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Finding Fortune and Love in AI

Dyllan Furness

Dyllan explores technology and the human condition for Tech Emergence. His interests include but are not limited to whiskey, kimchi, and Catahoulas.

Finding Fortune and Love in AI

When people consider AI’s eventual involvement in our lives, they tend to see a sophisticated system with sophisticated functions in a sophisticated position. AI is envisioned as a Presidents advisor, or a Fortune 500 company’s CEO’s assistant, or the wingman to a military pilot. In some ways today, this much is already true. Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, and Facebook’s M offer artificially intelligent assistance. (Although, M is indeed reported to be powered by real people.) Matured firms and infantile startups currently race to develop the best AI algorithm to tackle the stock market, to subtract mere milliseconds from trading times and increase the efficiency of these micro-transactions. The technology is already in action. According to MIT Technology Review, quantitative hedge funds like Bridgewater Associates, Renaissance Technologies, and D.E. Shaw already apply AI methods to manipulate the market.

Advancements in AI interest and technology over the past few years have seen machine intelligence move from the passenger seat to behind the wheel. The biggest tech companies around the world have invested in deep learning algorithms to distinguish patterns in huge amounts of data, teaching machines to learn with similar – though not equal – ability to you and I. Applying this method to finance has thus had something of a rebirth. At the Neural Information Processing Systems (NIPS) in Montreal in December, nearly half of the recruitment stands represented hedge funds and financial firms.

But AI sophistication isn’t strictly for the free market capitalists among us – it’ll soon be used to help the loveless as well. At least according to Bernie AI, a mobile dating technology that wants to help connect soul mates with one another. (No, there’s not relation to the presidential candidate.) Like Siri, Cortana, and M, Bernie AI is billed as an assistant, though not the type to remind you about your 4 o’clock conference call. Instead, Bernie AI uses intelligent algorithms to serve as a matchmaker. On their website, Bernie AI claims, “Bernie uses the latests advancements in machine learning and natural language processing to learn your ‘type’ of partner, and ensures the interest is mutual.”

The idea behind Bernie AI superficially determining love interest may not seem that far from what we do now. Even the manual processes of swiping right and left become something of a habit, rote flicks of the finger, for those who often use dating apps like Tinder and Grindr. But where Bernie AI goes one step further, is in engaging conversation with the matched interest to really weed out any potential disinterest. In a piece written for The New York Times Bernie AI creator Justin Long notes how he’s programmed the system to “automate selection and basic introductory conversations – essentially, sorting through potential matches for the people who were genuinely interested in getting to know me.” So, Long applied facial recognition software to pinpoint and select facial features he finds attractive. If a match were met, the program would then send a message, expressing interest. If — and only if — the other party responded, Long would then take the reigns and commence the conversation.

Long insists he’s met some wonderful people through this system – people he’d presumably not have met otherwise, or would’ve spent ages searching for – but he has yet to find “the one”. And with this success, he decided to put his software into a beta version to help others explore the love world around them in a hands off but are efficient way.

Perhaps it’s this hands off feature that has many people so unsure about AI. Job automation – the buzz word that’s become one of the not-so-distant phobias for the youth of the world – is the ultimate manifestation of “hands off”. Meanwhile, less relieved and slightly more mediated AI involvement in finance and the dating world are slowly and steadily becoming a reality.

Image credit: Rudy-Jan Faber

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