You’d think by now, humans would have figured out love. Biologically, it hasn’t changed much over the last 10,000 years — but technology sure has. Technology, culture, and life co-evolve in an endless tumble, meaning that the way we love has changed too.

So how much has technology changed love? Helen Fisher argues in her TED Talk, not that much. But what has changed is the culture surrounding love. How we pursue it, our expectations, and even the markets around love.

Helen Fisher and Esther Perel talk love on the TED stage

‘Netflix and Chill’

Ah Netflix… the company that started out delivering DVDs in little red envelopes, now producing major media experiences like House of Cards, and is disrupting the cinema industry.

Theater houses and movie theaters have always been hotbeds for love and romance, and ‘Netflix and Chill’ is famous for being not quite so chill.

However, I’m arguing that Netflix has in fact chilled dating and romance. Why? Because it makes being single that much easier.

If you walk through the streets in the evening, glancing into people’s homes and apartment windows, you see television and Netflix on. Imagine being single 50 years ago. There’s no endless stream of ad-free television to distract you from your loneliness. It’s that much extra motivation to get off the couch and go meet someone.

Tons of Dating Apps, But Where’s the Money?

So technology made a problem, it can make a solution too! You can date from your couch while watching Netflix. Absorbing dopamine in ways your ancestors could only dream of.

So much swiping and chatting that your thumbs hurt, but how often does it result in a date? And how often do those dates move onto second dates? And how many dating apps do you even have on your phone?

Andrew Chen talks about why investors don’t fund dating start-ups. A few reasons include ‘member churn’ and that dating has a shelf life. Meaning that about 20–30% of members drop each month (the lucky ones!) and you only aggressively date for a certain period in your life. It’s a highly ephemeral business, subject to the same shifting passions in the marketplace as in the bedroom, making it difficult for investors to fall in love with dating apps.

The Next Generation of Dating Apps

It’s well known that humans aren’t the best at being self aware. The simple fact is that our eyes face outwards, and most of our brain systems are generated for processing information about the outside world, not the inside one.

Well, technology can help with that. More biodata and computation power, means we have a second artificial brain monitoring our biorhythms. Looking inward while we are looking outward.

This biological-artificial intelligence teamwork allows Eli Finkel, professor at Northwestern University, to focus on the what he calls ‘dyadic’ interactions, or how people relate to each other, during conversation or by messaging.

Small cues such as speaking and texting in similar fashions indicate being “on the same wavelength”, which is shown to be a more effective indicator of chemistry and compatibility in long term relationships.

With machine learning and access to biodata through consumer body tracking apps such as Jawbone or Fitbit — scientists can begin to study just how “in sync” two people falling in love can be.

Do their hearts begin to “beat as one”? With access to these cues, future generations of dating technologies can tell you who you match with on a biological level.

The Big Questions for Technologists

How does that change love, when the idea that two Fitbits will flash lights when mutual chemistry is detected.

Want to Netflix and Chill on Valentine’s Day? Check out this sci-fi alone or with your sweetheart for a reflection on what that future of love might look like.

Useful Links…

Technology hasn’t changed love. Here’s why
In our tech-driven, interconnected world, we’ve developed new ways and rules to court each other, but the fundamental principles of love have stayed the same, says anthropologist Helen Fisher. In this energetic tell-all from the front lines of love, learn how our faster connections are actually leading to slower, more intimate relationships. Watch to the end for a lively discussion with love expert Esther Perel.

Love Is Like Cocaine
George Bernard Shaw knew the power of romantic love and attachment. Both, I will maintain, are addictions — wonderful addictions when the relationship is going well; horribly negative addictions when the partnership breaks down.

Why investors don’t fund dating
I’ve been listening to the excellent Season 2 of the podcast Startup, which gives an inside look at YCombinator start-up The Dating Ring (NYT coverage here). The episodes are all great. They talk about many important topics, but I had some specific comments on fundraising for dating products.

When Dating Algorithms Can Watch You Blush
Let’s get the basics over with,” W said to M when they met on a 4-minute speed date. “What are you studying?” They talked about where they were from (she hailed from Iowa, he from New Jersey), life in a small town, and the transition to college.

Spend Valentine’s Day Forever Alone With 11 Netflix Favorites
Roses are red, violets are blue, Netflix is a better Valentine than any of you. Instead of sitting in the dark alone, playing Sinead O’Connor on repeat, make use of your evening by kicking back with a movie to suit your mood.

Thanks from Olivia 🙂

My favorite man to Netflix and Chill with 🙂

Who is Olivia Jeffers? Formerly an engineer, Olivia traversed the product-marketing chasm and is now a full-time science writer and event producer. Working in the heart of Boston and Cambridge where cutting-edge innovation takes place, she shares her unique perspective at the forefront of where technology meets humanity.

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