Future Imperfect

The more we digitize, the more we expect digital precision.

We look at our iPads and the HD video thereon, and sometimes wonder at just how pristine and perfect it looks, right down to the blemishes (okay, acne) on actors’ chins. It’s astonishing.

The problem with reliability and crystal certainty is twofold. One, our inbuilt sloth slumps to apathy because we no  longer need to fix anything or work-around failures. Who repairs their own car any more? We turn the key or push the button and go. The effort is minimal.

Secondly, and more subtly, the very fact that so much is now done for us (auto correct, navigation, shopping, cooking) creates the expectation of the trend continuing. Soon enough, we won’t even have to decide which products we need to buy; our fridge will order the food, our cars will book themselves in for an oil change and the bed will wash the bedding.

Unfortunately for us, automating people isn’t any closer. Understanding others still requires time and work, and that’s just to get to the first few levels. Figuring how and whether someone new can fit into our individual character likewise is as far from perfection as ever – we’re really counter digital creatures.

Despite our cleverness at harnessing the world around us, some verities will remain true for a while yet. Until robots synthesize humour, empathy, insight, selflessness, willingness to overlook mistakes and a shared vision for a future together, we’ll be applying these human characteristics on our own.


We humans are adept at many things – survival, reproduction, losing keys – and not so suave at others. The secret of compound interest escapes most people, as does the futility of casino gambling. We’re not perfect, which makes us completely adorable, right?

In a previous podcast about Authenticity and Sincerity, we canvassed the idea that expressing our every thought directly and completely might not be the path to coupling success. Nor success in any kind of interaction, for that matter, although it might help us find our keys. Social lubrication revolves around masking our unvarnished thoughts.

The mechanics of putting that filtering into practice relies in turn upon a much ignored human skill, that of self-control. Controlling what we communicate includes muting the hurtful, inartful and outright anti-social. And yet it’s so much more.

The picture created in the eyes of others by our verbal and non-verbal communication is mostly within our control. If we choose to project our best self, we actually have to be our best self. For the most part, that means doing some things (honesty, sobriety, diligence, maintaining a positive outlook, flexibility etc) and actively not doing others. That’s the control part of self-control.

Enter the Devil

Hope springs eternal if you’re single because experience tells us that we never know who will turn up in our lives. Chance, luck, fortune, happenstance, kismet, fate – whatever you call it, finding a surprise is one of those knowable unknowns, made all the more fun by their randomness.

The one caveat to this idea is that to meet new people we have to be out in the world, because online encounters are not meetings: they’re something, but not of the same importance as breathing the same air.

When someone new arrives in our lives we instantly and involuntarily evaluate how they might fit in. Could they be a prospect? Am I attracted to them? Why? Are they attracted to me? Am I reading the signals correctly? Am I creating something here that doesn’t exist? How might this work in the future? Are they A one?

The uncertainty is the essence of the excitement, the discovery the fuel of pursuit.

I Am Not A Smartphone

I blame the iPhone.

The iPhone is at the peak of the techno/design pyramid, which is an enormous pile of man-made goods that began accumulating with mass-produced buttons in the English midlands 250 years ago. Along the way we added shoes, guns, lights, Model-T Fords, washing machines and air-conditioners, and now the whole lot is capped with the smartphone. This is the history of the industrial revolution and consumerism.

And what, you might ask, does this have to do with dating? Fair question, Hortense, and the answer’s pretty simple: quality. The stuff we buy today is enormously durable, well-designed, thoughtfully manufactured and aesthetically pleasing. Everything from automobiles to bed-sheets are of a quality unimaginable even fifty years ago, which is the problem.

Perfection is the problem. Although we’re not there yet, we’re closing in on making universally flawless things, stuff that works right out of the box, machines that are intuitive, long-lasting and work with each other. Yes, there’s still a lot of junk around, but that’s because perfection costs, and folks will compromise quality if they don’t have enough dosh.

People, however, are just the same as we were 250 years ago.  We are not user-friendly. We’re all quirky; none of us exactly fits the technical description; few of us are consistent throughout a day, let alone a lifetime, and even fewer come within hundreds of miles of perfection.

That’s the iPhone dilemma. When we use an iPhone we (reasonably) expect consistently high technical and emotional feedback. When we are with people, that expectation leaks into our thinking, with predictable results.

Recipe for Success

  1. A prior marriage or two. Or three.
  2. A minor child or two. Or three.
  3. A child of his or her majority still behaving as if they are fifteen.
  4. The parent of this big baby also behaving as if it is fifteen.
  5. Conspicuous…interest in booze, cigs, pills or the government handouts.
  6. Not-so-conspicuous money mis-management. A bankruptcy, perhaps.
  7. The presence of an ex- something for ill-defined reasons.

Baking success comes from choosing quality ingredients, treating them with care, allowing the appropriate time for proving, the correct oven setting and luck. Avoiding the problematic ingredients puts the odds of a measurably better rise and crumb on your side.