Can Algorithms Replace Astrology?

If you ask the booming online matchmaking industry, the answer would be unequivocally yes. The New York Times article “Hitting It Off, Thanks to Algorithms of Love” by John Tierney describes how the largest online matchmaking sites – eHarmony, Perfectmatch, and Chemistry are trying to out algorithm each other. Their algorithms were designed by psychologists, sociologists, or anthropologists.

With Mercury conjoining Neptune in Aquarius, there couldn’t be a better time to report about online matchmakers such as eHarmony who claim that by using their “scientifically proven matching system,” “it is possible to find your soul mate.”

eHarmony is the leading purveyor in portraying a scientific approach to matchmaking. Members are required to “answer a 258-question personality test and then picks potential partners.” eHarmony’s algorithm was developed by Galen Buckwalter, a psychologist and former research professor at the University of Southern California. The algorithm is based on the premise that “personality similarities predict happiness in a relationship.” eHarmony “has an advisory board of prominent social scientists and a new laboratory with researchers lured from academia like Dr. Gian Gonzaga, who previously worked at a marriage-research lab at U.C.L.A.”

The matchmaking sites are taking cues from the pharmaceutical industry by releasing scientific-sounding studies and surveys funded by the matchmakers themselves. eHarmony gave a presentation at a psychologists’ conference, but so far none of the matchmakers algorithms and results have been subject to peer review.

At fees of up to $60 a month per customer, matchmaking has become a lucrative and intensively competitive business. Chemistry.com advertises that eHarmony refuses to match gay couples. eHarmony claims “it can’t because its algorithm is based on data from heterosexuals.”

According to the NYT article, “Researchers who studied online dating found that the customers typically ended up going out with fewer than 1 percent of the people whose profiles they studied, and that those dates often ended up being huge letdowns.” The NYT author's blog welcomes feedback from researchers, scientists, and individuals who have used online dating services to contact him as part of his research for future articles.

I find it amusing that these algorithms remove the free will aspect in compatibility – an argument critics have used against astrology. Completing a questionnaire can be somewhat similar to political polling. How much is the person admitting to their true beliefs and feelings, versus a conscious or subconscious desire to please the pollster/matchmaker? A horoscope is comprised of a person’s birth time, date, and place. The horoscope expresses what a person’s core needs are, how they express those needs, and describes what type of person attracts them. A horoscope does not discriminate between gay and straight. The greater the amount of harmonious aspects shared between two people’s horoscopes, the easier it can be for them to get along. However, some couples could find such an overly compatible relationship to be boring and stagnant. Two people with seemingly incompatible horoscopes can have a happy marriage/partnership providing they understand and appreciate each other’s differences.

Just as there’s not enough of a track record on the long term effects of big pharma’s “lifestyle” drugs, only time will tell how successful the alchemy of the algorithms are.

No comments: