Fake Love: A Look At AI-Generated People On Dating Sites
Wed, April 21, 2021

Fake Love: A Look At AI-Generated People On Dating Sites

Smartphone dating apps like Tinder leave it to users to ask a potential date out and make it work / Photo by: Kaspars Grinvalds via 123RF

 

Do you spend a lot of time swiping through profiles? The good news is that dating apps are using AI to suggest where you need to go on a first date, recommend what to say, and even find a partner who looks similar to the celebrity you like, said Daniel Silva of Phys.org, a news website on science and technology. Smartphone dating apps like Tinder leave it to users to ask a potential date out and make it work.

But people are growing more fatigued from swiping through profiles in vain. Hence, the online dating industry is leveraging the power of AI to help users arrange meetings in real life and at the same time, serve as a dating coach. However, it has a worrying disadvantage. 

Statistics On Online Dating

In 2017, the global online dating services market was valued at $6,400 million and forecasted to reach $9,202 million by 2025 growing at a CAGR of 4.7% from 2018 to 2025, according to Allied Market Research, a market research company. The dating service industry has shown strong growth in terms of sales and has been evolving continuously over the past couple of decades. This is attributed to the growing number of singles around the world, particularly in North America, Europe, and Asia-Pacific.

Moreover, internet penetration has led to the growth of the online dating services market, giving service providers immense opportunities to gain traction among their target users by developing customized features that appeal to their customers. 41% of singles have used online dating sites or apps at least once in their life and 68% of them are males. 

Millennials between 18 and 35 are active on various online dating sites. Over 30% of the millennial population said they found their life partner through online dating sites.  

The dating service industry has shown strong growth in terms of sales and has been evolving continuously over the past couple of decades. This is attributed to the growing number of singles around the world, particularly in North America, Europe, and Asia-Pacific / Photo by: ocusfocus via 123RF

 

Watch Out! Fake People Ahead

Drew Harwell of The Washington Post, a newspaper in Washington D.C., reported that AI start-ups are selling images of computer-generated faces that look like real people. This gives online dating service companies an opportunity to create imaginary models and “promote diversity” in their ads without using real human beings. One dating app plans to use the images in a chatbot. Meanwhile, another company said it’s moving from AI-generated headshots into creating full, fake human bodies this January.

The AI software used to produce such faces is available and improving rapidly, enabling small start-ups to create fake, convincing profiles. Massive databases of actual faces are used to train the systems, mimicking their features in new AI-generated human models. The problem here is that the fakes will usher a new generation of scammers, bots, and spies who could use the photos to build imaginary personas, conceal bias in hiring, and hinder efforts to promote diversity to industries (not just in online dating). It could also erode trust within cyberspace, which has already been plagued with disinformation, deepfakes, and the like.

A fellow in AI, law, and policy at the University of California at Los Angeles’s law school Elana Zeide note that the technology “showcases how little power and knowledge users have in terms of the reality of what they see online.” In her perspective, there’s no objective reality to compare those AI-generated photos. She added, “We’re used to physical worlds with sensory input … but with this, we don’t have any instinctive or taught responses on how to detect what’s real and what isn’t. It’s exhausting.”

While companies can use AI-generated photos for their marketing campaigns and promotional materials, their systems only mimic the likenesses they have seen without working with a diverse set of real people. Co-founder of talent agency Role Models Management Valerie Emanuel said fake photos could create a homogenizing look instead of showing more diverse and unique faces in advertising. 

We must also remember that the systems used by companies are “imperfect artists” as they are untrained in basic human anatomy. That means they can only match the patterns of “all the faces they have processed before.” Don’t be surprised to see nightmarish, deformed faces with peculiar mutations in the photo of your potential significant other. Some common examples are featureless faces, overly fingered hands, and people with mouths for eyes.

Is AI-Generated People a Remedy?

Citing Harwell’s article on The Washington Post, Scott Duke Kominers of business and financial news website Bloomberg wrote that having AI-generated humans lure us to dating sites is akin to sliding into sci-fi dystopia. He said that it’s not that different from what’s already going on today. Since inception, dating sites have used stock photos, models, and actors in their ads (as well as some users). That is better than borrowing a user’s photo for use in ads, which is creepy.

It’s much easier to scale too. In the past, dating sites had to find the people who looked like their target customers. Presently, hundreds of thousands of those individuals are easily accessible with a click of a button— and at a low cost too. Why? It’s because non-existent people don’t charge fees for a photoshoot. Apparently, dating sites have come under fire before for creating ads that seemed like messages written by real people. Such concerns may arise if dating sites start using fake people to populate their dating pools, which may result in more scams.   

The online dating industry as a whole is suffering from inauthenticity. People lie about their age, weight, and professional accomplishments, making the dating experience more of a game and a gamble. In the era of gamified dating, users carefully curate their profiles to maximize hit rates. If you meet someone on a dating site, you might wonder if that person will look or sound like a real person you’re interacting with online. Or the person you’re interacting with is just an AI. Who knows?

Nevertheless, the norm of the industry has left many users, particularly millennials, searching for a more authentic dating experience. In fact, adding fake people into the mix will stoke user distrust.

AI can be exploited to create fake photos of people in online dating. Having more AI-generated humans will not be an excellent basis for establishing a long-lasting relationship. It’s also not good for customers who want to try their luck at online dating.