“My wife and I were happy for twenty years. Then we met.” -Rodney Dangerfield
This is probably the most controversial topic I could shake you up with. Are you jumping with joy or are you worried about your kids getting married as you read this? I suppose it depends on what your life experiences have been like and what your core beliefs are. Anyway, I’m not arguing about whether our current marriage systems are good or bad.
I am only suggesting that it is natural that social institutions like marriage will evolve with radical technological and social advancements. Let’s ask a fundamental question: why do we need marriage? In no particular order of importance, we can say that people get married to have lifelong companionship, to have kids, to fulfill physical needs and desires, for social compliance (especially in traditional countries like India), to make our parents happy and for economic support and stability.
In the future, companionship will be readily available and short-term, and people will feel secure enough not to want lifelong commitments. This is already the case in many countries. With advancements in in- vitro fertilization (IVF), people choosing not to marry but desiring children will have more options for parenthood. Future generations will care less about making society happy or living for society. And with both genders becoming increasingly economically independent, there will be less economic support required from a spouse. These factors just take into consideration the immediate human and social angles.
Further into the future, with more breakthroughs in cognitive and virtual reality (VR) a wholly new mode of interaction will be available to us. It is likely that people will end up spending more time having virtual experiences with machines. This would mean a reduced need for human interactions. Even now, how much time do you spend with people? How many devices do you have at home? All your family members and friends are probably already spending more time on their personal devices than with each other. Why? It’s because machines are able to entertain us better and give us more distinct experiences in the same amount of time. Can you imagine any person entertaining you for more than a couple of hours? You would get bored to death.
Let us fast-forward to fifty years into the future (although India may need more time). Only a small fraction of people would be married. But since humans cannot ever be fully replaced by machines, at the peak of disruption we will crave more human interaction and take a 1/4th U-Turn to restore balance.