A crucial guide to life before—and after—Tinder, IVF, and robots.
What will happen to our notions of marriage and parenthood as reproductive technologies increasingly allow for newfangled ways of creating babies? What will happen to our understanding of gender as medical advances enable individuals to transition from one set of sexual characteristics to another, or to remain happily perched in between? What will happen to love and sex and romance as our relationships migrate from the real world to the Internet? Can people fall in love with robots? Will they? In short, what will happen to our most basic notions of humanity as we entangle our lives and emotions with the machines we have created?
In Work Mate Marry Love, Harvard Business School professor and former Barnard College president Debora L. Spar offers an incisive and provocative account of how technology has transformed our intimate lives in the past, and how it will do so again in the future. Surveying the course of history, she shows how marriage as we understand it resulted from the rise of agriculture, and that the nuclear family emerged with the industrial revolution. In their day, the street light, the car, and later the pill all upended courtship and sex. Now, as we enter an era of artificial intelligence and robots, how will our deepest feelings and attachments evolve?
In the past, the prevailing modes of production produced a world dominated by heterosexual, mostly-monogamous, two-parent families. In the future, however, these patterns are almost certain to be reshaped, creating entirely new norms for sex and romance, and for the construction of families and the raising of children. Steering clear of both techno-euphoria and alarmism, Spar offers a bold and inclusive vision of how our lives might be changed for the better.
Debora L. Spar is the MBA Class of 1952 Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School and Senior Associate Dean of HBS Online. Her current research focuses on issues of gender and technology, and the interplay between technological change and broader social structures. Spar tackles some of these issues in her book Work Mate Marry Love: How Machines Shape Our Human Destiny.
Spar served as the President of Barnard College from 2008 to 2017, and as President and CEO of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts from 2017 to 2018. During her tenure at Barnard, Spar led initiatives to highlight women’s leadership and advancement, including the creation of the Athena Center for Leadership Studies and the development of Barnard’s Global Symposium series.
Before joining Barnard, Spar spent 17 years on the HBS faculty as the Spangler Family Professor as well as the Senior Associate Dean for Faculty Research and Development. A prolific writer, Spar’s books include Ruling the Waves: Cycles of Discovery, Chaos, and Wealth from the Compass to the Internet (2001), The Baby Business (2006), and Wonder Women: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection (2013).
Spar is a member of the Academy of Arts and Sciences and serves as a director of Value Retail LLC and Thermo Fisher Scientific, as well as a trustee of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Spar earned her Ph.D. in Government from Harvard University and her B.S. from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service.
She and her husband, Miltos Catomeris, are the parents of three grown children.
"Spar argues that new technologies spark shifts in the most intimate of human affairs, often in unexpected ways . . . [She] carves convincing paths through mountains of academic and historical records." —Amanda Hess, The New York Times Book Review
"Thought-provoking . . . Spar’s explanations of how specific technologies developed are lucid and insightful. Readers will take comfort in this clear-eyed assessment of humanity’s ability to adapt to technological change." —Publishers Weekly
"Spar presents an intriguing assertion of the powerful role technology has played in social change . . . 'We make the machines,' she writes archly, 'and then they make us.'"—Booklist
"Throughout history, technological change has reordered our lives, including its most intimate aspects. In this powerful account of 8,000 years of human development, Debora L. Spar traces how first settled agriculture, then the steam engine, and eventually the mid-twentieth century revolutions of cars, modern household appliances, and the pill transformed work and family patterns, production and reproduction. This dazzling and fast-paced guide to a new world in the making will make you recoil at times. Yet by unsentimentally historicizing the most intimate aspects of our lives, Spar’s big-picture book opens up new vistas for understanding the most consequential changes of our times." —Sven Beckert, Laird Bell Professor of American History at Harvard University and author of Empire of Cotton
"Based on thousands of years of history, Debora Spar convincingly argues that the major changes we are seeing in the technologies of biology and artificial intelligence are about to change how we think of ourselves and our places in society in fundamental ways. More than thought provoking, this is a book that will make you examine why you are the way you are." —James Waldo, Gordon McKay Professor of the Practice of Computer Science and Chief Technology Officer at Harvard University
“A fascinating read. Equal parts history and imagination, Work Mate Marry Love explains how technology always has and always will shape who we are though we are often blind to its true impact. Spar will push you to examine your own experience with tech, and you will wonder where its influence ends and the real you begins.” —Joanna Coles, former editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan and chief content officer of Hearst Magazines, and executive producer of The Bold Type
“Debora Spar’s Work Mate Marry Love is a beautifully poetic examination of how the technologies we feel we are shaping are actually shaping us. With algorithms mediating every aspect of our lives and robots slipping into our bedrooms, it’s essential reading for anyone exploring what it means to be human at this time of revolutionary change. I couldn’t put it down.” —Jamie Metzl, bestselling author of Hacking Darwin: Genetic Engineering and the Future of Humanity and founder of OneShared.World
"With a fresh and incisive take on how technology has long shaped our relationships with work and with each other, Debora Spar mines the past to show us where we are going next. Work Mate Marry Love is a sweeping, fascinating journey that tells us what we need to know now to be prepared for the next inevitable wave of change." —Patrick J. McGinnis, author of Fear of Missing Out and host of the podcast FOMO Sapiens