About this Article
Written by: Melisa Osborne
Written on: June 20th, 2016
Tags: computer science, algorithms, lifestyle
Thumbnail by: Eva Hill/Illumin
About the Author
Melisa Osborne was an undergraduate at the University of Southern California at the time this article was written. She graduated with a B.S. in Biomedical Engineering and has since happily found love.
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Volume XVIII Issue II > The Computation of Love: Finding Your Soul Mate Online
In an age of technology and free Wi-Fi, those of us navigating the single life can opt for the electronic highway to love. Computer engineering has allowed society to grasp the subjective nature of attraction and translate it into quantitative data that computers can understand and process. Matching algorithms take the guess work out of dating with their analytical approach to love.

The Single Life of an Engineer

Of course I enjoy the holidays. What’s not to love? Festive feasts, family bonding, and unending comments from a distant aunt about the fact that I’m not seeing anyone. Like many of my peers, I’ve been badgered far too often with pointed queries concerning my dating life. In these circumstances I am forced to consider the age old question: Why am I single?
I like to believe that it’s not an issue of personality, but rather numbers. There are currently about 323,815,107 people living in the United States. Since my current transportation options around Los Angeles are limited to metros and bicycles, let’s chip that number down to the 3,928,827 people living in the city. Of that population, 59% are single, 50% are male, 32% have a Bachelor’s or Post-grad degree, and 17% are between the ages of 20 and 29. We’re left with about 63,050 “eligible bachelors” [1]. That’s plenty, right? Sure, but let’s now venture into the murky waters of lust and love. Empirically speaking, I’ll say I’m attracted to roughly 20% of the people I meet. I’ll assume that 20% of that group shares a mutual attraction. 2,522 bachelors. Is he straight? Does he like trying new things? Is he a nice person? Let’s be frank. As my list of ideals grows, my cut of potential soulmates narrows.
Eva Hill/Illumin
And I’m not the only one feeling this pressure. The difficulty of finding a partner is relevant across demographics and generations. Many of us can relate to the touch of fleeting desperation that graces the single life. In fact, this hitch has awakened the engineer in all of us. The dawn of online-dating is the apex of human beings doing what we’ve always done– analyze the tools around us and ask how we can use them to improve our circumstances. In this case, we’ve used mass media and communication technology to help ourselves cast a net for love, sex, and companionship [2].

Algorithms, Analysis, and Attraction

For those unfamiliar with computer engineering, the concept of algorithms may seem daunting. However, they can be simply explained as a systematic, step-by-step approach to problem solving. Similar to how a recipe book uses sentences to explain how to make a meal, computers use algorithms to complete a task. These tasks range from connecting a device to Wi-Fi to predicting trends in the stock market.
Figure 1: New OkCupid users are required to answer five yes-or-no questions. These questions serve as a baseline for matches. Users have the option to answer more questions and increase the accuracy of their match percentages.