It’s not something a lot of people are talking about, but the fast-approaching AI revolution is certain to affect the most intimate of human relationships, and those affects don’t have to be negative.
AI-emotion detection – if used ethically – could radically alter the way couples understand their own and their partner’s feelings, leading to better psychological health and emotional stability for couples. Understanding a partner’s genuine feelings is challenging; even for those who claim to be “good listeners.” Perhaps we need some help.
Despite most nations reporting high divorce rates, and in spite of prognosticators predicting the death of marriage, there’s few indicators that humans plan to give up the ancient institution. Same-sex couples fought and – in many places – won the right to say “I do.”
Marriage will inevitably morph and mutate. Living longer and healthier might lead to marriages with time limits. Perhaps polygamy will become more acceptable. How humans will connect as units in the 21st century is, naturally, unpredictable. That we will continue forming units is a safe bet, even if those unions aren’t called “marriages.”
Ask any divorced couple what drove them to separate and almost inevitably the issue of communication arises. “She never understood me.” “He didn’t really listen.” True, some use mis-communication as an excuse for being inattentive or selfish; but what about those who genuinely want to “make it work” but seem to stumble? Ironically, while dystopian models of the future have love frozen out by emotionless machines, technology actually has the potential to be a boon to relationships.
Val Sribar, senior research vice president at research firm Gartner believes “people first” tech is on the cusp of radically altering the human experience. “In 50 years, we’ve seen technology transform our enterprises, our relationships, and society itself.
The next five years may bring as much change as those last 50,” Sribar told the media last year’s IT Symposium/XPO.
Gartner analysts predict that by 2022, 10 percent of personal devices will have emotion AI capabilities. Much of that will no doubt be applied to the business world. Improved AI customer service that takes human emotion into account is an obvious application.
But as the tech improves, there’s no reason it can’t be applied to human to human communication. The tenor of one’s voice, cadence, pace, eye movements, body language, etc.…all of these subliminal signs of emotion are and can be detected. And if it can be detected, it can be analyzed. Such analysis will yield data, find patterns and reveal hidden cues – all of which can be used in relationship-building, including intimate ones.
Even the most traditional ways to strengthen your marriage, such as couples’ therapy and counseling is set for an AI take-over. Why shop around for the right professional when an anonymous AI ‘expert’ can utilize advanced applications that include facial, physical and voice recognition to more accurately evaluate how you’re feeling?
It’s certainly strange to think of a world where technology is better in tune with our feelings than we are. Some will no doubt be hesitant to embrace “AI emotion detection;” arguing with some merit that the name itself is oxymoronic. Others will find it yet another monstrous intrusion into privacy and reject it outright.
But what’s really all that weird about the idea of using tech to tell us how we – and others – feel? Millions wear watches or fitness bands that monitor stress via less-than-scientific calculations based on heart rates and other metrics. We happily take online quizzes that indicate if we are depressed. Almost everyone uses grammar and spell-check software that sometimes radically alters writing, usually for the better. Certain car companies use face recognition software to determine if a driver is tired or otherwise impaired. In law enforcement, emotion detection tech is gaining prominence over the hardware of polygraphs.
Ethical concerns are not trivial. There is plenty of opportunity for AI emotion detection abuse. Early adopters of the tech are – unsurprisingly – massive corporations interested in consumer behavior. By analyzing a customer/consumer/user’s nuanced body language or expressions, facial signals and voice patterns, these behemoths are quickly figuring out how to manipulate individuals and spur greater consumption.
Imagine, however, a consensual relationship with tech. Humans, choosing to allow themselves to be monitored by both AI and their partners. The key will be limits. Some relationships adhere to the “tell it like it is” mantra; others mesh intimacy with secrecy.
AI, if used ethically, will be a tool with adjustable settings. You may not want to know that your partner found last night less-than-satisfying, but seeing a message or icon on your phone after a call that indicates the other party had more to say could be helpful.
The cliché is true: the AI genie has been let out of the bottle. It’s time to start thinking about its application to relationships other than customer-corporation. Aladdin’s genie claimed he was powerless to make people fall in love.
AI might soon not only help you fall in love, but help you stay in love.