if it was applied as augmented reality in a live date:
4 – AI-created virtual lovers and friends – Everything up to this point is a relatively nominal change to today’s state of affairs – but this phase is where things get interesting. In this phase, actual virtual personalities become viable, customizable to the needs and preferences of the user.
The depth of these “personalities” will be somewhat shallow at first, but it’ll be good enough for many people, men in particular – just look at what has become “good enough” for Japanese men today.
Think the movie Her, but with a virtual companion who could be customized and interacted with:
Initial versions of this technology would not involve very much by way of touch – though some very crude haptic gloves or suits may be available, and inevitably, virtual sex devices will boom in this period (many exist already – definitely NSFW).
5 – AI-created virtual lovers and friends enabled by brain-computer interface – At some point, brain-computer interface (BCI) will make two things possible:
- First, BCI will permit machines to directly pipe sensory experience (or even memories or complex emotional states) into the brain, and
- Second, BCI will permit a feedback loop that allows the system to monitor the user’s experience in a high resolution, greatly improving the ability to calibrate that experience to the user’s preference
If BCI becomes viable without massive negative side effects, most people in the developed world will choose BCI and AI-enabled virtual lovers, companions, and teachers, over those in the “real world.”
6 – When “love” is transcended entirely – Once humans can “plug in” (brain-computer interface) to new experiences and new worlds, humans will explore vastly more types and varieties of positive experience than is possible today. Entirely new vistas of emotion and understanding will open up, many of which will not just be extreme versions of experiences we now know, but entirely separate.
Chimpanzees experience humor, but they can’t understand a Dave Barry comic, or a Seinfeld episode. Humans have a kind of “super” humor compared to chimps. However, chimpanzees have no precursor to understanding poetry, or to the joys of philosophy, or to ideas about democratic governance – there are ideas and feelings in humans that are incomprehensible to chimpanzees. And so it will be with augmented humans compared to unaugmented humans.
I realize how offensive this notion seems. This sixth phase isn’t intended to offend, it’s intended to lay out openly the somewhat inevitable transition to post-human qualia.
Nick Bostrom covers this pretty succinctly with his “qualia map” visualization – about 14 minutes into his 2007 TED talk:
Disturbing as it might sound, there is absolutely no reason to suspect that transhumans or posthumans with access to oceans of new qualia will choose to hinge their happiness
Some will. Just like some people don’t want a smartphone, or refuse to use VR, or choose to be Amish. These people are rarely the majority. The fruits of hyper-expansive post-human qualia will be so delicious that essentially no one with access to them will likely deny them.
I predict a tipping point where most adults in developed countries prefer the companionship, the personal closeness, and the sexual gratification of AI-enabled, hyper-personalized machines, rather than the messy world of other people who have their own needs, incentives, desires.
It is possible that this will happen before brain-computer interface-enabled VR arrives – but it will almost certainly happen once said brain-computer interface worlds are viable and common.
These “partners” will not only eventually be less expensive than having a real partner, they’ll also be able to respond in real time to the needs of their users – whether coaching them to build self-esteem, or helping them overcome sexual hang-ups, helping them think through career and life choices, or just elevating the user’s mood with behaviors calibrated to do exactly that: Improve wellbeing.
I’m not calling this “good” or “bad” (there will undeniably be vastly more unforeseen side effects of this shift than we now understand), but I do claim that it’s inevitable.
After this wholly virtual immersion, it won’t be more than a few decades until at least some humans reach phase 6, and escape into wide reaches of qualia and intelligence and bliss that no longer require a bounded reality of mammalian emotions like “love” or “humor” or “excitement” – there will be an infinitely larger number of said experiences to swim in. This won’t be explorable in full until we lead the biological substrate entirely (read: Sugar Cubes).
There may well be civil wars about whether or not most humans should “go in” – but like it or not – given a long enough time horizon without technological collapse – most humans will indeed “go in”, as the benefits will be too great to ignore.
You know what there will always be a market for?
Satisfaction – in all its forms.
While dating platforms will continue to be the source of dating and mating satisfaction in the decade ahead – the money to be made (for better or for worse) will be in creating fulfilling, immersive virtual environments.
Whoever owns these substrates will have power beyond anything now known. In China the CCP will undeniably own this experience entirely, in the USA and the West it seems that private companies (mostly out of Silicon Valley) will lead the way (read: Substrate Monopoly).
The money will be made in fulfilling human desires reliably. Hyper-customized AI-enabled virtual experiences, pharmacological innovations (1 in 9 Americans is already on an antidepressant, imagine what 2040 will be like), and ultimately, brain-computer interface – will be the most direct roads to that satisfaction.
How should we govern these virtual ecosystems?
How should we regulate them?
How can we prevent a depressing march into solitary VR pleasure worlds void of meaning?
How can human rights (or whatever is beyond them) be upheld or augmented in this new, virtual human experience?
Should the international community ban some of these technologies to ensure that people continue to work, and perpetuate the species?
These questions (and many more) will need to be explored – and I argue that a global, intergovernmental steering and transparency committee for the trajectory of intelligence will need to be created for this reason.
Header image credit: LuDongJun.com