We are in the midst of a sea of change in which not only many traditional relationships are failing, but also unexpected new arrangements are beginning to appear.
A growing number of adults prefer living together without marriage, same sex marriages are becoming popular, and many people are consciously choosing to live alone.
How does technology affect relationships? Telephones, cameras, and camcorders have long been instrumental in bringing people together. Today, many spend time texting on cell phones, trying to develop or strengthen friendships; and tomorrow, the future promises even greater changes.
By 2015, wall-size 3D voice-interactive screens connected to a superfast Internet will bring life-size images of family members and friends into our homes via a modified Skype-like system. This will be a boon to the elderly, who have precious little contact with people. Relating with screen images could become the perfect therapy for those who have lost their mates or are in between relationships.
By 2020, electronic contact lenses will produce computer-generated overlays on what we see in the real world. If your partner’s physical appearance is not quite up to standard, you can digitally enhance what you see, or replace it completely with something closer to your dreams.
By late 2020s, holographic technology will allow images to leave the screen and appear as living flesh in hologram form. Nanorobots will alter our senses making the images seem real. Wrapping arms around a hologram will convince your mind that you are experiencing an actual physical meeting.
By 2030, the real fun begins – simulated reality. Unlike virtual reality, which can sometimes be distinguished from reality, simulated reality describes an environment impossible to tell from the real thing. A Star Trek Holodeck-like program would be downloaded from the Internet depicting any scene our minds could conjure up – a friendly chat with family members or friends; or even a wild romantic encounter with a stranger.
Futurist Ray Kurzweil says simulated reality could become the addiction of the future. Some people might prefer to spend most of their time in simulated reality adventures, depriving themselves of real life. Will the future unfold in this manner? Time will tell. Comments welcome.
Dick Pelletier was a weekly columnist who wrote about future science and technologies for numerous publications. He passed away on July 22, 2014.
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