In the US alone there were nearly eight million users on Tinder and over five million users on Bumble in 2019. A different and pricier online dating option, Luxy, clocks in at a paltry two million users, signed up and looking for love, sex, validation, or… whatever. Maybe dinner? Although, comparatively, that’s not a huge number of users, if you’re one of them it means you’ve got 1,999,999 potential matches. Remove half of those people to account for gender and sexual orientation. You’ve now only got 999,998.5 different users to scroll through.
It would be understandable if you thought that was daunting. So Luxy’s trying something new: AI matchmaking. The new system is called ‘Find the One’ and, frankly, it sounds a little dystopian. Imagine trying to explain to George Orwell that people meet up and try to fall in love because a computer told them to. Fortunately, it’s actually less weird than it initially appears, because all the algorithm does is look at people’s interests and preferences (we’ll get to that) and then sends them each other’s details. When Luxy shows their AI matches there’s a number rating to show how compatible you’re supposed to be, which seems… fatalistic? I’m almost certain that I’ve seen a Black Mirror episode on the topic, which is rarely a good sign.
Matching people based on their interests is fine, I guess. If I, a person who enjoys reading and travelling, were to meet another person who also likes reading and travelling, we’d probably have something to talk about. We might not have chemistry or be compatible in any other way, but I could spend an evening swapping stories and myths from India and thoroughly enjoy myself.
Of course, it isn’t quite that clean. Luxy users can also select other things about their matches, like income and ethnicity. I don’t love the idea that you can select your future matches’ income – it feels gross. Will you stop loving them if they lose their job and their money? Will you stop loving them if they get more money? Why would you care how much your potential partner makes? However, Luxy is a dating app supposedly designed for millionaires, so perhaps it makes sense to them. However, I will not excuse or attempt to justify anyone who only views matches of a certain ethnic background.
Racial biases, conscious or unconscious, exist in almost everyone. Instead of accommodating this, though, let’s try to challenge them and move into a more enlightened time. If you use a dating app and specify that you will not match with people from a specific ethnic background, you’re one step away from being extremely racist. If you say that you’ll only match with people from a specific ethnic background, you’re… feteshistic? Discriminatory? A lot of people have preferences, but if you say, outright, that you won’t date someone because of their ethnic background, then you’ve got a problem.
‘Find the One’ is a good way to tackle dating app burnout, but shockingly, not everyone who uses dating apps feels overwhelmed, so Luxy has still got their standard swipe left / swipe right formula so users can check through other profiles if their AI match isn’t enough for the day. Some dating sites do just offer one perfect person, and others prefer the chaos of letting everyone on the app interact randomly, so it’s nice to see that Luxy will cater to people who thrive in both of those environments. This might indicate the kind of relationship users are looking for: if you’re ready to settle down, you’ll want to meet your best match. If you’re dating and just fancy a quick glass of expensive champagne and a night in a hotel with a view of important landmarks, you’ll probably be pretty happy to swipe through fifty people in a day. Luxy would do well to notice which feature their users prefer, so they can adjust their app to meet the requirements.
AI matchmaking might sound pretty weird, and it might be a disaster. I don’t know if dating sites have ever really learnt that just because people share an interest or are located in the same city doesn’t mean that they’ll have any kind of chemistry or sexual/romantic attraction. Nevertheless, the idea that a dating site is taking the time to try and find you the right person is kind of reassuring, and perhaps Luxy users will enjoy their AI matches more than the random bunch thrown together for a casual swipe.