If a computer could determine the love of your life, would you want to know?

15 01 2018

In 2009, an underrated rom-com called TiMER was released. In this film, people elect to be implanted with a timing device that counts down to the second when they will meet their soulmate. The marketing tagline for the service was “Take the guesswork out of love.” At one point the main character Emma Caulfield Ford (of Buffy fame), says to her boyfriend of one month outside the TiMER offices, “What’s the point in continuing without a guarantee?” Then of course, she’s implanted and her timer is blank, which means her soulmate has yet to be implanted or could possibly not exist.

This year in the 4th season of Black Mirror, Episode 4, “Hang the DJ,” we meet Frank and Amy, two people who have signed up for an immersive experience to find “the one;” a program that has a 99.8% success rate. In this alternative universe, a computer uses its algorithm to collect data consistently in order to determine who belongs with each other by analyzing their every thought, action, experience, feelings. They’re set up with one person at a time, each date gets exactly that, a date in which the relationship will end. They are required to only spend that length of time together, 36 hours, 9 months, 1 year, etc. whether they like that person or not (because everything happens for a reason).

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In both of these storylines, people know in advance whether they are with the love of their lives or not. Not to give it all away, but it seems like only through the rebellion of not-knowing do any of them find what they think they’ve been looking for.

Is that what love takes? Rebellion against society’s norms? Could it even be considered “society’s norms,” when really it’s just that no one likes being told what to do, particularly when it comes to who they’re going to love (see pretty much every work of literature, poetry, film that exists).

Which is partly why the Okcupid algorithm doesn’t really work (and was supposedly all arbitrary anyway) but anyone who is supposedly a 99% match is not going to match well, because we couldn’t possibly believe that a computer could tell us what’s real more so than our own minds and hearts–so we all look for signs that the computer is wrong, and find them because humans are naturally all flawed in some shape or form.

While watching the Black Mirror episode I couldn’t help but think that having a time-stamp on the relationship would actually be rather refreshing. Of course, I have done these types of relationships before, gotten into things I knew would end because the other person was moving or what have you. It was never heartbreaking because the terms were clear from the start.

Most relationships do end; so is it so wrong to know when that end will happen? How does it change your mindset knowing? Could it not potentially allow you the opportunity to make the most of your time together, whether it’s a day or 5 years? Would you want to know if you could?

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What about when it comes to your “soulmate”? Could a computer ever have the capability to actually determine that? At some point, someone somewhere would have to confirm that the concept of the ‘soulmate’ indeed is true and exists and not only that, but it can be found essentially through math , and the finding can be easily done to make a profit.

Yet, by knowing, do we put up a wall, do we not put our whole hearts into relationships when we know that it doesn’t matter, that it will not last? And is that why people who are in love have to rebel because if they don’t, it’s not truly love?

As Tom Robbins says:
“Love is the ultimate outlaw. It just won’t adhere to any rules. The most any of us can do is to sign on as its accomplice. Instead of vowing to honor and obey, maybe we should swear to aid and abet. That would mean that security is out of the question. The words “make” and “stay” become inappropriate. My love for you has no strings attached. I love you for free.”

In the end, the security of love never exists, knowing that a computer thinks you’re right for each other doesn’t make it right, only you know, and only time can tell.

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