April 24, 2023 - 1:00pm

Perhaps you have already begun to consider AI as an obliging helpmate when it comes to writing an email or troubleshooting a string of code. But Stefan-Pierre Tomlin — a male model who previously found some fame as Tinder’s “most right-swiped man” — thinks artificial intelligence can work its subtle magic in a more personal sphere of your life: the romantic one. Subscribers to Tomlin’s website, Celebrity Love Coach, will receive advice and access to a “bespoke” ChatGPT-enabled technology that will help users to create more attractive dating profiles and even compose messages to prospective dates.

Those who bridle at the idea of relying on a transformer-based neural network to reel in their next conquest may increasingly find themselves in a minority. A 2023 survey of over 1,000 people found that nearly half were up for using an AI-driven dating app to help them find a potential long-term partner. In addition, 56% of respondents were also receptive to the idea of training the AI with photos of exes (both to find and avoid someone who looks similar).

What’s more, 56% actually do want AI to help them chat with matches, including by suggesting replies or new topics of conversation. The app Elate already offers an AI assistant called Dara to do just that. And that comes after a fresh wave of dating apps that are also exploring the use of AI as a matchmaking tool. The American-based AIMM — Artificial Intelligence Matchmaker — asks users to communicate with their chatbot over the course of a week, answering hundreds of questions so that the AI can get to know the user and then match them with the right person.

The CEO of Iris Dating, yet another AI-driven app, optimistically claims that artificial intelligence has tremendous potential when it comes to matchmaking because of its ability to analyse large amounts of data, saving singles from the tedious task of having to look through profiles themselves. Already, popular apps like Tinder allow users to filter prospective matches on a dizzying range of metrics, from height and star sign, to whether or not they exercise or use drugs. Many modern dating apps work by creating an online superstore experience of romance that drives demand for increasingly selective filters like these. In such circumstances, the concept of a friendly, robotic wingman is an appealing one.

But AI-optimised romance, even that which uses sophisticated algorithms to matchmake, may also leave us cold. After all, speaking to a stranger online can indeed be frightening, but does relying on AI assistance mitigate the awkwardness or merely postpone it? What do two people who have used a chatbot to communicate actually talk about when they find themselves sitting face to face in a restaurant?

In 2020, a major meta-analysis of 43 longitudinal studies set out to investigate whether machine learning — a type of AI — could predict happiness in romantic relationships. The study found the answer was no, and the lead researcher has commented that the results show just how “unpredictable relationships seem to be”. In light of such work, robot matchmakers may not help all that much.

In the end, what the AI-enabled dating apps of the future offer us — beyond unearthing matches who look uncannily like your school crush or Keanu Reeves — will be more of the same: a semblance of control and an extra layer of safe distance from the emotional rawness of finding love.