Feb 9, 2019

The inhumanity of automated matchmaking

Illusration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Many dating apps offer up an ocean of potential mates, but as users complain of swipe fatigue, some are using what they know about you to try and fish out "the one."

Why it matters: Automated matchmaking is putting computers in charge of finding the perfect partner. But the algorithms they use, with all their hidden quirks and biases, may be quietly altering our own preferences.

What's going on: Unlike services that turn up every other nearby user, some apps match people based on information about them and who they want to date.

  • These apps have unseen power.
  • A 2016 study found that people who were given automatic matches were extra enthusiastic about the picks they were given — even though they felt less in control.

Advances in artificial intelligence plus the explosion of easily harvested personal data mean matching will only get more precise.

On one hand, access to online dating in general can help people break out of filter bubbles.

  • But, but, but: Apps that pick people for you can “make you a slave to the algorithm,” Ari Waldman, director of the Innovation Center for Law and Technology at New York University, tells Axios.
  • "We only see people who the algorithm thinks are our matches, which tend to look a lot like us — social scientists call that a network effect. This makes dating less diverse, perpetuates social inequality, and cedes our personal autonomy."

The big picture: "When you live in a world where everything is deterministically engineered based on predictions of what you want, it ends up shaping what you want," says Brett Frischmann, co-author of the book "Re-Engineering Humanity."

Our thought bubble: If apps have a hidden hand in pairing people up, there is also a growing generation of children who owe their existence to an algorithm.

Go deeper: Our special report on the future of dating

Go deeper

Trump and Zuckerberg share phone call amid social media furor

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

In the week that President Trump took on social media, Axios has learned that he had a call Friday with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg that was described by both sides as productive.

Why it matters: With the White House and Twitter at war, Facebook has managed to keep diplomatic relations with the world's most powerful social-media devotee.

Twitter, Google lead chorus of brands backing George Floyd protests

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Twitter and Google are among the dozens of brands over the past 24 hours that have taken public stances in favor of Americans protesting racial equality. Some companies have changed their logos in solidarity with the movement, while others have pledged money in support of efforts to address social injustice.

Why it matters: The pressure that companies feel to speak out on issues has increased during the Trump era, as businesses have sought to fill a trust void left by the government. Now, some of the biggest companies are quickly taking a public stand on the protests, pressuring all other brands to do the same.

NYPD commissioner: "I'm extremely proud" of officers' response to protests

New York City Police Commissioner Dermot Shea in February. Photo: Yana Paskova/Getty Images

New York City Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said in a public statement Sunday that he is "extremely proud" of the New York City Police Department's response to protests over the death of George Floyd Saturday night, writing: "What we saw in New York City last night and the night before was not about peaceful protest of any kind."

Why it matters: New York City residents captured several instances of police officers using excessive force against demonstrators. In one video, two NYPD SUVs are seen ramming into protesters who were blocking a road and throwing traffic cones at the vehicles.