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

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Coronavirus spreads to more countries, and South Korea ups its case count

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

The novel coronavirus continues to spread to more nations, and the U.S. reports a doubling of its confirmed cases to 34 — while noting those are mostly due to repatriated citizens, emphasizing there's no "community spread" yet in the U.S. South Korea's confirmed cases jumped from 204 on Friday to 433 on Saturday.

The big picture: COVID-19 has now killed at least 2,362 people and infected more than 77,000 others, mostly in mainland China. New countries to announce infections recently include Israel, Lebanon and Iran.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 27 mins ago - Health

Centrist Democrats beseech 2020 candidates: "Stand up to Bernie" or Trump wins

Bernie Sanders rallies in Las Vegas, Nevada on Feb. 21. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Center-left think tank Third Way urgently called on the Democratic front-runners of the 2020 presidential election to challenge Sen. Bernie Sanders on the South Carolina debate stage on Feb. 25, in a memo provided to Axios' Mike Allen on Saturday.

What they're saying: "At the Las Vegas debate ... you declined to really challenge Senator Sanders. If you repeat this strategy at the South Carolina debate this week, you could hand the nomination to Sanders, likely dooming the Democratic Party — and the nation — to Trump and sweeping down-ballot Republican victories in November."

Situational awareness

Warren Buffett. Photo: Daniel Zuchnik/WireImage

Catch up on today's biggest news:

  1. Warren Buffett releases annual letter, reassures investors about future of Berkshire Hathaway
  2. Greyhound bars immigration sweeps
  3. U.S. military officially stops offensive operations in Afghanistan
  4. America's future looks a lot like Nevada
  5. Centrist Democrats beseech 2020 candidates: "Stand up to Bernie" or Trump wins