If Nate Silvers rise to cult status teaches the math-averse anything, its that algorithms can be sexy. And whats sexier than using them to find sex itself?
Dan Slaters Love in the Time of Algorithms explores the history and modern-day implications of the explosive growth of online dating, now a $2 billion business in North America. His book offers an interesting history of computer-aided matchmaking, an anthropological look at online dating behavior and social network-style profiles of some of the (seemingly all male) founders of the eras biggest online dating success stories, including OkCupid, Plenty of Fish, Match and eHarmony.
Interspersed are short excerpts from the dating life and times of Alexis, a 20-something woman whos swinging it online and otherwise in New York.
Maybe if youre a young urban hipster – the kind of person who believes that privacy was something old people fussed over – these excerpts wont raise your eyebrows.
But otherwise, prepare to experience future-oriented despair.
Of course, theres something for everyone online, as Slater is quick to point out. Take for example, Ashley Madison.com, a site that specializes in promoting dating options for married people (tagline: Life is short. Have an affair). How much do you want to know about Urban cougar.com, DateGinger .com (for redheads and their fans) or Farmers Only.com?
Online daters are bound to be intrigued by the back stories of these techno matchmakers, who may care more about monetizing customers than successfully hooking them up. As one British dating exec asks, In what other industry is a happy customer bad for business?
Behind Slaters engaging reporting lurks the mystery of whether science can actually predict love, even with the most nuanced computer program as its handmaiden. And the ultimate question: What does the ability to connect with streams of ostensibly eligible people at any given moment do to our ideas of courting, commitment, monogamy and even marriage? Slater considers all these issues in an intelligent, edgy, thought-provoking way. Its worth at least a speed date.