Simon Says
9:22 pm
Tue November 12, 2013

Modern Love Is More About Algorithms Than 'Witchcraft'

Originally published on Sat October 26, 2013 10:28 am

The Pew Research Center issued a report this week with findings that may sound unremarkable, but have implications to alter not just how we live, but what we dream, fantasize, gossip and sing about.

Online dating has become commonplace.

Thirty-eight percent of people who describe themselves as "single and looking" — and by the way, if you were a pollster, would you rather talk to people about being "single and looking," or how they feel about the latest numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics? — say they have consulted online dating sites.

Fifty-nine percent of all Internet users say they believe online dating is a sensible way to meet people and make matches. That's up 15 points from 2005.

People are still looking for love, but romance hasn't always been as we think of it today. For centuries people got coupled for security, wealth, or to advance ambitions. The kind of love that made you sweat, smolder, and sing "and I think I'm going out of my head" was often distrusted as "a smoke made with the fumes of sighs," as Shakespeare put it, "a madness most discreet."

That was from Romeo and Juliet, where — spoiler alert! — love is a dagger in their hearts.

For centuries, art and song celebrated religious devotion, not romance. But today most music, from opera to hip-hop, Puccini to Katy Perry, is about romantic love.

Do we need new songs for an era in which you don't see someone across a crowded room, or under moonlight, but online?

Sing to the tune of "Witchcraft" by Cy Coleman and Carolyn Leigh — or listen to NPR's Nina Totenberg and Ari Shapiro give it a shot:

Those details you compile
On your user profile
You've got the most beguil-
ing algorithms

You drive a bright red mini
And I take my latte skinny
What good would any
further search do?

It's algorithms, matching algorithms!
And although
I know
It's no longer taboo

There's no need for conversation
When I see your application
I'll know if it has
to be you!

It may not be romance
But I knew with no first glance
I've got the algorithm for you.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

The Pew Research Center issued a report this week with findings that may sound unremarkable but have implications to alter not just how we live, but what we dream, fantasize, gossip and sing about. Online dating has become commonplace. Thirty-eight percent of people who describe themselves as single and looking - and by the way, if you were a pollster, would you rather talk to people about being single and looking, or how they feel about the latest numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics? - say they have consulted online dating sites. Fifty-nine percent of all Internet users say they believe online dating is a sensible way to meet people and make matches. That's up 15 points from 2005.

People are still looking for love, but romance hasn't always been as we think of it today. For centuries, people got coupled for security, wealth, or to advance ambitions. The kind of love that made you sweat, smolder and sing and-I-think-I'm-going-out-of-my-head was often distrusted as a smoke made with the fumes of sighs, as Shakespeare put it; a madness most discreet. That was from "Romeo and Juliet," by the way, where - spoiler alert - love is a dagger in their hearts.

For centuries, art and song celebrated religious devotion, not romance. But today, most music - from opera to hip-hop, Puccini to Katy Perry - is about romantic love. So do we need new songs for an era in which you don't see someone across a crowded room or under moonlight, but online?

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG)

NINA TOTENBERG, BYLINE: (Singing) Those details you compile on your user profile, you've got the most beguiling algorithms.

ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: (Singing) You drive a bright red mini, and I take my latte skinny. What good would any further search do?

TOTENBERG: (Singing) Oh, it's algorithms, matching algorithms. And although I know it's no longer taboo.

SHAPIRO: (Singing) There's no need for conversation when I see your application. I'll know if it has to be you.

SIMON: Nah, not Sonny and Cher - Nina Totenberg and Ari Shapiro. You're listening to NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.