In case you’ve been “sick” and hiding from polar vortexes, here’s a quick update: everyone’s turning off FaceTime on their iPhone thanks to a hack that allows you to eavesdrop on conversations. Unless you are a wannabe spy, this is, of course, appalling—but we have some other news that’s maybe more so. The same virtual assistants and voice learning technologies that have infiltrated most households, aiming to help with grocery lists, play music or Google sans-hands are doing more than tidying up your to-do list: they’re listening to your conversations.
And ahem, your arguments with your partner. In fact, they’re so in-tuned with what you’re squabbling over, what sweet-nothings you’re sharing or how much laughter you experience, scientists gamble eventually they could even tell how healthy your relationship is. Or of course… isn’t.
According to Imperial College Business School, if this technology continues to improve and grows in popularity over the next two to three years, this extra voice in your home or apartment could predict with 75 percent accuracy if your twosome will make it the long haul.
As researcher Aparna Sasidharan shared in an interview, artificial intelligence could have a ‘significant impact on communication patterns in relationships.’ But who will get the most out of it? Heterosexual women, they predict.
“Research suggests that men tend to prioritize ‘report talk’—analyzing issues and solving problems in a direct and factual way. There are many instances where this is useful in everyday life, but in relationships, it can result in not communicating in a way that builds and strengthens relationships—‘rapport talk,’” Sasidharan explains “AI can pick up missed cues and suggest nudges to bridge the gap in emotional intelligence and communication styles. It can identify optimal ways to discuss common problems and alleviate common misunderstandings based on these different priorities and ways of viewing the world. We could be looking at a different gender dynamics in a decade.”
That’s a bold statement—and frankly, one that’s a little creepy. Though it could potentially save on the cost of a therapist if Alexa is reminding us to be a better listener, more patient and to maintain our cool—it also omits some of the much-needed privacy and intimacy of a romantic relationship. If someone is always eavesdropping on you—and you’re both aware—are you just as likely to be honest and vulnerable with one another? Or as willing to express yourself when you’re upset, which hey, is healthy.
What we do wish is that Alexa could cover the basics first: like reminding us to take out the trash when we forget, or to pick up our socks or never-ever forget our anniversary. We’ll take Alexa helping us cut down on the cold shoulder in less creepy ways before we go full Minority Report.