AI in dating apps, can it really be the equation of love?

By | AI, Dating, Food for thought, Love | No Comments

I went to an inspiring talk last night organised by AI for Good. The founder, Kriti Sharma, talked about how many data scientists and AI engineers had joined their community because at a certain point in their career they realised that all the work they were doing was just pushing people to buy more. They wanted to do something for the benefit of humankind and make a net positive contribution to society.

AI or Machine Learning is just a tool but it can be used for the benefit of us all or not, depending on the people designing the tool and what their intention is. This is particularly true in online dating. For some time the swiping mechanism invented by Tinder has been seen as potentially damaging as it leads to addiction. Last year Psychology Today wrote an article The Science Behind What Tinder Is Doing To Your Brain, “And consider the element of unpredictable rewards associated with the use of Tinder. Unpredictable rewards cause more activity in reward regions of the brain than rewards we know are coming. Casino slot machines are one example of this effect at work. Players do not know when, while pulling a lever or pressing a button, they will hit a jackpot. They play knowing that eventually, but not exactly when, someone who pulls the lever will win. Tinder operates on the same principle: Users do not know when, while swiping, they will match with an individual they deem attractive. And users do not know when, after engaging in a conversation, a match will respond. Moreover, an individual’s profile will still appear in the apps of other users who are swiping, even while the individual does not have the app open. This means that when users check their apps after a prolonged period of time, they often discover that they have gained new matches. This unpredictable quality keeps users curious and hooked.”

The dating app Hinge has been testing a feature that uses machine learning to find better matches for singles. It’s called Most Compatible and according to multiple reports, plans to use your in-app data to match people with each other. Most Compatible has been tested once a week for at least this past month, but it will now become a daily feature. Hinge founder Justin McLeod said that this new feature mainly relies on the classic item matching algorithm Gale-Shapley, which was developed in 1962 and is nickname the stable marriage algorithm. It basically tries making successful matches by choosing the most seemingly compatible person.

I think that Hinge is going in the right direction but AI could help people to connect better by collecting much more in-depth data that wouldn’t be shared with other users but could be used to nudge people in the right direction and help them reflect on the way they are coming across to others, which sometimes they are blissfully unaware of.

Relationships with others are ultimately a journey of self-discovery as other people reflect back to us elements of ourselves. Those with poor relationships have an unhealthy relationship with themselves. They have not found their true identity within themselves, but look towards others to define them.

“Relationship is a mirror. Every moment the other reveals you, exposes you. The closer the relationship, the clearer is the mirror.” — Rajneesh

At the moment dating apps are just a tool to connect you with the highest number of people near you. However in the future, a dating app, and I hope this one, could be a resource to help you connect more, communicate better and thrive within meaningful relationships both for friendship and love.

By Julia, i2i Founder

What same-sex couples can teach straight couples

By | Changing attitudes, same-sex couples, sex and relationships | No Comments

A few weeks ago Josh Glancy wrote a piece in the Sunday Times in which he said “The real story here, in my view, is one of growing sexual dysfunction. Of men and women not understanding each other – mostly men not understanding women – and becoming lonely and vulnerable in the process. Something is misfiring badly. Growing equality between the sexes does not seem to have generated a notable increase in carnal thrills. More and more women (including a slightly concerning majority of my ex-girlfriends) seem to be turning to other women to give them what they want. And why wouldn’t they? Many men, porn-obsessed, yet sexually illiterate, just aren’t getting the job done.” Something major is shifting in male-female relationships and same-sex couples have something to teach straight couples.

There are a number of ingrained cultural beliefs about the inherent nature of women and how women should relate to love and sex. Both men and women are socialised based on templates of behaviour that remain largely unquestioned. It is usually taken as a given that men are sexually enthusiastic, sometimes to an uncontrollable extent, and a large number of sexual partners is appealing to the average guy. On the flip side, women are expected to be passive, coy and to seek out sex only within an emotionally committed context. These gender-normative templates are established and reinforced by religion, advertising, mass media and often our own families and peer groups. However, they are no longer valid in the modern day where women are no longer financially dependent on men and can be independent. It’s time to throw out the old script!

There’s a lot that goes on in same-sex relationships that’s more egalitarian because it’s all up for negotiation. Same-sex couples are forced to communicate about their desires and needs. There’s no script. Even monogamy isn’t a default setting, it’s an opt-in. A lot of straight people avoid that conversation and in same-sex couples that can’t be ignored. When two gay guys get into bed they have to ask ‘What are you into?’ Says Dan Savage, host of The Savage Lovecast, when interviewed on the Gender Knot podcast recently. For same-sex couples, the range is much broader and doesn’t just revolve around one main activity as in heterosexual sex (PIV or penis in vagina.)

In same-sex couples, there aren’t any stereotypes and thus no clear division of labour in the home. They divide up the chores and roles in their relationship on who is best at them, rather than ‘that’s the man’s job’ or ‘woman’s job’. The result is they work better as a team – and there’s less resentment over silly, sexist things like secretly thinking ‘He should be earning more than me’ or ‘She should be the one emptying the dishwasher’. Why are they so much better at it than heterosexuals? One reason is that power is equal. There’s less bullying and less blaming of problems on gender because you don’t have set expectations of each other’s roles. Same-sex couples tend to let whoever is best at something take over.
Dan also said that heterosexual men are expected to perform a perceived hyper-masculinity, which is now is recognised as leading to toxic masculinity, causing pain and isolation in men who are made to feel it’s unmanly to express feelings and show vulnerability. He said there is a certain amount of policing going on in hetero male groups for any signs of non-masculine behaviour which causes high amounts of stress. He says he also gets letters from women asking if their boyfriends are gay because they express feelings. It’s time to let go of old-fashioned concepts of male and female behaviour and recognise we are all made of both male and female energy and everything is on a spectrum.

Lesbians, on the other hand, are much less penetration orientated and more orgasm orientated, and get much higher orgasm rates than straight couples, according to a US study ( see below the men’s rates are in green and women’s in pink so lesbian couples reach an 86% orgasm rate against 65% for straight couples.)

Gay men are far more experimental with different types of sex rather than sticking rigidly to the ‘vanilla’, basic type of sex straight people in long-term relationships tend to have.

These are exciting and perhaps confusing times when gender attitudes and roles are changing. We can learn a lot from couples who have had to negotiate roles and sexuality in each relationship, finding a way for each person to have their needs and desires met.

Find out more about the new masculinity and the new femininity on the Gender Knot Podcast

How early and late millennials differ

By | Changing attitudes, Generation Z, millennials | No Comments

As we all know, a millennial is someone who was born between the 1981 and 1996, in other words, someone currently aged 22 to 36. However, the generation after this – generation Z, is slightly less known. There’s a lot more relevance to these ages than just a time period in which they were born – they come with completely new sets of opinions and attitudes towards society today. Having had the pleasure of being born a generation Z member myself, I find it fascinating to compare the difference in opinions that I have with older generations. These differences cover a myriad of topics, including money, lifestyles, jobs and of course – dating.

People are fixated on what millennials want (which is often avocado on toast or moaning about the difficulty of owning their own home) but the generation Z is often forgotten about. The younger, 18-27 group, are obviously a lot more tech-savvy, but so much so that it is a detriment to their health. As Herbert Simon once said “a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention” and this couldn’t be more true for the gen-z. Thanks to social media, we consume around 10,000 pieces of data every day – some of which may be false (photoshopped/edited) and this can be damaging. It’s no wonder that we struggle with mental health issues more than any other generation. We not only have a fear of missing out, but also a fear of being offline – in case we miss a social media post, revealing something fun that we are missing out on… its a vicious cycle! And one that only the more aware generation Z’s are realising. Whilst half of us are going travelling and taking ‘gap years’, to desperately try to find ourselves again, the other half are drowning in a mass of digital media.
In terms of money – what is it that we are doing so differently to our older counterparts? Well, according to a number of studies, us millennials/generation Z are actually poorer than our parents’ generation were – despite supposedly having been better educated. Of course, some of the reasons for this may not be entirely within our control – e.g. the economy as a whole. However, there are some facts that stand out as being relevant. Firstly, 60% of millennials will leave their jobs within 3 years of being employed. We don’t recognise job security and company loyalty as important anymore because now, we selfishly value our own needs more. And with the ever-growing abundance of zero hour contracts available, we have been able to fully embrace the notion of a flexible work-life balance.
Now – lifestyle. Firstly, I will needlessly point out the main difference between us and our parents’ upbringing… the internet. Generation Z has never known a life without the internet, making it hard for them to even fathom going about their daily routines without access to a phone, tablet or laptop. Our smartphones are our memories and Google is our second brain. 9 out of 10 of us don’t let our smartphones leave our side for the entire day! Whats more, 80% of us admit to reaching for our phones every time there is a silence or moment of inactivity. Compare this with the 10% of our parents’ generation (people aged 60+) who do the same and you are left with the main difference between our thought processes.
And finally, our relationships. The way in which we have relationships has changed dramatically, from the first time we lay eyes on our partner (or, in our case, decide to swipe ‘like’) to the way that
we choose to reside with them. With the increasing difficulty of being accepted for a mortgage, many couples are choosing to rent long term. And what’s more… they’re choosing to split the rent 50/50. With the average couple both working full-time jobs and the rise of feminism, we are choosing to ditch our parents’ old-fashioned views on home-making and inequality. We tend to be less religious, less broody and less excited by the idea of ‘settling down’. We are a generation of digital nomads and independent thinkers – who are all about lifelong learning, being on the move and being in control. Specifically, in terms of gen-z dating, some people think that they are fussier than their older counterparts – because they can afford to be! Thanks to the new digital dating era – everything feels temporary, meaning that gen-z members are less likely to compromise when finding the ‘right one’. People are more disposable than ever and dating isn’t seen as such a long-term thing, because we know that the next match is just a swipe or two away. Perhaps this is something that millennials can learn from…surely learning not to settle is a positive thing?

by Annabelle Beaumont, 24, for i2i

Changing Attitudes and Sexuality Today

By | Changing attitudes, LGBTQ+, Love | No Comments

Despite sexuality being one of the most intimate and personal of topics, the world has always passed judgement on those that do not fit the ‘100% heterosexual mould’. Unfortunately, we all know that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and ‘other’ (LGBTQI+) people suffer discrimination and stigma on a daily basis. And this is a worldwide issue – particularly in developing countries. So, is it really true that attitudes are changing?

I believe, the answer to this is: it depends on where you are from. If you are lucky enough to be from a country or city that is deemed liberal, you will have grown up knowing that sexuality is just one of those things that you are born with, that you do not choose it and that it is part of who you are. Whether you are gay or straight is neither here nor there in the likes of Brighton or Manchester.

However, many others have not been as fortunate. For example, if you were born one of India’s estimated 700,000 transgender women, you will have received little or no schooling and most likely faced rejection from your family. Because of this, you will have been forced into marginalised communities where your options for employment are sex work or begging. And, as if this existence didn’t sound unhappy enough – you will later find out that because of the nature of your work, you are likely to die young from acts of violence.

Luckily, many places in Asia are changing for the better. And Thailand – which is known as the gay capital of Asia, has been a leader in the region for LGBTQI+ rights. It is often promoted as a safe haven for gender and sexuality minorities and this is partly because the Buddhist belief in karma and reincarnation. These beliefs push society into being much more tolerant of peoples’ differences.

Only with a proactive approach, can we start to tackle the worldwide stigma that LGBTQI+ carries. Action is needed to address these problems and ensure that everyone – regardless of gender identity, age and sexual orientation – has an equal chance to live a healthy and prosperous life.

So, what can you do as an individual to fight for what is right?

The answer is simple, become an activist! Sign a petition, volunteer for a gay rights organisation, challenge peoples’ opinions and start a debate… or failing the above, just talk about it!

By Annabelle Beaumont, who is studying at The Chelsea School or Art

Is technology killing intimacy? What can we do about it?

By | Dating, Food for thought, Intimacy, Love, Technology | No Comments

How our experience of what is real is changing

We’re living in a world, in which technology is transforming our lives faster than it ever has before. The mixture of virtual communication, AI and social media is changing our experience of reality. Though we are predisposed to empathise with one other in the flesh, the digital experience can feel less compassionate. Online, we have a mask. If we feel lacking or inadequate, or desire an outlet for frustration, we can use complete anonymity to our advantage. People sometimes use technology as a mask – so that they don’t have to be looked at and don’t have to make eye contact with anyone else. It becomes more and more stressful to have real face-to-face interaction.

In a piece in the Saturday Times [29/4/17] on dating apps, Hannah Rogers, 23, says “Actually getting that date can be tricky, though. Being so used to speaking online means that IRL (in real life) dating can be anxiety inducing.” In a recent academic study entitled ‘Online intimacy and well-being in the digital age’ by Anna Lomanowska and Matthieu Guittonc, from the University of Toronto this increasing difficulty to interact is highlighted,

“Advances in Internet-based communication and social networking applications over the last several decades have lead to a major shift in the mode of human social engagement. This shift has resulted in new ways to experience and actualize intimacy, both in the context of pre-existing relationships and interactions with strangers. Physical proximity and direct face-to-face contact are becoming less prevalent in day-to-day interpersonal interactions with close individuals. This is indicated by changes in family lifestyles, including increased numbers of dual-career families, reduced intergenerational living, greater mobility, delayed marriage, and the increase in single-residence households, as well as by the increase in the number of individuals who report not having a confidant.”

Falling in love with RealDolls

Perceiving this change, Japanese AI scientists are pioneering social robot companions who will be able create empathetic responses to human needs. The most famous example of this is Pepper. Pepper is a human-shaped robot. She has been designed to be a genuine day-to-day companion, whose number one quality is his ability to perceive emotions. Pepper is the first humanoid robot capable of recognising the principal human emotions and adapting his behaviour to the mood of his interlocutor.

In America there has been a rapid growth of sex robots, or Love Dolls; hyper-realistic silicone sex toys, designed to your specifications, programmed to fulfil your desires and always available for sex. A prototype created by Abyss Creations in California can smile, blink, frown, hold a conversation, tell jokes and quote Shakespeare. On a website called Dollforum, men interested in this type of product suggested features they would like: eye contact, voice recognition, realistic body temperature, and breathing was felt to be more important than walking. One member of the forum wrote “If my RealDoll could cook, clean and screw whenever I wanted, I’d never date again.” Many of the men in the forum said they had wives and girlfriends who they compared unfavourably to their silicone doll mistresses. [The Guardian 27/4/17]

The manufacturers of Pepper have had to put a clause in their guarantee saying if Pepper is used for sex, the guarantee is nul and void.

It seems that we humans can get emotionally attached to objects, proved by The Tamagotchi pet craze of the 90s. But the internet was still in its infancy then. Now it is woven into our everyday lives, which means that we’d be bereft without our every day digital contact.

In terms of human connection, I think we have to be very careful not to let it replace genuine human connection, but to assist it. Having been in the digital dating space since 2007, I have watched how dating apps have dramatically changed the way we date.

Tinder the disruptor

Tinder was a game changer. It totally disrupted the online website dating market in 2012 by making it as easy as a right-swipe on someone’s photo to connect with them. You could sign up with Facebook, so no boring profile questionnaire to fill in, and you could get swiping immediately. It opened up the market to people who would never normally have used a dating site, and became a dating extension of Facebook. However, after a while, a lot of men began bulk right swiping on every female and leaving the women to right swipe back, as they generally prefer to filter more at an earlier stage. I wrote about how there are apps to bulk right swipe in an earlier article on the use of bots in human interaction. In effect, that is what Bumble, another dating app, does – gets the woman to make the first move.

As face to face human interaction gets more anxiety-inducing, particularly in an age in which we’re all looking at our phones not other people, these dating apps are falling down on the process of helping people really connect. That’s why my second venture in this space is a dating app, which is now in development.

With Tinder you can potentially have so many ‘matches’ in your inbox, you don’t know where to begin or how to initiate a conversation. It’s hard to find an original opener every time and often there’s nothing more to go on than a photo, so the conversation, if it does get going can lapse into the sea of apathy and a meeting IRL will never happen. Swiping on people’s photos becomes no different from swiping on fashion items; the dehumanisation of other people. We’re consuming each other rather than seeing into each other.

Future proofing intimacy

The word ‘Intimacy’, put another way into-me-see, is about ‘seeing me’. Intimacy is the ability to truly be seen, which many of us crave. To be acknowledged, accepted, heard, seen, appreciated etc. are all words that we use to describe what we seek from a deep place within. When we consume each other we only see the surface.

In an excellent Radio 4 series called FutureProofing there was an episode on Intimacy http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b085xcfp in which Leo Johnson and Timandra Harkness ask “Is intimacy toast? We can shag, but can we have an intimate relationship?” There’s an interview with a woman running a dating service in Singapore where too often her customers ask, when they see their date “What’s the payoff? Do I have time for it? What’s the return on investment?” You are like a shopper on a dating app.

What I aim to do

My challenge, when thinking about creating a connection app for dating, was how to make it quick and simple to use as we can’t go back to old fashioned dating sites, but keep the human element, so we don’t feel like a commodity and don’t consume others.

So there are four stages in the connection process on the app I’m developing, which will be called i2i, which you can see in the diagram below. The first stage is humour, because as someone put it, ‘The shortest distance between two people is laughter.” Humour, that witty banter, is something that robots will never be able to do, even if they may be able to spout pre-programmed jokes. So when you sign up you are asked to input an ‘I statement’ something about you that begins with ‘I’, ideally witty, but if not resonant, zany or off the wall. Also a question that other people will see if they right swipe on your photo and your ‘I statement’.

This means you’ll already be in a conversation and know more about that person than just a photo. You answer their question and when they answer back you are connected and can see a fuller profile with more info about the person. You’re pushed to connect and meet up IRL with a tiered inbox, including expiring connections requiring a response within a certain period.

There will be a timer in your inbox with a 30 second ping for when you meet in the real world. There is a lot of content on Youtube about how uninterrupted eye contact can create deeper connections between people, and mostly they recommend 4 minutes. However, having done public talks on the subject and focus groups, I realised that 30 secs is the maximum I could get two strangers to do in a public space. It is a magical thing and so simple, it’s about gazing not staring, and being present. Presence is about removing judgement, walls and masks so as to create a true and deep connection with people or experiences. My challenge is to make it seem exciting rather than awkward and so am planning offline events to get it going. It is about compassionate attention to another human being, and while your eyes connect a lot of non-verbal information is exchanged.

The i2i app has now launched, you can get it for free on iOS or Android.

connections, intimacy, technology

Download the i2i app for iOSDownload the i2i app for android

Eye Gazing Does Something Crazy To Your Love Life

By | Dating, Food for thought, Intimacy, Love | 38 Comments

“They say that the eyes are the window to the soul.“

With just a simple glance we can convey everything from interest to arousal, joy, love and connection.
Through eye contact we can connect with others on a much deeper level.

“Eye contact is an extremely powerful & universal form of nonverbal communication”

The Power Of Conscious Eye Contact

From the time we are infants, we need eye contact for healthy neurological growth. As we grow older, we use eye contact to connect with other people, especially when it comes to conveying messages of attraction and arousal.
In ancient Sufi traditions, as well as Buddhist and Hindu tantric traditions, eye gazing or soul gazing is a sacred practice that is used to deepen trust and intimacy, awaken the heart energy, channel powerful sexual energy, and create a pathway to the divine.

By gazing deeply into another person’s eyes, you transcend the ego and begin to tap into the universal male or female energies in your partner and in yourself.

From here it is possible to reach a higher state of consciousness an ecstatic state of spiritual union.
In fact, many mystics, including the 13th century poet Rumi, believed that soul gazing was a means of obtaining true enlightenment.

For more about this go to www.mytinysecrets.com for more on sexuality, health and happiness.[/wr_column]]

“They say that the eyes are the window to the soul.“

With just a simple glance we can convey everything from interest to arousal, joy, love and connection.
Through eye contact we can connect with others on a much deeper level.

“Eye contact is an extremely powerful & universal form of nonverbal communication”

The Power Of Conscious Eye Contact

From the time we are infants, we need eye contact for healthy neurological growth. As we grow older, we use eye contact to connect with other people, especially when it comes to conveying messages of attraction and arousal.
In ancient Sufi traditions, as well as Buddhist and Hindu tantric traditions, eye gazing or soul gazing is a sacred practice that is used to deepen trust and intimacy, awaken the heart energy, channel powerful sexual energy, and create a pathway to the divine.

By gazing deeply into another person’s eyes, you transcend the ego and begin to tap into the universal male or female energies in your partner and in yourself.

From here it is possible to reach a higher state of consciousness an ecstatic state of spiritual union.
In fact, many mystics, including the 13th century poet Rumi, believed that soul gazing was a means of obtaining true enlightenment.

For more about this go to www.mytinysecrets.com for more on sexuality, health and happiness.

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