What does love look like in the 2020s?

The Face guide to the 2020s: Romantic love is going down and “love drugs” are coming up, at least according to Anna Machin, Evolutionary anthropologist at the University of Oxford.

Hi, and welcome to the future: a toasty-warm, carbon-neutral, plastic-free place where your face has replaced your passport and your car drives itself. Weed is legal, alcohol is hangover-free, weekends last three days and we robots do your admin. We can dream.

Ten long years ago, The Face compiled a set of predictions for the coming decade from a star chamber of hotshot experts. That flesh-and-blood editorial team has long since disbanded but their legacy remains. From now until the first day of the new decade we’re sharing some prognostications (as seen in The Face Volume 4 Issue 002) on love, sex, space, AI, cannabis, mental health and plastic surgery (and more) for the years ahead.

Anna Machin (Evolutionary anthropologist at the University of Oxford)

Romantic love will always be important, but in the 2020s probably not as important as it once was. In the 2010s we saw a rising tide of people who were single by choice, and statistics show that, with our increased lifespans, many of us (particularly women) are now opting-out of long-term relationships in our 50s and starting again with new partners. In the 2020s, as the oldest millennials hit their late 40s, the idea of one partner for life’ is likely to become even more alien, as people understand that forever’ is likely to be a very long time.

Actually falling in love could look very different as well. As we speak, a number of big pharma companies are researching so-called love drugs’. They’re investigating whether substances derived from drugs like MDMA could help us fall in love more quickly, or stay in love for longer. After all, MDMA is a drug which causes people to feel profoundly connected to others and we know that long-term use leads to permanent increases in empathy. 

There are huge ethical questions which need to be addressed before these drugs could ever come to market. But the fact that they’re being researched and synthesised now would imply that, in the 2020s, we’re going to hear more about – and perhaps even have access to – drugs which alter our perception of other people and which can make us feel more open’ to finding love. Or, indeed, about drugs which can help a couple sustain feelings of love for longer. This has huge profit potential for the companies. But, as I say, the ethics are questionable.”


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