Matters of the heart and the laws of science are odd bedfellows, but at the Science & Entertainment Exchange’s recent event, The Science of Love, Chris McKinlay shared his experiences finding love on the internet. But this is no average tale!
Chris, who recently finished his PhD in Mathematics at UCLA, spent his free time away from his dissertation research looking for prospective dates on OkCupid. After a few weeks without much success, Chris discovered a treasure trove of data being generated by the website that he could access with just a few clicks. So, with a little ingenuity, Chris created some bots to mine this data and within weeks had recalibrated his profile to appear the most desirable to women. Almost overnight, Chris had hundreds of messages from women who wanted to get to know him better.
So therein the question lies: Is it possible to find true love by manipulating the data to your advantage? Chris doesn’t like to call this system “hacking” because he wasn’t technically breaking into anything maliciously. Rather, he discovered the various criteria women found desirable and utilized those factors to his advantage. It wasn’t about tricking anyone; it was about giving himself the best chance to succeed.
And succeed he did! After 88 dates, with varying degrees of success, Chris met his current fiancé! On their first date, he explained, he immediately knew that she was different, something his analytical brain found difficult to define.
During the question and answer session after his talk, moderator Jerry Zucker asked him how he knew she was “the one.” After contemplating for a minute, Chris explained that it wasn’t OkCupid that gave them a great relationship. In fact, it was simply the mechanism that put them in the same place at the same time, which was the catalyst for a great relationship.
And perhaps that was the message of the evening. We, as humans, often look to technology to make our lives easier. And even when someone like Chris finds a way to game a system like OkCupid, it still takes a human connection to fall in love. No amount of data or analytics can find you your soulmate, but it certainly can help put two people in the same room together! For Chris it took 88 dates, for the rest of us, maybe it’s more, maybe it’s less.