How will technology revolutionize relationships?


Human families settled in the early farming period. Networked individuals have triumphed in the information age. Revolutions in technology have always revolutionized human relations. Today, three technological changes are laying the groundwork for the next major overhaul. Elykaim Kislev writes that when technology will soon meet our emotional and social needs, it is time to prepare for the changes ahead.

We already feel very comfortable asking Amazon’s Alexa to play a song we love, answer simple questions, or remind us of important events. The Covid-19 pandemic has taught us all how quickly we can move our human-to-human interactions online and how quickly we can adapt to connect with our loved ones using technological tools. How far can it go from here? No longer playing the matchmaker role, tech is now transitioning to a relationship partner and becoming an independent actor, whatever the intentions of its creators.

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To understand the changes we are currently experiencing, it is helpful to first examine the evolution of relationships from early prehistory to the present. If we understand how technology has affected people in the past, we can have an idea of ​​how other developments will affect us in the future. Also, awareness of the various forms of relationships from the past can open our eyes to the different meanings and variations they may hold in the future. Relationships do not need to be based on common patterns found in recent history and can evolve as technology evolves.

So in my new book, relationships 5.0, I examine four important periods in human history, each symbolizing a fundamental technological development. The first is the Hunter-gatherer society (Society 1.0), which is based on the basic technologies of hunting, gathering, fishing and scavenging. The second is the agricultural society based on agricultural technology (Society 2.0). The third is the industrial society (Society 3.0) based on innovations such as the steam engine, electricity and production processes. The fourth and most recent is the computer and internet-based information society (Society 4.0).

In turn, these previous technological changes profoundly affected personal relationships. In prehistoric times, when the clan was at the center of society and relations were more fluid (Relations 1.0), multi-generational family was dominant in the agricultural period (Relations 2.0), the nuclear family gained importance with industrialization (Relations 3.0), and networked individualism was highly influential in the information age (Relations 4.0). ).

Even the most radical researchers do not claim that all people in all cultures and societies of the same age feel and are similarly connected to one another. The argument here is more modest: there is a trend towards a more dominant type of relationship in every age, and this trend has been heavily influenced by technology.

We are now entering the fifth evolution of society. The term “Society 5.0” was coined by the Japanese government in 2016 to describe the next phase of human development, where significant advances in robotics, biotechnology, artificial intelligence, quantum computing, cyber-physical systems and nanotechnology have come together to revolutionize the entire world. the ways we live. The main difference in this transition can be defined as the transition from technologies used as tools that control the human environment and work to technologies that control them. has our ecosystem itself.

The “Super Intelligent” society, or Society 5.0, embeds technology into human life and can coexist independently of us. In turn, we are expected to experience seismic shifts of equal magnitude to the previous largest changes in civilization.

I argue that the manifestation of these technologies and their integration into our personal relationships marks the beginning of the fifth form of relationship and a new reality in which relationships are formed and maintained in radical new ways. I have named this new reality “Relationships 5.0”.


“The vision of technology that meets our emotional, intellectual and physical needs is no longer limited to science fiction.”


While we are unlikely to witness a widespread proliferation of human-technology relationships in the near future, I have demonstrated to others through numerous studies and surveys that the answer to the question of whether these relationships are in the near future is a resounding yes. The vision of technology that meets our emotional, intellectual and physical needs is no longer limited to science fiction.

To make this argument, it is necessary to carefully define what has fundamentally changed, as some technologies associated with the Fourth Industrial Revolution cannot be considered transformative for relationships.

We have to consider which technological advances can affect us so much that we will think differently about our family lives, love relationships, and emotional needs.

I describe three technological changes (we might even call them revolutions) about relationships. The first, and perhaps the most important, of these cognitive revolution, This is happening through artificial intelligence (AI) applications and personal assistants. On the one hand, AI researchers have yet to create anything as capable as the human brain: Most AI bots are heavily dependent on an external database from which they get the information they need to perform their tasks. On the other hand, AI has achieved functionality that most experts thought until recently, if at all possible, was decades away. The ability of today’s AI software to recognize objects, identify individual faces, understand spoken words, translate between languages ​​and complete many other useful tasks has been made possible by AI methods, and the pace of development is accelerating. More complex models are now applied to derive responses based on large amounts of human-to-human speech data. These improvements come from better databases, models and methods and make human-machine conversations more satisfying and interesting. For example, researchers have recently developed different tones for AI personal assistants that have proven to increase belief that they are worth talking about.

Consider Woebot as an artificial intelligence system that already digs deeper and interacts with users on emotional levels. Launched by a team of Stanford psychologists in mid-2017, Woebot is a platform to chat with users and ask, “How are you feeling?” An app designed to check them out by asking open-ended questions like The app also monitors users’ moods and applies cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) techniques to help them with everyday problems like stress, mental health ailments, and loneliness. Users can send messages to the app and receive encouragement, advice or replies to what its users say. It is programmed to respond in a very human-like manner, although it considers itself an AI device and occasionally reminds users that it is a robot. Woebot responds to nearly two million messages from users each week and already has proven results. My own work on Woebot has found that it receives extraordinary emotional responses from users, and I’ve included these results, along with many more examples of current developments in the field.

latter sensory revolution. The boundaries between the biological world and virtual realities are getting thinner and more permeable. It’s only a matter of time before we become part of a real technological universe as much as the non-virtual, undeveloped parts of our lives. The seamless blending of the biological with the technological will fundamentally affect our senses and perceptions, revolutionizing our expectations of reality.

There are already some examples of the effects of the sensory revolution on relationships. For example, residents of virtual worlds such as Avakin Life and Second Life develop emotional experiences and interactions. In the book, I show how users report having real feelings in these unreal worlds, or rather, these augmented reality worlds. After all, the emotions, experiences, and feelings developed in these presentations are real by most criteria we can think of.

Third physical revolution. The global market for humanoid robots – that is, robots built to mimic human movement and interaction – is expected to grow significantly. This estimate is particularly plausible in light of the many technologies and applications first developed during the recent Covid-19 pandemic, which could be a turning point in the use of robots. Recognizing the urgency of protecting healthcare workers and cleaners, robots accelerated their development, financing and distribution processes. Developed for the first time with the US Department of Defense, the robot named TOMI was commissioned to combat the pandemic by automatically applying UV disinfection technology in critical places that require urgent decontamination. Another robot, named Tug, used AI to identify infected people without putting others at risk. Finally, Boston Dynamics, one of the leading robotics companies, has open-sourced some of its technology to assist healthcare workers battling the epidemic. While this may sound like science fiction, robots are already meeting many human needs. For example, robo-psychologists and robo-nurses can work with their doctors, dietitians, and other health professionals while motivating patients to be healthier mentally and physically.

These three revolutions, combined to mimic the three fundamental aspects of human dynamics, could dramatically change our personal relationships if replaced by technology. The cognitive revolution is changing the way we talk to technology, the sensory revolution is changing the boundaries of the sights and sounds we experience through technology, and the physical revolution is changing the ways technology helps us, whether tasks involve moving. touching, cleaning, even cuddling and receiving physical warmth.


“While the social acceptance of relevant phenomena is still low, the consequences of this change are too revolutionary to be ignored.”


Without realizing it, we are already breaking apart the bottomless complex of human-technology interactions. Engineers and software developers break down our emotional needs into little nuggets, each containing a different aspect or nuance of human communication. We are currently living in the twilight of an era where humans and their technological approaches are still distinguishable, but every day new technologies, inventions and developments blur the lines between biological and electrical. In some ways we will present in this book, we have already crossed the elusive threshold that hinders human-technology relationships.

While the social acceptance of the phenomena involved is still low, the consequences of this change are too revolutionary to be ignored. We must decipher how these revolutions affect the formation of our relationships, how they accelerate the transition to Relationships 5.0, and how we will react when they are able to truly satisfy our emotional needs.

Robots can assist with physical tasks such as caring for us when we are ill nearby, helping us move when we are elderly or with limited mobility, or managing household chores, especially when we find ourselves alone. AI technologies can help us mentally and emotionally by helping us digest the past day, giving an understanding ear to those who want to let their emotions go, or simply as a friend with whom we can share experiences and create memories. How will we feel about these developments? How do we prepare for these changes? What risks and fears might these developments pose? Whatever the extent and pace of impending change, we should start discussing it openly.

This article is based on the author’s book Relations 5.0.

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