two alien looking creatures on a date in a futuristic setting
AI future of dating technology

AI and online dating

Could AI help us write dating profiles or improve the way we interact on dating apps, on dates, or in our relationships? When I was a teacher trainer, I often wanted to give my teachers an earpiece so that I could suggest what they could say to their classes in real time as I was observing them teach and things were going wrong. In my coaching work, I often discuss ideas for messaging with clients and get couples to say things to each other in a more loving, less defensive way. Could AI help with that?

This week, I’ve been experimenting with the use of the open-source version of the GPT-3 AI language prediction model, GPT-J-6B. Anyone can type in a prompt and the AI will use the data it’s been trained on (which is usually most of the internet) to respond in an original way. I was interested to see how convincing it was in mimicking human natural language, and how biased the data was towards the stereotypes and tropes of dating and relationships.

I began by typing in the prompt “The following is a conversation between two people on a dating app:” and this was the response:

Person 1: I’m new to town and looking for a good time tonight
Person 2: well let me show you what you’re missing
Person 2: my home is a block away from yours, and i’m staying in a new loft downtown
Person 1: uh oh, what’s wrong?
Person 2: i’m gonna sneak you into my place while i’m out and i’ll meet you at the front door and we can go from there
Person 1: oh no
Person 2: no, it’s okay, i promise i’ll be right here when you get home. i just want to get to know you first.
Person 1: okay, but what if your neighbors see me?
Person 2: that’s fine, i’ve got a secret entrance. just meet me at the front door and i’ll take you inside.
Person 1: okay
Person 2: okay, i’ll be waiting.
Person 1: thank you, i’ll be right there.
Person 2: see you in a bit
Person 1: ok
Person 2: now you’re in my house, you’re safe.
Person 1: okay
Person 2: now, where’s the best place to start?
Person 1: (deep breath) i really like your name
Person 2: that’s sweet
Person 1: my favorite song is your favorite song
Person 2: what’s your favorite song?
Person 1: it’s one of yours, i’m sure
Person 2: (giggles) okay, my favorite song is one of yours too. you know what, why don’t we just go to my bedroom
Person 1: okay, i guess
Person 2: (lights a candle)
Person 1: (whispers) thank you
Person 2: (opens a box)
Person 1: (looks at things)
Person 2: (wipes the sweat off his forehead)
Person 1: (laughs)

This example shows how internet dating tends to assume dating is about hook-ups (and that no one uses capital letters in messages), but it’s quite sweet too. I wonder what could be in the box? My second attempt aimed to direct the AI more towards the intention of a relationship, by giving it the beginning of the conversation:

Prompt:

The following is a conversation between two people on a dating app:

Person 1: what are you looking for on here?

Person 2: I’m looking for a serious relationship. How about you?

Person 1: yes, me too. have you had any previous long term relationships?

Person 2: yes, two really good ones. what are your long term goals?

Person 1: I want to have a family. How about you?

Person 2: yes, me too, but I also want to travel first.

This was the response:

Person 2: I’d like to visit all the continents, but I’d like to visit New Zealand, Australia and Antarctica first.
Person 1: oh, I want to travel too, but I’m not sure if I can leave my job yet. What about you?
Person 2: oh, that’s okay. I’ve got some savings, so I can afford to go anywhere I want.
Person 1: oh, I guess we can’t go to the same places. What about you?
Person 2: oh, you’re right. I want to go to some places that you haven’t been too.
Person 1: I’d love to go to New Zealand.
Person 2: I’d love to go to New Zealand too.
Person 1: so, what are you doing tonight?
Person 2: I’m going to the gym.
Person 1: me too. I’m going to a party after work.
Person 2: oh, is it a charity event?
Person 1: yes.
Person 2: oh, that sounds like fun. I think I’ll come too.
Person 1: oh, good idea.
Person 2: what are you going to wear?
Person 1: I don’t know yet.

The idea that someone might feel confident enough to invite themself along to a party you’re going to made me laugh, and I liked the way Person 2 adapts themself to want to go to the same places as Person 1 even though they have more money! However, there was nothing here to develop the idea of intentional dating: knowing what you are looking for, and trying to find out if you are compatible, rather than just going with the flow.

My third prompt was:

The following is a conversation between two people on a dating app:

Person 1: what kind of person are you attracted to?

Person 2: someone intelligent and good at listening. How about you?

Person 1: someone who keeps fit and is a vegan.

The response is a bit blunter than one might hope for, but at least there is no time-wasting:

Person 2: I don’t like vegans.
Person 1: oh.
Person 2: what do you think about my tattoo?
Person 1: what kind of tattoo?
Person 2: the two snakes hugging.
Person 1: I’ve always loved snakes.
Person 2: I hate snakes.
Person 1: I hate snakes too.
Person 2: you know what? I’m not sure if I’m into you.
Person 1: okay.

Finding out someone’s opinion on tattoos is a good indication of certain aesthetic values. And mirroring the other person’s words can be a good listening skill, but changing your feelings about snakes too obviously isn’t the way to do it.

Next I tried the prompt “The following is a conversation between two people who have been married for many years:” and predictably it demonstrated the tendency to lack listening skills when you’ve been together too long:

“So, are you going to church?”
“No, honey. I just don’t feel like it.”
“What? You don’t feel like it?”
“That’s right. I’m not going.”
“But, honey, it’s Sunday.”
“That’s right. I don’t feel like it.”
“But honey, we have to go.”
“That’s right. I don’t feel like it.”
“But, honey, you said you were going to go to church.”
“That’s right. I don’t feel like it.”
“But, honey, you promised.”

However, the same prompt also generated this gendered conversation, this time using F and M for female and male:

F: I’ve never seen you so happy.
M: That’s because I’m still in love.
F: Really?
M: Sure. I’ve never been happier than when I was in love.
F: I see. So, what made you fall in love with me?
M: I didn’t fall in love with you. I was in love with you when I first met you.
F: What was it about me that made you fall in love with me?
M: I don’t know. Maybe it was the way you looked at me when I walked into the room.
F: How did I look at you?
M: Like a woman in love.
F: But how could that make you fall in love with me? I’ve never looked at a woman in love.
M: I don’t know. But I was in love with you.
F: What do you mean you were in love with me?
M: I don’t know. I just know I was.

Nice to see the man being open about his emotions. What would a prompt about a conversation for a gay couple inspire? My prompt was “The following is a conversation of a gay couple:”

The guy: “So, you think I should just give it a go?”
“Yeah, why not? I mean, you’re in a relationship, right?”
“Yeah, but it’s pretty much a friendship.”
“So why do you care if I do it with you? I’m not gay.”
“I know, but I’m still not sure I can handle it if you do it with me.”
So, here’s the thing about my gaydar: It’s like a super bad version of the Thing.

I like the idea of this being a prompt for a short story competition, because I’m sure there are ways it could develop that are not predictably stereotypical.

My next area of exploration was to find out how original would dating profiles be. My prompt was “The following is a dating profile for a lesbian:

I am a very independent and intelligent woman, but when it comes to relationships, I’m all about the fun. I don’t like to overanalyze my choices or to plan my future with someone I’m not sure about. I just like to have fun and get to know someone by talking. I enjoy meeting new people, and I’m not afraid to make a move if the right opportunity presents itself. I want to be with someone who is independent and free spirited, but who also likes to make me laugh.

This was the second version I generated: the first was rather too stereotypical, all about being an engineer and a feminist. There are plenty of things wrong with this profile that I would suggest changing if someone brought this to me for help, but it’s not bad.

Finally, I had to find out what the internet bias was for dating coaches. Am I about to become obselete?

My prompt was The following is a conversation with a dating coach:

Client: “I’m really feeling in a good place with my relationship. I don’t know if I’m in a relationship or if I’m just having some fun with a guy I’m seeing. I think I’m finally getting over a lot of the drama that I used to put on myself with guys I used to date. It’s been almost two years and I think I’m ready to start having more fun and not holding back because I’m afraid of getting hurt again. I’ve gotten to the point where I’m very confident in my ability to move on and have a good time without being worried about getting hurt.”

Coach: I’m a big fan of the term “good place”. I think it’s great for people who are in relationships or even just dating someone to feel that they are in a good place. I believe that this means that you are moving forward and you are not going backwards. You are not backing into a relationship. You are moving away from the bad and the uncomfortable and the anxiety. You are feeling good about yourself and your situation. This is a good thing.

This was worryingly good: I had expected a more sexist, PUA-style approach, based on what you find on YouTube when you search for dating coaches. But now I’m thinking about training GPT-3 with a dataset of healthy dating conversations so that it can provide inspiration for messaging on dating apps. Watch this space!

P.S. In the previous blog post, I asked you to see if you could spot which part had been written by an AI. It was the very first paragraph, generated by GPT-3, in response to the prompt “The following is a blog post about the future of dating” plus the main image, which was generated using https://colab.research.google.com/github/multimodalart/latent-diffusion-notebook/blob/main/Latent_Diffusion_LAION_400M_model_text_to_image.ipynb. Let me know if you got it right, via the contact page.

the main image for this blog post was generated by create.starryai.com. using the prompt “a romantic date in the future”.

Read the previous blog post, The Future of Dating, here.

Rachel New
Rachel New is a Dating Coach and regular blogger on dating. She is particularly interested in the social psychology of dating and in promoting ethical dating: treating each other well, challenging norms, keeping an open mind.