Love in the Time of Algorithms: What Technology Does to Meeting and Matingby Dan Slater
“If online dating can blunt the emotional pain of separation, if adults can afford to be increasingly demanding about what they want from a relationship, the effect of online dating seems positive. But what if it’s also the case that the prospect of finding an ever more compatible mate with the click of a mouse means a future of relationship instability, a paradox of choice that keeps us chasing the illusive bunny around the dating track?”
It’s the mother of all search problems: how to find a spouse, a mate, a date. The escalating marriage age and declining marriage rate mean we’re spending a greater portion of our lives unattached, searching for love well into our thirties and forties.
It’s no wonder that a third of America’s 90 million singles are turning to dating Web sites. Once considered the realm of the lonely and desperate, sites like eHarmony, Match, OkCupid, and Plenty of Fish have been embraced by pretty much every demographic. Thanks to the increasingly efficient algorithms that power these sites, dating has been transformed from a daunting transaction based on scarcity to one in which the possibilities are almost endless. Now anyone—young, old, straight, gay, and even married—can search for exactly what they want, connect with more people, and get more information about those people than ever before.
As journalist Dan Slater shows, online dating is changing society in more profound ways than we imagine. He explores how these new technologies, by altering our perception of what’s possible, are reconditioning our feelings about commitment and challenging the traditional paradigm of adult life.
Like the sexual revolution of the 1960s and ’70s, the digital revolution is forcing us to ask new questions about what constitutes “normal”: Why should we settle for someone who falls short of our expectations if there are thousands of other options just a click away? Can commitment thrive in a world of unlimited choice? Can chemistry really be quantified by math geeks? As one of Slater’s subjects wonders, “What’s the etiquette here?”
Blending history, psychology, and interviews with site creators and users, Slater takes readers behind the scenes of a fascinating business. Dating sites capitalize on our quest for love, but how do their creators’ ideas about profits, morality, and the nature of desire shape the virtual worlds they’ve created for us? Should we trust an industry whose revenue model benefits from our avoiding monogamy?
Documenting the untold story of the online-dating industry’s rise from ignominy to ubiquity—beginning with its early days as “computer dating” at Harvard in 1965—Slater offers a lively, entertaining, and thought provoking account of how we have, for better and worse, embraced technology in the most intimate aspect of our lives.
Verdict This book will be of interest to those who use, or are curious about, online dating services and anyone interested in relationship patterns in general. Slater’s insights into the various ways relationships are mediated by technology, especially within the realm of online dating services, prove a fascinating read.Ryan Nayler, Native Counselling Svcs. of Alberta
(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
- Penguin Publishing Group
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What People are Saying About This
—Washington Post Books
“In ‘Love in the Time of Algorithms’ journalist Dan Slater has dug in manfully to explain how technology is transforming how we meet and fall in love.”
—The Wall Street Journal
“Slater’s account of the history of the cyber dating industry—from ginormous clunky old computers to modern complex algorithms—is well detailed.”
—The Financial Times
“From the hilariously awkward beginings of Harvard’s computer-dating industry to the groovy Miami parties of the profession today, Slater expertly leads us through the biggest reshuffle in courtship in our lifetime (from here, the ’60s and ’70s look like Jane Austen).An astute investigation of the way technology may have remade the most important aspect of existence: love.”
—VANESSA GRIGORIADIS, contributing editor, New York Magazine
“One in five relationships now starts in front of a computer. But how did we get here? Dan Slater gives us a peek into the quirky minds of the dating executives who built the industry and the lives of those who have been forever transformed by the online-dating revolution. As one of those execs, I thought I knew the story. But with humor and fresh insight, Slater will change the way you think about love in a digital world.”
—SAM YAGAN, cofounder and CEO, OkCupid
“An irresistible read that details the efforts of computer scientists and entrepreneurs to solve the oldest of life’s challenges: finding the right life partner. Neither a slam nor celebration of online dating, Slater’s book makes it clear that mate finding really has changed forever, and like it or not, we’re probably not going back.”
—TIM WU, author of The Master Switch
“Love in the Time of Algorithms is a fascinating romp through the world of online dating. The book is packed with anecdotes about how people are adapting (or not) to love on the Internet, but Slater also asks the big questions: Can science predict love? And what does the abundance of choice unleashed by dating sites mean for the future of relationships?”
—BETHANY McLEAN, coauthor of The Smartest Guys in the Room
“Like pretty much every other commodity in a digitally enhanced world, romance is now in abundance. But, as Slater deftly and entertainingly demonstrates, relegating love to the logic of algorithms changes not only who we end up with, but how we think about mating, relationships, human volition, and even fate.”
—DOUGLAS RUSHKOFF, author of Life Inc. and Present Shock
“WTF is up with online dating and the prevalence of technology in our love lives?! In this artful examination of our techno-romantic universe, Dan Slater offers an eye-opening look at the ways our very own behaviors and desires have been forever changed.”
—JESSICA MASSA and REBECCA WIEGAND, cocreators of The Gaggle & WTF Is Up With My Love Life?!
Meet the Author
DAN SLATER is a widely published author of journal-ism and creative nonfiction. A former legal affairs reporter for The Wall Street Journal, he is currently a contributor to Fast Company and has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, New York Magazine, and GQ. Slater is a graduate of Colgate University and Brooklyn Law School.
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This is a really compelling read. It's not the first book about how technology impacts human behavior. But it's the first one that under-promises and over-delivers. Slater doesn't claim more than he can demonstrate, and his ideas about how online-dating affects relationships are apt and recognizable to anyone who's ever taken the plunge. Deeply reported and terrifically told, the personal stories he gets from both users and online-dating industry executives are riveting in their detail. "Love in the Time of Algorithms" should be read by anyone who wants to understand the modern landscape of relationships and romance in a time of heavy reliance on technology.