You could look at it that way. But I don't think the AI aspect is what intrigues these people. They happen to be using computer models because the Internet brings so many people to one place at one time. As Gian Gonzaga at eHarmony told me, it's the scale. You won't get that with a real live matchmaker.
Do you think the widespread interest in scientific matchmaking is in part the result of people feeling overwhelmed by the complexities of modern life, and the burden of too much freedom? Is there any aspect of this that's a technological mimicry of the arranged marriage?
From the archives:"Uncertain Objects of Desire"
In India, a country that straddles the old and the new, a good place to look for signs of shifting values might be the matrimonial columns of The Times of India
. By Chitra Divakaruni
No, I don't see that. The major difference of course is that you have willing participants here, whereas in the arranged marriage it was like, "Oh, you two are both Hasidic Jews, and you're female and you're male and you come from similar backgrounds, so you're going to get married." Those were arranged marriages. Here you have people saying, "I'm really looking for someone with these qualities." You can pick whatever qualities you want. When you're submitting to an arranged marriage, I don't get the sense that you're saying, "Can you help me find someone that I might like?" That's what you're saying when you're going to one of these sites.
Speaking of the ethnic marriage arrangement, what do you make of the spectacular success of JDate, out of all proportion with the Jewish representation in the population? Do you think there's something about Jewish culture that has a proclivity for professional matchmaking or for the desire to meet in an organized way?
I think JDate is very similar to sites like Yahoo! Personals or Match.com or any of the big ones. As far as why as a niche site it became more popular than the other niche sites, I'm not sure. I'm not sure what it is about Jewish culture that would make people look for a match online more so than any other group. Other than pressure from Jewish mothers, perhaps.
It's like a digital Jewish mother, JDate.
Yeah, Except you don't have the guidance of someone who knows you personally.
What about the rationality of it all? A lot of people seem to shy away from using online search tools to find a mate because they feel it's too clinical—that it takes away from the romance and mystery of love. Is there anything to that?
I don't know that there ever was all that much mystery around romance. Traditionally, the community played a much larger role, and you'd meet people because you were part of this community. I don't know that it was any more mysterious than that. I think that people today are just substituting for the lack of community in the real world with online communities. But I don't think that makes it any less romantic. Because I think the idea of old-fashioned romance exists largely in our fantasies. When you meet someone in the real world, we think, "That's so romantic! It was fated! It was destiny!" Why is the romance and sense of destiny diminished just because you paid $25.99 for an online service? It's almost more romantic, in a destiny sense, because of the millions of people online, you two somehow managed to find each other.