Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation
Top

Werner Herzog talks online dating

GettyImages-605724408.jpg

Werner Herzog’s nature demands that you take him seriously. He is authority and assuredness in a long, fleshy form, somehow sitting back in a chair that is too rigid to be sat back in, his woolly fleece adding to a sense of comfort in being Herzog. His eyes give nothing away, because you can’t see them behind low-hanging, Roman-blind lids. And then there’s the voice. Smooth and slow and unwavering, the verbal equivalent of a gentle Kraftwerk track; that’s a voice that must be listened to.

I’m listening to it on the subject of online dating. It’s a conversation that ties into his new documentary, Lo And Behold, Reveries Of The Connected World, examining the impact of “a huge, huge event in civilisation, at least as significant as the introduction of fire or electricity”: the internet. It’s also a conversation that ties into my life. This month, I’ll marry a woman I met online. I don’t tell Herzog.

“The internet massively changes behaviour,” he says.

“How do you meet a young woman? And date her and fall in love? In some of these dating applications, it’s a very blunt outlet for organising quick fornication. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I don’t believe that real, serious relationships are forged that way.”

Now I tell him.

“Which is totally fine, but part of the first, superficial knowledge you had. You also had to connect and be compatible, fall in love. These dating applications are like the country fair, the barn dance, where you would meet your bride. Of course, I have never actually looked at these websites. You probably can tell a lot; you can see how somebody advertises herself. But it’s a stylised version of her, and you know this.”

Weird Science

Kelly Le Brock: the 'dream girl' created by a computer in 1985's Weird Science

“Which is totally fine, but part of the first, superficial knowledge you had. You also had to connect and be compatible, fall in love. These dating applications are like the country fair, the barn dance, where you would meet your bride. Of course, I have never actually looked at these websites. You probably can tell a lot; you can see how somebody advertises herself. But it’s a stylised version of her, and you know this.”

Advertising and styling, consumer knowledge: dating has gone a bit Amazon, hasn’t it? We browse potential dates, plonk them in a basket, maybe save for later, check out and then try them on for size. All in the name of convenience in these busy, busy times. So busy. Has this chocolate-box choice made our attitude to love more disposable?

“The length of relationships has not fundamentally changed,” says Herzog. “You cannot, for example, look at divorce rates; I think relationships came apart silently over the decades and centuries. There was simply no divorce in these times. I don’t think that human relationships accelerate because of the internet. On some levels yes, on Tinder perhaps, but not most. You don’t need an application to come to the conclusion there might be something better [outside of your relationship]. You will know faster, yes, but fundamentally things have not changed.”

Herzog

Herzog's new documentary explores the impact of of robotics

But surely there will be change. One thing you can say about the future is that it’s never failed to turn up – and it usually brings surprises. The mind boggles at where relationships might go. I think I’m pretty damned modern, finding a wife on a computer, but as one contributor to Herzog’s film asks, “Will our children’s children’s children need the companionship of humans?”

It’s a good question. We live so much more of our lives online, shamefully, often while we’re physically with other people (“I read that 15 per cent of people while having sex are checking their text messages,” says Herzog, letting out a laugh that marches to the same beat as his speech). As technology accelerates, the desire for convenience and perfection could lead to a drastic change in human relationships. Perhaps, one day, they’ll all take place online, as we rely on an ‘ideal’ Weird Science or Ex Machina-style 3D-printed AI companion for physical comfort, procreating solely via drone-delivered bodily fluids.

“It is already visible,” says Herzog. “For example, toy companies are doing intelligent robots, but they look like cuddly, fluffy animals, with big eyes that can read from your expression that you are sad. And they speak to you in a very comforting, soothing way, or sing a song to cheer you up. So we’ll see a lot of companionship with toys, and they’ll replace pets.”

And therefore, logically, sex robots that look like Kelly Le Brock and Alicia Vikander will replace human lovers.

“Yes, there is even already consideration in legal departments; can you do violence against an intelligent robot? Like how we are not supposed to beat a dog severely, what about violence against semi-intelligent robots? We are at the very, very first steps of these things. What we have to do is conceptually understand who we are, and what we need. Do I need a fluffy toy that sings to me? No I don’t.”

These things are unlikely to affect Herzog. Not because he’s 74, but because Herzog doesn’t do apps and Herzog doesn’t do social media (though he is aware of ‘fake Herzogs’). He’s disappointed that people delegate so much to phones and computers, that they sit at the dinner table and text rather than talk. I ask if there’s one non-digital skill he wants us to keep when it comes to dating.

“I do not speak of we, I do my life as I like to do it, and you do your life your way. I congratulate you that you are getting married and at the same time I marvel at the fact that you found your bride on some sort of internet platform. But of course, I know you had to seriously connect face-to-face, and you had to get a sense of her voice, of how she would dress, how she behaved, what she radiated, you had to get some charm, something lovely that came across directly at you, you had to have meaningful conversation, and you had to touch physically, eventually, at some point. So congratulations to all of that, it’s all the old-fashioned stuff.”

And that will never be replaced?

“I don’t think so, no. Don’t worry, you are the perfect example.”

Lo And Behold, Reveries Of The Connected World is at cinemas now

Image credit: Rex/Getty

Related

mimix3.jpg

'Apple of China' just released the best looking phone ever made

1.jpg

Why gaming is more important for men than you might think

psvr.jpg

The deaths and headlines VR will inevitably cause

Comments

More

A man has used his fidget spinner to like EVERYBODY on Tinder

Where's the quality control, though?

by Gary Ogden
25 May 2017

This new emoji tool tells you which are still cool and which are lame

Less 💅, more 🍆

by Emily Reynolds
24 May 2017

You can now buy the revamped Nokia 3310 in the UK

The retro phone you know and love is back (kind of)

by Matt Tate
24 May 2017

Nintendo respond to touching thank you letter from a blind fan

"We want to keep making games that everyone can have fun playing"

by Matt Tate
24 May 2017

Secret rules on what Facebook allows you to post have been revealed

And it's a pretty confused state of affairs

by Dave Fawbert
22 May 2017

Stephen Hawking reckons we only have 100 years left on Earth

Anyway, happy Friday!

by Tom Mendelsohn
19 May 2017

Watch a young Mark Zuckerberg discover he's got into Harvard

His dad is a lot more excited than he is

by Tom Mendelsohn
19 May 2017

Nintendo have removed a gesture deemed to be offensive from Mario Kart

Up yours, Yoshi

by Matt Tate
18 May 2017

This is rumoured to be the iPhone 8's finished design

Bye bye bezels (maybe)

by Matt Tate
18 May 2017

We might be about to get smartphones that charge fully in five minutes

An Israeli start-up claims it's going to go into production next year

by Tom Mendelsohn
15 May 2017