People may expand their freedoms to live how they like and have the types of relationships they like in a more transient, but online world. New arrangements of relationships may be initiated, supported, or managed by AI, ushering in even more radical concepts of relationships.
How the scenario could unfold
In this scenario, we illustrate conditions resulting from a selection of possible trends. We can foresee that there may be an increased sense of independent freedom of identity, allowing people to more fluidly define who they are and how they live, outside of more societally constructed norms such as gender, nationality, race, profession or sexuality. This could lead to a freedom to choose how you want to live as well as a freedom to explore and redefine yourself constantly. Within this context, we may see connections between each other alter, as more options for ways of being become available.
We see individuals living and working remotely, enabling them to continually move from place to place. This transience could be supported further by increasingly high fidelity online environments for socialising and working, which may use a plethora of virtual reality techniques to augment or generate digital worlds. This may mean relationships will fluctuate between physical and virtual spaces and be long or short term.
Alongside this emerging fluidity, we consider the integration of highly sophisticated, emotional AI into our lives in ways that will mean we can understand and communicate ourselves in totally new ways. This emotional understanding may influence the way that technology initiates and supports different types of relationships between people.
We consider the significance of this context from the perspective of a future character we created based on our research with real people.
What might that mean for Lu?
For Lu, relationships are everything and can take any form. We explore how services may evolve around people’s new relational needs.
The connections I make with the people I meet shape everything about my life – the things I do, how I see the places I travel to and how I see myself.
Children may spend more of their time in online environments that can transform their educational and creative experiences but equally have increased capacity to captivate and shape their world view in potentially problematic ways.
Lu travels around the world staying in hostels, hotels and co-living/working spaces cataloguing her adventures in her digital notebook. She lives for thrills, and believes that if something scares her, she needs to try it at least once. She opens up relationship apps whenever she gets to a new city, so she can get companionship and connection in different forms. When she’s alone, she logs into her online virtual worlds to socialise. Initiating relationships might be easy, but they can also lead to a lot of hassle ,so she tries to make the most of the connections she has.
Her happiness is shaped by the experiences she has through the people she meets, so she manages her relationships carefully across online and offline worlds.
Lu’s goals are to constantly lean into her fear of change repeating things as little as possible, and while she wants to maintain her independence, she still wants to continue and make the most of her relationships.
For her, relationships are varied and complex, so the effort required has to balance with the value they gain from them.
Explorations in ‘Enhanced Relationships’
In this scenario, we explore the future by producing concepts of services that respond to the needs of someone like Lu. Sometimes these future concepts articulate provocative or even implausible caricatures of services, but provocation and implausibility often stimulate the dialogue that is needed for the emergence of new strategies.
- What beneficial elements of these services could be fostered? What is already happening in some way?
- What harm may these services do?
- What might prevent services such as these proliferating?
- What cultures may develop around a landscape of services such as this?
Relover is an implant designed to alter your vision, so you can see different faces mapped onto the people around you. This digital implant connects your visual system with our processors and is designed to augment and alter your view, allowing you to select how you want people to look. Choose people you know, adapt and tweak people’s actual appearance or opt for celebrities you’ve always wanted to meet.
Team: The Lab
Relate divides your relationship needs into multiple categories, so they can be fulfilled by different people that are matched perfectly and arranged for you.
Relate learns your preferences and through its advanced matching techniques, initiates and arranges all of your ‘romantic’ relationships categories to reduce the complexity of modern connections.
Relate integrates with all user’s empathy devices, so there is always a shared understanding of each other’s expectations and desires.
Team: The Lab
Eros leverages artificial intelligence to enhance human-human romantic relationships for young adults already in them. This romantic relationship coach and assistant, wrapped into the convenience of an app, aims to help young adults learn more about themselves and their partners, so they are better able to build intimate, committed and passionate relationships in the present and future.
Team: The Lab
Within these explorations, a multitude of topics emerge about how our relationships might be affected by such sophisticated technological methods of understanding ourselves and connecting to one another.
Firstly, we consider that if AI is able to understand the emotional states of individuals within a relationship to a more advanced level than it could without the technology, then this paves the way for new dynamics between people. We can ask whether a relationship that forms around such technology is natural or not? Whether it could extend unhealthy relationships that would otherwise have ended? Are there parts of our relationships that should purely be left unaided? Might these tools alter what we see in our relationships, and our perceptions of what is valuable and subsequently alter what a normal relationship is?
With concepts such as ‘Relate’, we see the extension of dating apps into complex relationship managers that revel in the emergence of atypical relationship structures and potentially divide relationships into services that fulfil different areas of people’s emotional and physical needs. We may see people having relationships that suit them specifically for different things like support, encouragement, sex or adventure. These relationships have an additional dimension added when we consider the possibility of virtual online relationships that could be enhanced through advanced virtual reality experiences.
If we consider an additional extension of virtual relationships, we can foresee a blurring between the existing sex industry and the emerging ‘relationship’ industry. If a person can digitally manifest across the world, then they can create experiences with multiple people at once, and therefore the relationship can be a commodity to whatever level of customised emotional or physical intimacy is called for. Consider a sex worker whose body, conversational style, vocabulary, and previous interactions can be collected and modelled in a virtual world. While this projection is not fully convincing of a world where artificial relationships can be realistically intimate and meaningful, one only needs to looks at the impacts of the current sex industry to argue that realism is not essential in order to impact how people form relationships.
Related to ‘Enhanced Relationships’
Creating and facilitating relationships through enhanced empathy and compatibility.
Eros is essentially a romantic relationship coach and assistant, wrapped into the convenience of an app.
Identity could grow more fluid as people gain more freedom to pursue the lifestyles of their choosing outside normative assumptions of race, nationality, sexuality, gender, age and more. More nuanced characteristics are supported by social media niches alongside AI that may raise self awareness to help you define what works for you.