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by Roger Bourke White Jr., copyright March 2016
Wearables are going to influence many things about how humans live. The early and obvious ones concern health and physical activity.
But with time they will also be influencing thinking. They will be doing this by adjusting hormones and twiddling the autonomic nervous system. Wearables won't be adding thoughts, but they will be adding and subtracting feelings. (Cyber muses can be adding full-fledged thoughts by talking with people. But cyber muses aren't wearables.)
Since romance is all about feelings, one of the surprise uses for wearables is going to be adjusting romantic feelings.
That is the topic of this essay.
When wearables can control emotions, one of the important emotions they can control is how one person feels about another. Love, fear, disgust, respect these are all emotional ways to think about another person. Dial your wearable and...
With these emotions being that easy to control, there is going have to be a lot of training in how to use wearables to control them. In the 2050's this kind of training will be comparable to learning how to drive is in the 2010's -- an important rite of passage. The alternative, which will also be employed, is to give the control to cyber.
Just like driving a car is in the 2010's, this will be a powerful and life-changing tool in the 2050's.
A surprise use of this tool is the 2050's version of arranged marriage.
A man and a woman, or their families who exercise a lot of control over their lives, can decide that a particular person is just right on the basis of many cultural norms -- the right job, the right education, the right connections... things of this sort. With wearables in control of emotions, how they feel about that person won't be on the list. Just dial in to the wearable how you want to feel about that person, and that problem is solved.
Neat... simple... and kind of spooky by 2010's standards!
For many generations, and in many cultures, monogamy has been the high-profile desired relation between a man and a woman in love, and especially once they get married. But behind the scenes, in lower profile ways, many other relations are practiced. These other relations are the sources of lots of popular drama story telling.
So how will wearables affect this mix of relations? How will they affect how people feel about these various relations? Will monogamy remain high-profile and "the right way to do things", or will communities become tolerant of many other relations? And how will communities feel about using wearables to support the relations -- both acceptable and unacceptable? Is OK to use a wearable to keep a marriage going? Is it OK to use a wearable to end one?
One of the big questions will be how wearables and infidelity mix? In theory, they can dramatically diminish the thrills and pleasures of infidelity. But, given human nature, will that be the only choice that happens? Other emotions besides lust can power the desire for unfaithfulness. Some examples being ambition, envy and revenge.
And another question of the day is: Will it matter? Given how easily emotions can be dialed up and down, how many people will consider fidelity important? Fidelity could become much like specific fundamentalist religious choices are in the 2010's -- enthusiastically embraced... by just a handful of people.
Related to the infidelity issue is the "pre-infidelity" issue -- having intimate relations before social commitments are made -- what is the hookup culture in the 2010's.
Once again, the theory is that hookup culture can become incredibly easy. The adage in country songs that women in the bar sure start looking better as the evening wears along is a 2010's example of this attitude adjustment happening even without wearables. With wearables this attitude adjustment can be dialed in quickly, neatly and predictably.
The other thing that can dialed in is mixing straight and gay feelings. Wearables should be able to make both seem exciting. So... will people do a lot more of that kind of experimenting?
Given all of the above possibilities, and more that are surprising, what will be considered going too far? What will be considered crossing the line?
With wearables lots of kinds of feelings can be dialed up or down. This is new and innovative. What is an old constant that won't disappear is the opinion makers of the community coming up with opinions about what is appropriate "dialing" and what crosses the line.
When the line gets crossed in the eyes of these opinion makers then the shaming begins. And one of the big questions about the 2050's is what forms shaming will take, and how much teeth the shaming will have.
And example of shaming getting serious teeth is the Cold War hysteria about closet Communists infiltrating businesses and governments. There have been many books and movies about the blacklisting that swept Hollywood during the 1950's and 60's. In the Hollywood case the blacklisting cost people their jobs, and a few got tossed in jail for a few months. (for contempt of Congress) The blacklisting of that era is an example of shaming with serious teeth.
Social shaming alerts have always moved quickly through communities. This won't change. The responses to the alerts change with times and cultures. What they will be in the 2050's will be familiar in many ways -- gossip as an example -- but there will be surprises as well. For instance, how will cyber muses participate in these shaming activities, whatever they are?
Romance is a big part of entertaining story telling. How will the wearable realities of 2050's influence the kinds of romance stories people want to read, hear and see?
An example I have personally experienced is the difference in song stories between the 1960's, when as a teenager I first started listening with interest, and the song stories of the 2010's. (Yes, "This stuff ain't music." is my reaction to most 2010's products.) But the story content is also different. A lot of the 60's stories were about gossips getting in the way of true love. The theme in the 2010's is... umm... different. (I'll have to do more research on this. [grin])
The 2050's are going to have an equally dramatic shift in what is interesting romantic conflict to story-tell about.
Wearables are going to make a big difference in how romance is percieved and conducted. Because wearables can tweak emotions, the uncertainty of emotions is going to disappear. "Will he like me?" is going to be replaced with, "What do I need on my resume for him to want to like me?"
In affairs of the heart, it is going to be a different world, indeed.
index ... here's a story