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Opinion Editorials

The risks and rewards of dating apps using big data for predictions

(EDITORIAL) Artificial intelligence is being used in endless ways, with dating apps being no exception. Will this advance the technology or set us all up for dating failure?

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dating apps

In this day and age, dating apps and websites are nothing new, and the stigma of admitting to be a part of one is becoming virtually non-existent. If anything, we’ll see more and innovative ways people are matched up. Like letting the apps do the driving and using the tech to predict our matches based on our online behaviors.

When it comes to the way we use and interact with social media, we give up a lot about ourselves without even realizing it.

Machine learning algorithms and artificial intelligence have Netflix suggesting an exciting array of “TV Horror” based on shows I’ve watched previously, LinkedIn composed my bio for me, and Amazon’s front page is showing me every movie that Kristen Stewart has ever been in. You know, in case I was curious.

It sure can be convenient, but do predictive algorithms really get us?

How much can really be said about a person based on their viewing habits, website clicks, likes, and tweets? It’s no secret that there’s a common perception that people aren’t always who they present themselves to be online, but different platforms will invite varying forms of participation and thus a certain version of that person. I know I often scroll through my feed and don’t always click ‘Like’ on something I legitimately found interesting, and I don’t always share what I’m thinking or what I’m up to.

With that said, how accurate or reliable can we expect an app to be that will award you with a 28-axis breakdown of your personality based on your tweets? For some, I expect apps that do all the work of weeding out what you don’t want to see and locating more of what it thinks you do want to see would be a godsend of a timesaver. For others, it may invite more skepticism.

If we know we’re participating in a system that determines for us who we would best be paired with, does this not still influence behavior bias somehow? This could prove to be a challenge some might undertake as a sort of “borrowed ladder” just to see if they can.

After all, in a dystopian-like dating app world where one could be barred from participating because they were deemed “high risk” because the algorithm red-flagged them for depression, what’s to stop anyone from finding ways around this? Amy Webb did a TED Talk on a similar idea of how she hacked online dating.

A company that prides itself on having intuitive tech that knows us better than we know ourselves could be in hot water if people are finding ways to cheat the system. Social media profiles specifically curated to be sold to find a more idealized match doesn’t seem too far out of the realm of possibility. After all, social media influencers have been known to purchase fake followers as a way to fluff the appearance of their online fanbase.

Algorithms may be able to pick up on the fact that we may have certain types, but can it also pick up on the fact that these types may be more harmful, than helpful? We may like brunettes covered in tattoos who ride motorcycles, but they could be bad news if there are a series of exes that follow a particular type. When it comes to algorithms and dating services, it feels a lot like leaving one’s fate to percentages of probability, and this could be the future of online dating.

Machine learning algorithms are fascinating and can tell us more about ourselves than we may be aware of, but they’re far from perfect. There is still the problem of being unable to explain why certain things happen when automation is at work, like creepy bot-created content on Kid’s YouTube.

Sexy or not, online dating is taking some interesting turns. I don’t know that we should give our full trust to something automated that we’ve yet to fully understand, but that does require laying out the groundwork for testing while we’re still in the early stages of working with tech that aims to predict what we want.

It would be nice to be able to ask the AI how it came to its conclusions and why, but maybe we’re at a point where we’re more comfortable letting AI take the reigns at the sake of convenience.

Not all algorithms are created equal, so while some apps may be working toward weeding out mismatches, they could also be overlooking more favorable matches by focusing on factors that are irrelevant.

Ashe Segovia is a Staff Writer at The American Genius with a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from Southwestern University. A huge film nerd with a passion for acting and 80's movies and synthpop; the pop-cultural references are never-ending.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Fernando Ardenghi

    November 13, 2017 at 7:34 pm

    The 3 milestone discoveries of the 2001 – 2010 decade for Theories of Romantic Relationships Development are:
    I) Several studies showing contraceptive pills users make different mate choices, on average, compared to non-users.
    “Only short-term but not long-term partner preferences tend to vary with the menstrual cycle”
    II) People often report partner preferences that are not compatible with their choices in real life. (Behavioural recommender systems or other system that learns your preferences are useless)
    III) What is important in attracting people to one another may not be important in making couples happy.
    Compatibility is all about a high level on personality similarity between prospective mates for long term mating with commitment, and not meet other people with similar interests or political views.

    At the paper “Perceptions of Ideal and Former Partners’ Personality and Similarity”
    The authors had written
    “…. mismatches in personality are a frequently mentioned cause for relationship break-up. If former partners indeed have dissimilar personalities, our findings underline how difficult it is for many people to select a mate with a similar personality, or, alternatively, how little value individuals put on finding a similar partner in terms of personality.
    The present study’s results, as well as the results found in previous studies (e.g., Eastwick & Finkel, 2008), may be used to educate people, especially singles, about what really matters in long-term relationships, for instance, similarity in personality, instead of complementarity.”

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Opinion Editorials

Why soft skills are even more essential in online era

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) Since many of us aren’t seeing our co-workers in person these days, our soft skills are even more important in the online working space.

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Skype video chat with person writing in notebook. Soft skills are critical online.

When did we start thinking of “soft” as bad? I mean, we’ve got soft serve (excellent), softball (good exercise), fabric soft-ener (another industry I’m enjoying killing as a millennial). And we’ve got soft skills.

Or at least… I hope we do.

The shift to non-optional remote working has been difficult for a lot of us, especially for everyone who forgets to press mute before making sure the kids behave. But it’ll take more than being hot-mic savvy to make it through the foreseeable future. Brush up on these soft skills while we’re waiting on a vaccine, and it’ll make the coming months (years?) much easier.

1. Tone mastery

Do you know the difference between “Hey, Brenda, can we have a 1:1 at 12:30pm to go over the laser-equipped yoga pants presentation details?” and “Brenda, we need to talk…”?

If not, you might not have a great grasp on how to say with your typey-words what you can no longer say with your facial expressions. You don’t need to throw an emoji or exclamation point into every sentence to get your points across, but you do have the power to keep your coworkers’ heart rates in a safe range by explaining what exactly you need from them in your initial messages.

Use that power wisely.

2. Checking in

There’s no water cooler talk if there’s no water cooler, right?

Making and maintaining connections is more important now than ever, natural introversion be damned. You wanna be a star, don’tcha? Keep up relationships with public shoutouts, inquiries, and reaction images, and you’ll keep up morale while maintaining and boosting your potential for growth in the company.

Even if you’re not a small-talk kind of person, just a drop in for updates, meeting minutes, or sharing a relevant article via appropriate chatrooms and DMs can help hone your soft skills.

“Karen, this MLM article reminded me of your anti-Scentsy tangent you forgot we could all hear, maybe send this to your pushy ex-friend.”

“Hey, Ravindra, how’s the new laptop working out? All good? No ‘Kill all Humans’ protocols like the last one?”

Simple blips like this can add up like couch change. If you’re an admin, make a general chats section, and work in enough time in meetings to allow everyone to have a bit of a chat before getting down to business.

3. Make yourself available

This was important before the pandemic, honestly, but it bears repeating now, especially for everyone in a leadership position. If you’re not making time for check-ins, constantly cancelling meetings, or just generally enjoying being gone when people need you…figure out a way to not. Delegate what you can, bring on a VA, shorten that vacation, whatever you have to do. Everyone’s struggling, and being captain means your crew is looking to you. Don’t let the general air of desperation lull you into thinking a metaphorical keelhauling is out of the question—that extra power still comes with extra responsibility.

Keep yourself from double-bookings, cancellations, and absences as much as possible, and things will continue to improve internally… Even if they don’t in the outside world.

Aesop had a fable about an oak tree and a little river reed. When a storm came, the hardened oak tree fell and died, while the flexible reed bent with the wind and lived. We’re in the storm now, and everyone’s doing their best not to break. Keep yourself rooted friends, but the moral here is to soften up.

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Opinion Editorials

Before you quit your job, ask yourself these 5 questions

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) Frustrated at work? Here are 5 ideas utilizing design thinking and exploration tactics to assess if you really are ready to quit your job.

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Man reclining on beanbag with laptop, thoughtful. Considering tactics before you quit your job.

We have all been there. We are in a job that just doesn’t feel right for us. Maybe we strongly dislike our manager or even our day to day work responsibilities. We find it easy to blame everyone else for everything we dislike. We question life and ask “Is this what life is all about? Shouldn’t I be spending my time doing something I am more passionate about?” But, we probably like the regular paycheck… Thus, we stay there and possibly become more miserable by the day. Some of us may even start to feel physical symptoms of headaches, stomach aches, and possibly depression. We also may go to the internet like this person seeking answers and hoping someone else can tell us what to do:

“I feel conflicted but I want to quit my job. What should I do?

I was thinking of quitting my job because I dislike what I do, and I feel I am underpaid.

However last week my colleague tendered her resignation too. Needless to say, if I leave too, my whole department will fall into a larger mess and that causes some feelings of conflict within me.

Should my colleague quitting affect when I want to leave too? How do I go about quitting now?”

We can definitely empathize with this – it’s really uncomfortable, sometimes sad, and hard to be in a position where we feel we are underpaid and we aren’t happy.

So, how can you navigate a situation like this? How do you figure out if you should just quit your job? How can you be an adult about this?

Here are some exploratory questions, ideas, and some design thinking activities to help you answer this question for yourself.

  • Before you up and quit, assuming you don’t yet have your next opportunity lined up, have you considered asking for a raise – or better yet, figure out how you add value to the organization? Would your supervisor be willing to move you in to a new role or offer additional compensation?
  • If you don’t have a job lined up, do you have the recommended AT LEAST six months of living expenses in your savings account? Some would recommend that you have even more during a global pandemic where unemployment is at an all-time high – it may take longer to find a new position.
  • Do you have a safety net of family or friends that are willing and able to help you with your bills if you don’t have your regular paycheck? Would you be willing to put that burden on them so you can quit your job?
  • Why aren’t you job searching if you are unhappy? Is it because the task seems daunting and the idea of interviewing right now makes you want to puke?
  • What would your ideal job be and what would it take for you to go for it?

Many people claim they don’t like their job but they don’t know what to do next or even worse, don’t know what they WANT to do. To offer a little bit of tough love here: Well, then, that’s your job to figure it out. You can go on Reddit all you want, but no one else can tell you what is right for you.

Here are some ways to explore what may be an exciting career move for you or help you identify some areas that you need to learn more about in order to figure out where work will align with your skills, interests, and passions.

  1. Consider ordering the Design Your Life Workbook that provides writing prompts to help you figure out what it is that you are looking for in a job/career. You may also like the book Designing Your Work Life which is about “How to Thrive and Change and Find Happiness at Work”.
  2. Utilize design thinking to answer some of your questions. Make a diamond shape and in each of the four corners, write out the “Who” you want to be working with, “What” you’d like to be doing, “Where” you’d like to be, and “Why” you want to be there or doing that kind of work.
  3. Conduct informational interviews with people doing work that you think you might be interested in. Usually these conversations give you lots of interesting insights and either a green light to pursue something or validation that maybe that role isn’t right for you either.
  4. Get your resume updated. Sometimes just dusting off your resume, updating it, and making it ready gives you a feeling of relief that if you did really want to pursue a new job, you are almost ready. Consider updating your LinkedIn profile as well.
  5. Explore what you can do differently. A lot of what we can be frustrated about can be related to things out of our control. Consider exploring ways to work better with your team or how to grow to become invaluable. Tune in to Lindsey Pollak’s podcast, The Work Remix, where she gives great ideas on how to navigate working in current times where there are five generations in the workplace. There may be ways you need to adjust your communication style or tune in to emotional intelligence on how to better work with your supervisor or employees. Again, focus on what is within your control.

You may decide that you need to quit your job to be able to focus your energy on finding a better fit for you. But at the same time, be realistic. Most of us have to work to live. Everyone has bills, so you may continue working while you sort out some of the other factors to help you find a more exciting prospect. Either way, wishing you all the best on this journey, and the time and patience to allow you to figure it out.

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Opinion Editorials

Your goals are more complicated than generalized platitudes, and that’s okay

(OPINION / EDITORIALS) When the tough times get going, “one size fits all” advice just won’t cut it. Your goals are more specific than the cookie cutter platitudes.

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Split paths in the forest like goals - general advice just doesn't fit.

‘Saw.’

“Vulgar, uneducated wisdom based in superstition”, according to the good volunteer compilers at Wikipedia. See also: ‘aphorism’, ‘platitude’, and ‘entrepreneurial advice’.

I’m not saying there’s no good advice for anyone anymore, that’s plain not true. SMART Goals are still relevant, there’s a plethora of cheaper, freeer, more easily accessible tutorials online, and consensus in April-ville is that Made to Stick is STILL a very helpful book.

But when I hear the same ‘pat on the head’ kind of counsel that I got as a kid presented by a serious institution and/or someone intending on being taken seriously by someone who isn’t their grade school-aged nephew, I roll my eyes. A lot.

“Each failure is an opportunity!” “Never give up!” “It’s not how many times you fall!”, yeah, okay, that’s all lovely. And it IS all very true. My issue is… These sunshiney saws? They’re not very specific. And just like a newspaper horoscope, they’re not meant to be (not that I’ll stop reading them).

Example. You’ve been jiggling the rabbit ears of your SEO for months, to no avail. No one’s visiting your site, there’ve been no calls, and the angel investor cash is starting to dip closer to falling from heaven with each passing day.

Does ‘don’t give up’ mean that you use your last bit of cash to take on an expert?

Or does ‘don’t give up’ mean that you go back to R&D and find out that no one actually WANTED your corncob scented perfume to begin with; algorithm tweaking and Demeter Fragrances be damned?

This is the thing about both your goals you make and the guidance you take—they have to be specific. I’m not saying your parents can put a sock in it or anything. I’m thrilled that I’m part of a family that’ll tell me to keep on keeping on. But as far as serious, practical input goes… One size fits all just leaves too much room for interpretation.

When you’re stuck, behind, or otherwise at odds with your growth, are you asking the right questions? Are you sure of what the problem actually is? Do you know whether it’s time to give up a failure of a business and ‘keep pushing’ in the sense of starting another one, or whether you’ve got a good thing on hand that needs you to ‘never say die’ in the sense of giving it more tweaking and time?

No one should have stagnant goals. A pool of gross sitting water is only attractive to mosquitoes and mold. ‘I wanna be rich’ as your business’s raison d’être is a setup for a story about the horrors of literal-minded genies, not an intention you can actually move upon. But that doesn’t mean you need to go hard the other way and get lost in a nebulous fog of easily-published aphorisms.

To be fair, it’s not as if saying ‘Ask the right questions’ is exponentially more helpful than your average feel-good refreshment article, since… This editorial column doesn’t know you or what pies you have your fingers in. But if I can at least steer you away from always running towards the overly general and into an attempt at narrowing down what your real problems are, I’ll consider this a job well done.

Save saws for building community tables.

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