Somebody loves binary coding

What is the binary code for "I love you"?

How technology is changing the way we treat love, relationships, and sex

In today's digitized society, we are networked with one another like never before.But how does this affect us humans? Technology brings a number of changes. Many of them are perceived as positive, but complications should not be underestimated.

Of Marcia Arbenz and Noémie Lushaj
Edited by Flavia Gorla and Laurina Stahlin
Illustrated by Svenja Rangosch

Our grandparents each wrote pages of handwritten love letters when they lived apart. They told each other how their everyday life was and, above all, how much they missed each other. Similar conversations take place nowadays between people in long-distance relationships. The same feelings, such as melancholy and longing, also come up. Although the content of communication between lovers who are far from each other does not seem to have changed much, the means of doing this are completely different. Instead of letters, we write short messages, send loving voice memos, facetimes for hours and send each other naked photos on our smartphones. Nowadays we are no longer tied to a corded telephone, but can be reached almost anytime and anywhere. This example shows how much technological advances have changed the way we have relationships. But the effect of these developments does not stop with our communication culture: Hardly any area of ​​our love and sexual life remains untouched by technological influences. In the endless search for human contact, we get to know potential partners through dating apps, watch porn films on the Internet, satisfy ourselves with the latest sex toys and may fall in love with machines in the future. What advantages, but also difficulties and ethical questions emerge in this changing and apparently paradoxical world?

Tinder & Co. - for better or for worse

Tens of millions of people use the well-known dating app Tinder (Bilton, 2014). The market for love and dating seems to be booming. This is also reflected in the diversity of online dating offers (see box “Types of online dating”). The users are heterogeneous in terms of age, gender and relationship status and the motives for online dating are just as different. The motivations, on the other hand, can only be divided into two groups: intrapsychic needs such as pastime, closeness or self-affirmation and interactive needs, for example communication or sex (Aretz, Gansen-Ammann, Mierke, & Musiol, 2017). Thus online dating appears to contribute to the fulfillment of important human needs.

Even so, there are some negative consequences of this trend. The seemingly immeasurable selection can lead to emotional wear and tear and objectification of the partner (Finkel, Eastwick, Karney, Reis, & Sprecher, 2012). Although users have the need to appear authentic, most users see their profile as a means to present their ideal self to others. This creates tension and leads to more or less deliberate lies (Ellison, Heino, & Gibbs, 2006; Toma, Hancock, & Ellison, 2008). According to Finkel and colleagues (2012), getting to know each other via an online platform can lead to less satisfaction later in the relationship. Both the commitment and the communication would suffer under certain circumstances. Mathematical matching algorithms are not a magical remedy for loneliness (Finkel et al., 2012). D’Angelo and Toma (2016) found that people who had more choice of partners reported more dissatisfaction after one week than those who had fewer choices. It seems as if the decision for the partner will be devalued overall (Aretz et al., 2017). There are also some studies that reported more deception and fraud, psychological and physical dangers, as well as more sexual harassment in online dating (Aretz et al., 2017). For example, a study by Andrighetto, Riva and Gabbiadini (2019) showed that straight men who were rejected by a fictional online dating partner showed increased hostility and aggressiveness towards the partner and women in general. It is also noteworthy that positive connections between the Dark Triad [the personality traits Machiavellian, psychopathy and narcissism (Furnham, Richards, & Paulhus, 2013)] and the use of Tinder could be found (Sevi, 2019).

All in all, dating apps are an interesting way to get to know people. But how do you navigate through this new digital world and how do you deal with, among other things, your own high expectations, the fear of catfishes [people who assume a false identity on the Internet (Peterson, 2013)] and the risk of dehumanizing the other person? Between hopes, worries, disappointments and success stories, different people reveal us in the "Welcome to Tindergarten!" at the end of the article, what do you think of online dating.

(S) ex machina

Little is needed for people to anthropomorphize objects, i.e. to perceive them as human-like counterparts or social actors (Döring, 2017). In some cases, emotional or physical bonds are even established with objects, for example with teddy bears (Döring, 2017). But while you are only laughed at if you still have a cuddly toy in bed as an adult, you probably get horrified looks if you leave a mechanical sex doll or a sex toy lying around openly in the bedroom. Nonetheless, Adam and Eve will probably become Florence and the Machine in the not too distant future: There are predictions that in 30 years it will be normal for humans to sleep with robots or to have virtual intercourse in one form or another have (Levy, 2007; Pearson, 2016).

A general distinction is made between hardware and software sex robots (Döring, 2017). Hardware robots can be designed haptically, visually, audibly or from a combination of these senses. Software sex robots are, for example, virtual reality (VR) with or without teledildonics (Döring, 2017). Teledildonics is a term for sex toys that haptically stimulate the genitals in sync with an erotic film (Döring, 2017). Pornographic films designed for VR glasses already exist. The user's perspective shifts - instead of observing, one takes an active role (Döring, 2017). The film is shown in a point-of-view, i.e. from the perspective of the main person. In the future, VR games will probably also be used for similar purposes. These should become more and more realistic. A target group for this could be people in long-distance relationships (Döring, 2017). For example, it should be possible to embody one's partner through an avatar or to interact with the partner live. This futuristic idea is somewhat reminiscent of the first episode of the fifth season of the Black Mirror series: In “Striking Vipers” two friends have an affair with each other over a VR fighting game (Harris & Brooker, 2019). Are such scenarios music of the future or are they actually already present-day music? As a viewer, one can wonder what effects the whole thing will have on society and on individuals.

A short answer could be: You simply don't know, because there is no data basis on which you can test theories or draw conclusions (Döring, 2017). Even so, there is much speculation as to what could happen if humans and machines have sexual intercourse with one another. One theory claims that humans - such as the protagonist of the science fiction film drama «Her» (Jonze, 2013) - will develop an emotional bond with robots. This could reduce loneliness and promote wellbeing (Levy, 2007). For example, through relationships with machines, people could better cope with the death or separation of their partner (Döring, 2017). The technology could therefore have positive effects on relationships and human wellbeing. Still, it's not all as pink as it seems.

A new means of oppression

The technology opens up numerous new possibilities. However, this can also have a downside and be abused in many ways. Thus, for example, sexual violence and misogyny find new forms of expression through technology. Revenge Porn, better known as Non-Consensual Dissemination of Intimate Images, puts nude images and videos online without consensus (Maddocks, 2019). With deepfakes, or rather deep nudes, this problem becomes even more complex due to technological advances: Fake nude images are generated using machine learning algorithms (Mahdawi, 2019). With every new development, new ethical questions arise. Sex robots are no exception, because they can harm people more or less directly. For example, by reducing our ability to empathize (Freuler, 2016). One theory postulates that the use of female sex robots by men reinforces the role of women as subordinate sexual objects and thus leads to more oppression and sexualised violence against women (Danaher, 2014; Richardson, 2015; Richardson, 2016). This thesis is based on the fact that at present it is mainly men who develop and use sex robots (Döring, 2017). It is also debated whether child-like sex robots should be used to treat pedophilia. Caution is advised here because it remains unclear what the effects of such a measure would be (Freuler, 2016). In addition, the question is difficult to research, since a research design with a control group would not be ethically justifiable (Freuler, 2016).

Beyond the Uncanny Valley

On the other hand, the question arises as to how robots should be treated themselves. Does the sexual consensus also apply to them? Should we treat them as a whole with respect and give them rights? Often there are no clear answers to such questions, but rather further questions: Do robots have something like consciousness, a soul or emotions? How human are they in the end, and what is it that defines being human? At the moment, artificial intelligence is still very far from developing consciousness and some authors even argue that it never will (Widmer, 2018). In addition, the problem of the Uncanny Valley (UV) has to be overcome: The UV hypothesis states that human-like characters, which are difficult to distinguish from humans, trigger negative affects (Cheetham, Wu, Pauli, & Jäncke, 2015). In addition, robots have to pass the Turing test (1950) first. This test is a kind of imitation game that aims to investigate to what extent the thinking abilities of humans and machines are the same or indistinguishable from one another. But what will happen when one day robots can actually no longer be distinguished from humans? As always with such questions, only the future will give us clear answers. Nevertheless, it can't hurt to think about it now and, above all, to continue researching this topic in order to perhaps prevent one or the other catastrophe. In the meantime, we can try to use pen and paper from time to time and, like our grandparents, write a letter to loved ones instead of a digital text message.

Types of online dating (Aretz et al., 2017)
Online personals: Search and selection of profiles are left to you. Example: LoveScout24
Online partner placement: Suggestions for profiles that should suit you particularly well. Example: Parship
Adult dating or casual dating: arranging erotic contacts. E.g. C-Date
Niche providers: specializing in certain target groups. E.g. handicap love
Social dating: Profiles are presented based on their location. E.g. Tinder

Welcome to Tindergarten!

“I only met the person I met through Tinder after seeing his Instagram profile. So [via Instagram, author's note] we both noticed that the other person is about the same as they are on Tinder. " W, 22 years old

“The biggest danger for me with dating apps is that I start to see men as interchangeable. It's so easy to meet someone new when someone else has a little difficulty. Sometimes you forget that there are real people behind the profiles. " W, 23 years old

"It's actually exactly as you would expect." W, 22 years old

“I was lucky and had only positive experiences with the people I met (even if there weren't many). I met my girlfriend through a dating app and we've been together for two years. I can only recommend that you meet as soon as possible and not wait a week or more. When you have the person in front of you, you quickly notice whether it fits or not. " W, 23 years old

«Basically, I'm not that enthusiastic, but that's up to me. I think it's more romantic getting to know someone in real life and Tinder has such a negative connotation. " W, 22 years old

«I prefer to talk to people on the street than to use a dating app. You can see the person, all the facial expressions and gestures, they come across as more real. " M, 22 years old

«Very different experiences. Great friendships have developed that have lasted for years. But at the same time I met my ex [girlfriend]. I think it's good that Tinder is out. Shyness doesn't get in the way of online dating. " M, 25 years old

«What is sure to be noticed is that it leads to almost nothing. It certainly depends on the region, but here in Switzerland 95 percent certainly don't answer. As a person with high self-esteem, I find that I don't get the appreciation that I deserve and that I would give to others. " M, 25 years old

For further reading

Aretz, W., Gansen-Ammann, D., Mierke, K. & Musiol, A. (2017). Date me if you can: A systematic overview of the current state of research in online dating. Journal of Sex Research, 30, 7-34. doi: 10.1055 / s-0043-101465.

Döring, N. (2017). From Internet Sex to Robot Sex: State of Research and Challenges for Sexology. Journal of Sex Research, 30, 35-57. doi: 10.1055 / s-0043-101471.

Freuler, R. (2016). What does sex have to do with technology? NZZ on Sunday. Retrieved August 27, 2019, from,


Aretz, W., Gansen-Ammann, D., Mierke, K. & Musiol, A. (2017). Date me if you can: A systematic overview of the current state of research in online dating. Journal of Sex Research, 30, 7-34. doi: 10.1055 / s-0043-101465

Anderson, J. R., Holland, E., Koc, Y., & Haslam, N. (2018). iObjectify: Self — and other-objectification on grindr, a geosocial networking application designed for men who have sex with men. European Journal of Social Psychology, 48, 600-613. doi: 10.1002 / ejsp.2350

Andrighetto, L., Riva, P., Gabbiadini, A. (2019). Lonely hearts and angry minds: Online dating rejection increases male (but not female) hostility. Aggressive Behavior. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1002 / from.21852

Bilton, N. (2014). Tinder, the fast-growing dating app, taps an age-old truth. The New York Times. Retrieved August 27, 2019, from, _r = 1

Cheetham, M., Wu, L., Pauli, P., & Jäncke, L. (2015). Arousal, valence, and the uncanny valley: Psychophysiological and self-report findings. Frontiers in Psychology, 6 (981). doi: 10.3389 / fpsyg.2015.00981

Danaher, J. (2014). Robotic rape and robotic child sexual abuse: Should they be criminalized? Criminal Law and Philosophy. doi: 10.1007 / s11 572 -014- 9362-x

D’Angelo, J. D., & Toma, C. L. (2017). There are plenty of fish in the sea: The effects of choice overload and reversibility on online daters ’satisfaction with selected partners. Media Psychology, 20 (1), 1-27. doi: 10.1080 / 15213269.2015.1121827

Döring, N. (2017). From Internet Sex to Robot Sex: State of Research and Challenges for Sexology. Journal of Sex Research, 30, 35-57. doi: 10.1055 / s-0043-101471.

Ellison, N.B., Heino, R., & Gibbs, J. (2006). Managing impressions online: Self-presentation processes in the online dating environment. Journal of Computer Mediated Communication, 11, 415–441. doi: 10.1111 / j.1083‐6101.2006.00020.x

Finkel, E., Eastwick, P. W., Karney, B. R., Reis, H. T., Sprecher, S. (2012).Online dating: A critical analysis from the perspective of psychological science. Psychological Science, 13 (1), 3-66. doi: 10.1177 / 1529100612436522

Freuler, R. (2016). What does sex have to do with technology? NZZ on Sunday. Retrieved August 27, 2019, from,

Furnham, A., Richards, S. C., & Paulhus, D. L. (2013). The dark triad of personality: A 10 year review. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 7 (3), 199-216. doi: 10.1111 / spc3.12018

Harris, O. (Director), & Brooker, C. (Writer) (2019). Striking vipers [video file]. In A. Jones & C. Brooker (Executive Producers), Black Mirror. Retrieved August 27, 2019, from,

Jonze, S. (Director & Writer) (2013). Her [video file]. Retrieved August 27, 2019, from,

Levy, D. (2007). Love and sex with robots: The evolution of human-robot relationships. New York, NY: Harper Collins.

Maddocks, S. (2019). "Revenge porn": 5 important reasons why we should not call it by that name. GenderIT. Retrieved August 27, 2019, from,

Mahdawi, A. (2019). An app using AI to 'undress' women offers a terrifying glimpse into the future. The Guardian. Retrieved August 27, 2019, from,

Pearson, I. (2016). The future of sex report: The rise of the robosexuals. Retrieved August 27, 2019, from,

Peterson, H. (2013). 'Catfishing: ‘The phenomenon of internet scammers who fabricate online identities and entire social circles to trick people into romantic relationships. Daily Mail. Retrieved August 27, 2019, from, people-romantic-relationships.html

Richardson, K. (2015). The asymmetrical "relationship": Parallels between prostitution and the development of sex robots. ACM SIGCAS Computers and Society, 45 (3), 290-293. doi: 10.1145 / 2874239.2874281

Richardson, K. (2016). Sex robot matters: Slavery, the prostituted, and the rights of machines. IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, 35 (2), 46-53. doi: 10.1109 / MTS.2016.2554421

Sevi, B. (2019). The dark side of tinder: The dark triad of personality as correlates of tinder use. Journal of Individual Differences. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1027 / 1614-0001 / a000297

Toma, C., Hancock, J.T., & Ellison, N.B. (2008). Separating fact from fiction: An examination of deceptive self ‐ presentation in online dating profiles. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 34, 1023-1036. doi: 10.1177 / 0146167208318067

Turing, A.M. (1950). Computing machinery and intelligence. Min, 49, 433-460.

Tyson, G., Perta, V. C., Haddadi, H., & Seto, M. (2016). A first look at user activity on Tinder, Proceedings of the 2016 IEEE / ACM International Conference on Advances in Social Networks Analysis and Mining, ASONAM 2016 (pp. 461–466). San Francisco, US: Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc.

Widmer, H. (2018). Much ado about nothing: Artificial intelligence will never develop its own consciousness because it lacks curiosity. The New Zurich Times. Retrieved August 27, 2019, from, curiosity-lacking-ld.1419904

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