We’ve heard from Terry Young, of the trend-spotting shop Sparks & Honey, before. A while ago, he talked about the future of jobs, and before that, the future of health care. Here he offers up some intriguing ideas about relationships in 2025, based on three “macro” trends: that technology is speeding up how we interact; that unconventional relationships are becoming more accepted; and that kink (e.g. porn) is going mainstream.
Projects like 23andMe and uBiome reveal our personal genetics and microbial make-ups. The logical upshot? A service that matches us with someone with complementary genes and gut. After all, who wants to be someone who isn’t microbiomically sympatico?
In the future, we’ll be quantifying not only ourselves but our relationships. “The use of wearable technologies bleeding over into the way we interact with each other,” says Young. “Sex and relationships are fertile new frontiers for measurement. Big data provides insights into why relationships work and fail.”
Location-based communication services like Vine, Snapchat, and Grindr will proliferate, letting people find a like-minded match more easily, and meet instantaneously. “Technology is allowing every aspect of flirting to be localized and be location-based,” Young says. “The rise of instant gratification social media platforms have turned courtship into a sped-up process.”
The movie Her depicts a man falling in love with an advanced operating system. It sounds sci-fi, but Young believes that sentient artificially intelligent entities could start to compete for our affections. There are also going to be more physical sex surrogates to take care of our needs. Men in Japan already have virtual girlfriends.
Technology allowing us to stimulate each other remotely will be normal. It’s already available. Full-on sex bot stand-ins can’t be much further away. “Virtual reality innovations will allow unparalleled sex experiences,” Young says.
“Men and women have become so over-stimulated by the abundance of porn that it’s hard for them to perform sexually, or their relationships become like porn,” Young says. That could lead to backlash, like the movement, Make Love Not Porn, that Cindy Gallop is trying to foster, or detox services that wash our minds of skin-on-skin imagery. Or something sadder. “Large numbers of men are no longer physically attracted to human women,” Young notes.
The most intimate moments of our lives will become “snack media,” as in Khoaliti’s Vine upload. “As relationship cycles speed up, breaking up becomes much easier to do,” Young says.
You’ve heard of revenge porn. Revenge analytics is the geeky cousin: mining material to get back at exes will be easy going forward. “It’s people using online forensics to uncover dirt. Everyone leaves a digital footprint,” Young says.
With better 3-D-printing, sex toys will become printable. We’ll be able to create replicas of our partners, or shape mementos of relationships that have ended. “Custom and artisanal sex toys will take on a whole new dimension,” Young says.
Linked to quantified relationships, we’ll have services indexing relationship performance. “Once you finished a relationship, you report it and get an analysis of what went right, and what you need to optimize next time,” Young says. “It’s an index of how you’ve done, and what you may consider doing differently in the future.”
Sparks & Honey releases its “future of relationships” mini-report in December.