The Null Device

Love by numbers

OKCupid is another on-line matchmaking site/web-toy for people who enjoy filling in surveys. As the theory goes, you fill in a survey, get a personality type (one of those four-element ones, like the Myers-Briggs or the Spark personality test, only more bootywhang-oriented). Then, to build up your profile by answering random questions from a database; the more you have, in theory, the more "accurate" your matches with strangers online will be.

The questions were mostly submitted by users, so about half of them are poorly-designed to the point of uselessness; many of them one could answer either way depending on context, or consist of inadequate choices ("a) techno; b) trance; c) house; d) I don't like electronic music"), or are US-centric ("Do you have an ambition to visit all 50 states before you die?", "Should the death penalty be abolished?"). Then there are the questions, like "do you think extraterrestrials are watching us?", for which any answer other than skipping it asserts much the same thing (i.e., in this case, a certainty of belief about the unknowable). More interesting are the ones which betray their authors' assumptions: false dichotomies ("Is human life more important than the environment?", which suggests the naïve technocratic worldview of someone raised in a veal pen on a diet of corporate television), straw-men ("Are all human actions fundamentally controlled by a biological desire to survive and reproduce?"; a caricature of evolutionary psychology as seen by someone vehemently opposed to it on ideological grounds), and leading questions ("Do animals have souls like humans do?"). A number of them seem to come from a curious world where modern science is considered with suspicion ("Do you believe in dinosaurs?", "Should creationism and evolution be taught alonside each other?")

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