John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Metric for the Perfect Mate

Metric for the perfect mate

Analytics is all the rage in business and government. The hot new tool of the year—decade maybe—to help organizations make better data-driven decisions.

The movie Moneyball brilliantly depicted the powers of knowing and playing the numbers to get the results you want in more than just business and budgets. You can even use analytics to create a championship level pro baseball team –on the cheap.

So, why not use analytics on a more personal level by individuals seeking “better data-driven decisions”? And why not something more important and personal to you than budget forecasting or sports pastimes. How about an algorithm for finding the ideal mate? Or just a tolerable one? I think it’s doable.

jyb_musingsOf course, you say, eHarmony and other dating websites already use these tools to match people for dating. Yes, they surely do. But that’s dating. And it’s a business. If eHarmony only offered a one shot algorithm telling you that you should or should not marry someone, there would be nothing much to advertise because it’s a one-shot business model. Instead, eHarmony wisely held out expertise for the dating marketplace which provides endless opportunities for selling, buying, re-selling and re-buying .

Dating involves behavior that economists refer to as “elastic” (subject to changing over time, even if only temporarily) as opposed to marriage, which involves behavior that is “inelastic” (only subject to changing in the imagination of one’s spouse). And besides, dating has far too many variables to derive a truly reliable forecast of dating success because much less is on the line. For example, where dating only is involved, literally thousands of faux pas are grounds to refuse a next date….but that same activity if applied in a marriage context would merely become “this week’s topic” in counseling or a cute story to tell at a cocktail party (twice but not that third time when you embellish) or simply viewed as an opportunity to catch up on some reading by sleeping all week on the couch downstairs.

So, what would such an algorithm look like? I can’t say what one for the ideal female partner should look like. I’m not a woman and am not comfortable guessing. I only know it will be far more complex and require a mind capable of revising relativity theory to complete, whereas for the male model, merely having a high school familiarity with algebra is adequate to the task.

I’ll let one of the truly brilliant and accomplished analytics organizations in education, business or public policy (or dating or baseball) take on the task.

My only request is a simple one that will be eagerly provided. If such a formula is ever developed that I’m given credit for promoting the idea. How do I know this credit will be eagerly provided to me? C’mon, it doesn’t take a high school algebra level understanding of analytics to know such a formula would never really work. And that whoever claims otherwise will immediately be looking for someone else to blame for coming up with the foolhardy idea. That’s just common sense.

(See pic below of male professor explaining the overwhelming empirical evidence that the female graduate student should date him if she wants to be truly happy. Who said analytics types don’t have street smarts too.)

Postscript: They have now been married 6 years but the former grad student (now Phd) has since revised the formula to eliminate errors and “kinks” in assumptions in the original formula. I’m joking. I think)


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