Can Data Really Lead to Love?

My wife is from Kenya. This has nothing to do with big data or the fun yet ineffective algorithms (spoiler alert) that I will get into later. This just means that she has not seen a lot of the same movies that I have, so we have been going on a bit of a romantic comedy binge of late. This is her favorite genre. This is not mine. My favorite genre (big surprise) is science fiction. Very rarely have these two genres ever met. However, I would challenge someone to re-edit “2001: A Space Odyssey” into a romantic comedy. Hal 9000 is an impressionable AI, fresh from the planet, trying to make it in the big space station. He thought he had it all figured out until one day. . .

Rick, Convergent Technologies’ indisputably tech savvy senior consultant, and I have often discussed the concept of data and dating since he has actually tried a few online sites designed to streamline the search for a soulmate. I was lucky enough to find my wife working down the hall from me, but for those who haven’t had it that easy, the onslaught of machine learning algorithms begs the question: Can they help me find love?

There are a couple great papers on this. The first, User Recommendations in Reciprocal and Bipartite Social Networks–An Online Dating Case Study, takes a Netflix approach in building a collaborative filtering technique. i.e. Bob likes Suzy. Bill is like Bob. Sally is like Suzy. Bill will like Suzy. They incorporate an attractiveness metric in there for good measure, so that it is not just like buying groceries. The second is Online Dating: A Critical Analysis from the Perspective of Psychological Science, which digs into the psychology side of things. Its conclusion is that online dating offers great access to a tremendous amount of people, but metrics are a poor substitute for experience . . .

With all of our technical expertise and the sophistication of modern systems, maybe it would still be better to invite someone over for a good romcom than wait to hear that “you’ve got mail.”