Home > data science, modeling, news > Computer, do I really want to get married?

Computer, do I really want to get married?

December 11, 2013

There’s a new breed of models out there nowadays that reads your face for subtle expressions of emotions, possibly stuff that normal humans cannot pick up on. You can read more about it here, but suffice it to say it’s a perfect target for computers – something that is free information, that can be trained over many many examples, and then deployed everywhere and anywhere, even without our knowledge since surveillance cameras are so ubiquitous.

Plus, there are new studies that show that, whether you’re aware of it or not, a certain “gut feeling”, which researchers can get at by asking a few questions, will expose whether your marriage is likely to work out.

Let’s put these two together. I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to imagine that surveillance cameras strategically placed at an altar can now make predictions on the length and strength of a marriage.

Oh goodie!

I guess it brings up the following question: is there some information we are better off not knowing? I don’t think knowing my marriage is likely to be in trouble would help me keep the faith. And every marriage needs a good dose of faith.

I heard a radio show about Huntington’s disease. There’s no cure for it, but there is a simple genetic test to see if you’ve got it, and it usually starts in adulthood so there’s plenty of time for adults to see their parents degenerate and start to worry about themselves.

But here’s the thing, only 5% of people who have a 50% chance of having Huntington’s actually take that test. For them the value of not knowing that information is larger than knowing. Of course knowing you don’t have it is better still, but until that happens the ambiguity is preferable.

Maybe what’s critical is that there’s no cure. I mean, if there was therapy that would help Huntington’s disease sufferers delay it or ameliorate it, I think we’d see far more people taking that genetic marker test.

And similarly, if there were ways to save a marriage that is at risk, we might want to know on the altar what the prognosis is. Right?

I still don’t know. Somehow, when things get that personal and intimate, I’d rather be left alone, even if an algorithm could help me “optimize my love life”. But maybe that’s just me being old-fashioned, and maybe in 100 years people will treat their computers like love oracles.

Categories: data science, modeling, news
  1. An igyt
    December 11, 2013 at 7:23 am

    If you don’t have a prior belief in your marriage strong enough to swamp any data gathered at the alter — no matter how well validated — you should not get married.


    • Cynicism
      December 11, 2013 at 7:31 am

      Exactly. With apologies to Mencken, sometimes the answer to a complex problem really is that simple.


  2. anon
    December 11, 2013 at 8:20 am

    You should check out the movie TiMER – it’s on Netflix. The premise is that once people turn 16 or so, they can get a clock implanted in their wrist which counts down to the exact moment they meet the love of their life, and then starts beeping when they do meet that person (though the other person also needs to have the clock installed). It does a good job of exploring the timer’s psychological effects – what about people who’s timer says no true love until they’re 80? 17? what if your true love doesn’t have a timer? why do people refuse to get a timer? etc. It was an enjoyable movie.


  3. Christina Sormani
    December 11, 2013 at 12:44 pm

    I know quite a few people who were successfully matched up amd married based upon very basic computer programs. Why not the opposite? A warning that a relationship is likely to be unsuccessful in the long run is worth it before going to the alter. Even just answering a list of questions together without the help of a computer can predict all sorts of problems. I would say an unwillingness to work on a problem before getting married is a predicter of a weak marraige. It is especially important to reveal before marriage whether one partner is expected to do all the compromising and is willing to do this. As for only finding out at the alter, that is perhaps too late.


  4. December 11, 2013 at 1:17 pm

    I’ll agree with igyt and Christina. Many churches offer pre-marital counseling and sometimes it uncovers destructive behaviors and conflicts in values that will harm a marriage. Family and friends are often willing to offer their views – even if indirectly – on a potential marriage. Computerized scrutiny of a potential marriage could be another way to get valuable feedback that may not be forthcoming from others. If the computer can be trained as a pre-marriage counselor – asking probing questions that are likely to lead to productive discussions and open simmering conflicts – then it could add real value to a relationship.

    The computer’s potential for tailoring the questions around the behaviors and attitudes it detects in the couple makes it potentially far more powerful than “just answering a list of questions.” Even if highly flawed, I’d still recommend that my kids get as much feedback as they can before getting married. A computerized pre-marriage counselor shouldn’t be able to do much harm and it might do a lot of good.


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