The white bar being current users, purple being former, and blue having never used Tinder

The white bar being current users, purple being former, and blue having never used Tinder

The highest Tinder penetration is among those in the broad ‘other category’, nearly a quarter of whom are Tinder users, increasing to nearly two-thirds if we also include former users

Without keeping specific track of the exact numbers I feel like probably four of the first 100 women were of any ethnicity other than Caucasian. It was striking enough to continue paying attention and I eventually went to the Internet trying to find out what the *K was going on.

What I found was a litany of issues that don’t seem to be getting talked about too much. Part of the problem in itself is that the articles that were written about this, have titles they will only attract the nerdier among us, and so, most of the population will never notice the headlines that would tell them about some of these insidious subtleties, and how they could be changing the arc of your life and society completely. I’ll break a couple of these down here:

  • Artificial intelligence makes all the decisions
  • Artificial intelligence is based on existing data
  • The use of existing data reinforces current cultural norms and stereotypes
  • This re-use of data reinforces the problems of the past on the people of today, and stifles social and financial mobility

In terms of ethnic background, Hispanic Americans are the more likely to be users (18%) or former users (40%) than black (11%/36%) or white Americans (11%/33%).

What this means, is that NO, it’s not because it’s all white women on the app. I even checked local stats, which I’m not sharing to preserve anonymity, but they didn’t explain things much better, though the population here skews a touch more Caucasian than the nation in general.

Tinder also states that they do not use race or ethnicity as an identifier, although they do have an algorithm based on attractiveness

So what the HELL is happening? The data suggests that as percentages by race White people do not make up the majority of tenders users. In passed studies, when artificial intelligence has been told to rate the attractiveness of people it has almost exclusively rated white people 95% of the most attractive. This is not due to the fact that Circuit boards like white people better, it’s just that most of the data around what is attractive is based on long-standing White European based stereotypes of beauty. The computer simply has no basis to judge the beauty for most of the races.

These types of dangers are also inherently created by the biases of the programmers who create the apps and sites we use for dating in today’s modern world. All of us, no matter how pure, have certain unknown prejudices and assumptions that will slip into the work that we do. Our blindspot’s, that we are unaware of, we fail to address unknowingly. But what are the consequences of these subtle nuances in the ways they keep us separated and unequal?

“Because so much of collective intimate life starts on dating and hookup platforms, platforms wield unmatched structural power to shape who meets whom and how,” says Jevan Hutson, lead author on the Cornell paper addressing these issues.”

Turning what Mr. Hudson said into applicable information for our daily lives, what this really means, is it at the very core of how we build our society, these decisions being made by the AI, affect the entire arc of our individual and collective lives. Here are just a few examples of where that can make the biggest differences:

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