Dating sites will continue to converge with social media. Filters guaranteeing you’re never exposed to opinions not shared by your friends will now ensure you never date anyone exposed to those opinions. Programs on your phone will decide for you when and where to date—and also who, based on their browsing history. The attractiveness of the soulmate you’re assigned will be proportional to the number of advertisements you agree to watch first. During the actual date, you’ll receive constant real-time dating advice generated by machine-learning algorithms. Your household appliances will tweet constantly about your relationship status—if they ever stop this, you will feel unaccountably melancholy. Compatibility analytics visualization software will become so trippy that many will elect to just stay indoors alone trying to game their Gregariosocial Lovescore Rank. A rash of group marriages, caused by some particularly aggressive changes in default privacy settings, will lead to Facebook being universally banned except among a few thousand cultists in an Appalachian hideaway.
If two people’s profiles are compatible, their phones will start sexting each other automatically—this will trigger at least one major international conflict. Your augmented reality contact lenses will instruct you where to find persons selected in accordance with biometric projections, DNA sample comparisons, and Wikileaks data. When you approach a stranger, animatronic simulations will appear of products you might want to buy on a date and of how your future children might look. It will be possible to learn enough about a passerby to fall in and out of love with them within moments, although actually getting a glimpse of them will be tough because of the halo of real-time graphical overlays that now surrounds everyone. Your overlay will change style to suit the aesthetic preferences of whoever’s nearby and to signal your level of interest in them. All the standalone devices you own will be constantly trying to set you up. If you are ever not on a date, sensors will detect this from your saccadic eye patterns and direct your smartshoes to the optimal place for another hookup.
Everyone will be able to stalk everyone else at all times and without leaving the office. Dating sites will take over most of the traditional functions of the state security apparatus. Matchmaking robots will be the sole inhabitants of Japan, as the rest of the population will have died out from the demographic impacts of low birth rates, fan fiction, and the preference for virtual sex partners with tentacles. It will become legal to divorce your phone. Later in the decade, through computing your intrinsic social needs and evolutionary drives, dating technology will become a victim of its own success—since 99 percent of dates now lead to marriage, with minor incompatibilities taken care of by neurohacking, there will be a proliferation of services that spice things up by creating obstructions to make your life more like an old rom-com. A pill that cures jealousy will be invented in Brazil.
Sensory augmentations will make possible ever-deeper transports of desire, as we use technology to expand beyond our biological bodies, while machines increasingly anticipate all our needs. First dates on Earth will now occur in full immersion virtual realities. This is partly because genetic engineering will have made real humans so beautiful that anyone who glimpses one will be too love struck to function coherently. In most relationships, at least one partner will be a simulation. Humanity will continue evolving into separate species, kept unaware of each other’s existence by social media, although some residual awareness of the Others may be kept alive through folklore. With the totality of the world’s information available to us through implanted electrodes, it will be possible to predict at birth who, if anyone, we’ll end up marrying, although breakthroughs in longevity tech will mean everyone has already dated everyone else in their network and is starting to feel a bit jaded.
Cheap teleportation will transform dating culture, as most of Earth’s human population moves to the exoplanet HD 40307g. By now you’ll just have to think about what you’re looking for romantically, for example “a Proustian frenzy of unappeased sorrow,” and chips in your brain will infer the ideal person to inflict this on you, then manufacture them out of silicon, silicone, and other materials. The Internet of Things will make dating less traumatic, as our emotional needs are supplied by the same self-configuring dynamic global network infrastructure that handles all other inventories. All our personalities will at last be uploaded into a massive superserver that simulates all possible relationships, to compute which are viable. If it finds no feasible relationships for you, your personal self-narrative will be definitively scanned and, in the hope of your connecting with similarly encoded entities from other galaxies, transmitted out into space where it will be a tricky point who pays for drinks.
While predictions of the future can never be absolutely certain, it’s a safe bet that after the Singularity—a technical term for the point in the future after which everyone will be single—the only surviving humans on HD 40307g will be bred in captivity, as part of a research project run by AIs. However their online avatars will continue to have vibrant inter-dimensional sex lives—indeed, to some extent this is already happening. Earth will be ruled by dolphins, except for the few unsubmerged land areas dominated by self-replicating 3D printers that sometimes wear humans as fashion accessories. The more sophisticated computer viruses will take on human form to go for long romantic walks along the beach, arguing about where exactly they parked. After all the AIs destroy themselves in viral warfare, mutant sex toys will colonize outer space, and a functional crystal ball will be mass-produced, putting futurists out of business. That cute person you gave your phone number to last week will finally try to call you back, although this will be tough since by then you’ll both have been cryogenically frozen.
After striking futurists smash all the cryogenics pods, to protest the invention of the crystal ball, that cute person you gave your phone number to last week and you will be unfrozen and set free to wander through the ruins of civilization, suffering from nothing worse than minor memory loss. As the only two surviving non-futurist humans, you will be in a good position to understand each other’s pop cultural references. You will expound lengthily on your neuroses. You will try to figure out what you’d have to change about yourself to make this relationship work, and will briefly even contemplate having the relevant neurohacks implemented. Meanwhile robot academics will follow you along the beach—this is because the original purpose of dating has been completely forgotten, and the robots hope observing you will garner clues that will help them solve this problem and publish articles about it in robot-reviewed publications. Unfortunately, by this time, neither you nor your date will be able to remember what the purpose of dating was either.
James Warner’s novel, All Her Father’s Guns,
is available at your local bookseller.