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Practically-A-Book Review: Luna Whitepaper

They say money can’t buy love. But that was the bad old days of fiat money. Now there are dozens of love-based cryptocurrencies – LoveCoin, CupidCoin, Erosium, Nubilo – with market caps in the mid nine-figures. The 17-year-old genius behind CupidCoin just bought the state of Tennessee. You think I’m joking, but can you be sure? How weird is “too weird to be true” these days, and how confident are you in your answer?

Case in point: Luna, which bills itself as blockchain-optimized dating. They caught my attention by hiring Aella, previously featured on this blog for her adventures taking LSD megadoses weekly for a year. They kept it with their cutesy story about how the name “Luna” comes from founder Andre Ornish’s first word – adorable, until you consider that any baby whose first word is in Latin is definitely possessed. And they maintained it because – well, goodness knows we need new dating sites now that OKCupid has devolved into an off-brand Tinder clone. So let’s look through the white paper and see what they’ve got.

Most dating sites suffer from attention imbalance: men scrounge around for anyone willing to acknowledge their existence; women get inundated with countless desperate messages they don’t want. Luna solves this by making attention a commodity tradeable on the free market. Users who want to catch someone else’s attention can bid the local cryptocurrency, Stars, to get their message to the top of another user’s queue; all Stars spent in this way go to the user receiving the message. Stars can be bought with dollars and vice versa, so popular users can actually earn money reading all the messages sent to them.

This system has some pretty powerful advantages. Market forces are the known solution to the problem of connecting resources to their highest-value use. So if you treat user attention as a resource you can trust the market to allocate it optimally – in this case, to the guy who’s just realized he’s your soulmate, rather than the guy who’s spamming everyone with five dick pics.

But everywhere this solution is tried, it runs up against its one great weakness – rich people with mild preferences can outbid poor people with strong ones. I can’t predict how this particular market will clear, but this doesn’t necessarily have to be a big problem here. If the market rate for a certain user’s messages were $1, then even the poorest person could afford to send a message to a potential soulmate. And even a well-off person might hesitate to send out a hundred messages a day, every day. And if he didn’t? Well, getting paid $100/day to read messages on a dating site doesn’t sound like the worst outcome. Also, really good information about preferences in exchange for a biased system that favors the wealthy has been the deal Capitalism has been offering since Adam Smith first put quill to paper; it seems kind of weird to back out now.

A more practical issue: how long before someone finds a photo of a supermodel, limits their profile to “I AM A NYMPHOMANIAC”, and watches everyone trip over themselves to send paid messages? Luna alludes to vague plans to “verify” profiles, which could mean anything from “you have to Photoshop a picture halfway convincingly” to “you have to get an actual pretty girl to help with your scam”. Neither of these seem like too high a bar. Better is their offer to provide data, including how often users respond to messages and how often users meet with other users:

When choosing to attach Stars to his message, Bob should receive information such as the number of unread messages in Alice’s queue, an internally calculated reply quality indicator, and confirmation on whether Alice’s account is verified.

I’m still skeptical. I have bots pretending to be pretty women try to friend me on Facebook something like once a week, even though I have no idea what their endgame is or how this results in them making money. If Luna gives a real incentive for the scam, they’re going to have to beat Facebook pretty handily if they want to succeed here.

More promising than any individual claim they make about how they’re going to fix things, is their claim that they’re incentivized to fix them. OKCupid famously wrote about Why You Should Never Pay For Online Dating, the answer being that it incentivizes dating sites to keep you single – after all, the longer you’re single, the longer you’ll keeping spending money on dating sites. Even if that sounds a little cartoon-villainish, at the very least it doesn’t incentivize sites to do a good job matching you up. Luna claims that their model gives them a profit only when it succeeds:

At Luna, we intend to structure the token economy in such a way that our system is rewarded when users achieve their goals, thus aligning our own incentives with those of our users and ensuring that all data, AI, and machine learning technology will be used to actually connect people…the approach consists of two parts:

1. Fees which comprise Luna’s revenue only occur in the case of successful communication. As described in 3.1, when a user receives and reads a message boosted with Stars, they also receive the Stars used to boost that message. Luna intends to take a small fee for this transaction, but only if the recipient responds to the message within a window of a number of days yet to be determined. If the recipient does not respond, or only responds after more than this number of days, this fee will be re-paid to the sender. The number of Stars transferred to the recipient, however, will remain the same, whether they respond to the message or not. In this way Luna’s financial incentives will be aligned with users’ goals at Stage IV in the exchanging of messages.

2. Possibility of tipping in case of successful offline dates. Another way to provide incentive for Luna to help achieve its users’ goals is to allow users to tip the platform after the achievement of Stage V in the completion of a successful date. As described in 3.2.4, we intend to make feedback polls available after dates. Once users have rated their experience, Luna will then allow them to choose whether to leave a tip of their choice in the form of Stars. As this is a voluntary option, it should have no effect on user feedback. Tipping a platform is an infeasible idea in the context of currently existing dating apps; however, the free and direct-to-user benefits of Luna may register to users as something more resembling the mechanisms of Wikipedia: a free, friendly, and user-contributed service, rather than a platform like Match.com, which can feel exploitative. A tipping option may thus encourage a feeling of alliance with Luna in the user.

In this way, rather than recreating disparities which exist between the goals of current dating platforms and their users, Luna’s financial incentives and user goals will coincide.

I can imagine all sorts of horrible misalignments between maximizing-number-of-responded-to-messages and maximizing user satisfaction, but for now I’ll just admit this seems nice and I appreciate the effort.

Luna’s last major promise is to use cutting-edge machine-learning techniques to come up with a good match algorithm:

Despite significant technological advances in information processing, storage, and retrieval, online dating has yet to optimally integrate machine learning for the user’s benefit. A typical ML task for online dating might be to predict the level of compatibility between two users from a given set of input data, thus predicting for example whether one user is likely to respond to another user’s message […]

Luna may adopt a collaborative filtering algorithm developed by Dr. Kang Zhao. In addition, Luna may use advanced NLP techniques in conjunction with IBM Watson to integrate additional information from the contents of messages sent in-app, as well as from social media sources such as Twitter, if users choose to provide that information.

They’re right that this seems like a perfect use case for machine learning techniques, and that this possibility has been woefully underexplored. With all due respect to OKCupid’s excellent match algorithm (my girlfriend played with it one day and found that her two highest matches in the entire world were me and her ex), there’s a lot of room for improvement here. I find the idea of letting users link their social media accounts to provide more data really fascinating, and this reassures me that the attempts at incentive-alignment above really do have them thinking about how they can do better.

One part of the white paper I still don’t understand: why is it on a blockchain? They write:

For us to ever find out [how to design a match algorithm that really increases human happiness], we are going to require an open data ecosystem around computer dating. Blockchain is an integral part of that – it’s what pays the bills to do the science and, in the case of Luna, it nicely and accurately solves one of the key problems in the computer dating arena: cut-and-paste messages spammed over huge numbers of people, resulting in an ever-lower number of good quality genuinely interested messages, hidden in an ever larger sea of dating spam. Just getting rid of that dynamic once and for all would be a great result, but I think that Luna offers far, far more.

By establishing the decentralized paradigm in dating, Luna helps to remake dating culture. Luna is not a service or a place, like Tinder or a bar. Luna is a method, and a method which can be continually improved using techniques like A/B testing, until it is genuinely producing better lives for people. Because blockchain techniques allow for sophisticated tools to be developed to align economic interests between (say) search algorithm designers and individual users, or between users and other users who don’t like spam (i.e. everybody), the possibility exists to not only solve the questionable agency of the current generation of dating app providers, but to create positive agency to do something really, really new. We could pay the best people in the world to design algorithms to match other people, and make them happy.

I don’t know what they mean by “open data ecosystem”. I assume they’re not going to let everybody see all the data – I don’t necessarily want my parents to be able to know who I just sent a message to. But if not, how does “open data” help other people design match engines? Why is their crypto token more efficient than paying for Second Life in Linden Dollars, or any of the other silly token currencies that have existed forever on the Internet?

So what is blockchain doing for them? The null hypothesis might be: the same thing it does for Long Island Blockchain Tea and half a million other scams. I have hopes that Luna isn’t a scam. It employs some people I know and trust. The incentives and economics of their product seem very well-thought-through – so much so that if it’s a scam somebody else ought to be doing the same thing for real. And they’re promoting GiveWell and other effective charities in a way that suggests they want a lot of the money to go to altruism anyway. These are…signs. But I’ve been told you can’t be too paranoid in this area these days.

But I really do hope Luna isn’t a scam. Because if it’s real, it represents everything good about Silicon Valley. Some people use Intellect to wrest a secret from Nature: an elegant reduction of the chaos of human interaction into comprehensible and exploitable principles. To test their prize they build a Sampo, a machine churning out a hundred varieties of human happiness – from loving marriages to ecstatic sex to just sitting on the couch cuddling on rainy days. They give it to the public gratis. In the process they all get super rich and donate the money to curing malaria, good compounding upon good. Also, the whole thing is done in a weird and pointlessly-complicated format that adds nothing except a giant middle finger aimed at government regulators. What could be more beautiful than this?

One last thought on the blockchain issue: whenever I study intentional communities, I’m struck by how little the community’s principles matter, compared to the brute fact of it being an intentional community. An anarchist commune may have some spectacularly brilliant collaborative dispute-solving mechanism, but none of that matters, because the people involved will be the sorts of people who would join an anarchist commune, ie ridiculous and completely ungovernable.

So the most interesting and distinguishing feature of Luna, at least to start with, might not be the tokens, or the incentives, or the machine learning. It might be that it’s a place you can go to meet the sort of people who want to date on the blockchain. I could make a lot of cheap jokes here, but whatever weird hyperplanes through categoryspace further the difficult and desperate project of human-seeking-human are good and worthwhile in my book. I hope that lots of libertarian women find lots of security-conscious men and make lots of beautiful, high-price-volatility babies.

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519 Responses to Practically-A-Book Review: Luna Whitepaper

  1. Anatoly says:

    >I really hope Luna isn’t a scam.

    In Jan 2018, what’s your prior for things that advertise themselves as being based on blockchain – being a scam?

    I wish I’d taken the time to register with myself my own predictions for SSC in 2018 – because if I did, I think “not reviewing positively a blockchain-based project” would be on there with a rather high probability, and I’d be able to better quantify the sinking feeling I’m experiencing right now.

    This comment is probably coming across as unkind and I apologize for that.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      How might we bet on whether this is a scam or not?

      I assume either way they do some things that look like efforts to put out a product, and either way, there’s a high chance the company implodes before the product is functional/profitable. Would there be a good way to tell for sure after the fact, other than in the small fraction of worlds where the site is very successful?

      • The Nybbler says:

        How might we bet on whether this is a scam or not?

        Well, we start by crafting a blockchain-based smart contract…

      • Shannon Alther says:

        Here are some indications that a coin is either a deliberate scam or pointless, which in practice are hard to distinguish.

        * The team is either anonymous or headed by people with very little experience.

        * No papers, or papers which don’t answer any technical questions or provide non-obvious insight into the business problem.

        * The problem cannot be solved by using a blockchain.

        * No explanation of the underlying technology (e.g. does this run on Ethereum), or no Github / Github has no non-cosmetic code on top of the fork.

        * Developers have optimized for the price of the coin rather than function.

        * Developers have assigned themselves a suspiciously large number of coins.

        The best way to tell whether it was a scam is to see whether the price of the coin remains coupled to its success; followed by whether the developers associate themselves with this project in the future even if it isn’t very successful.

        To bet on it, assuming that coins being legit is a stronger predictor of success than being a scam, and that you have a portfolio of cryptocurrencies, diversify into Luna and reap the profit / loss (averaged over the coins which you think are not scams and therefore provide better returns on average.)

    • gbdub says:

      It’s almost certainly a gimmick (“a trick or device intended to attract attention, publicity, or business.”), probably not a scam (“1.a dishonest scheme; a fraud:”).

  2. Sniffnoy says:

    But seriously, what is the advantage supposed to be here of a blockchain over a centralized ledger? I had the same question, I was wondering if maybe you saw something I missed, and apparently not.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      My first guess was – concept guys had an idea for a cool dating site, business guy said “it has to be on the blockchain if you want it to get funding”, concept guys said “whatever”. But this seems contradicted by Vinay Gupta being (apparently) one of the main concept guys and also a long-time crypto person.

      • sohois says:

        Presumably Vinay Gupta can play the role of both concept and business guy, and decide for himself that linking everything up with ‘blockchain’ will drive attention to the product.

      • tentor says:

        To me, it sounds more like “What else can we put on the blockchain? Oh right, dating!” The motivation might be business driven or ideology driven.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        “Blockchain” is the new “Cloud.”

      • vV_Vv says:

        My first guess was – concept guys had an idea for a cool dating site, business guy said “it has to be on the blockchain if you want it to get funding”, concept guys said “whatever”.

        So it’s a scam.

        • antpocalypse says:

          That seems like a pretty uncharitable reading. It doesn’t sound like they’re promising anything that they don’t intend to deliver, just implementing their idea (the real product) in a way that makes it hot to investors, even if it wasn’t strictly necessary. In a better world, the people with the money would find the concept itself valuable and not need the blockchain window dressing to be interested.

          • Michael Watts says:

            You’re describing a scam. This is a scam on the investors, not on the users. It may be well intentioned — the Luna guys could really believe that they have a good and profitable idea which will make life better for their investors — but that doesn’t change the fact that the business plan is “we’re trying to get you to buy something that we know you don’t want, by concealing from you what it is”.

          • vV_Vv says:

            just implementing their idea (the real product) in a way that makes it hot to investors, even if it wasn’t strictly necessary.

            So they are manipulating the investors to make them put their money into something they would not otherwise have invested in, and the manipulation itself adds no value to the asset, and in fact likely subtracts it, due to all the costs and risks of having to implement a new blockchain and hope that it is adopted.

            Sounds like an investment scam to me.

          • antpocalypse says:

            @Michael Watts: It doesn’t sound like they’re concealing what it is, though. If investors decide to put their money into “X with blockchain” and they get “X with blockchain”, I don’t think they were scammed just because it was possible (or preferable) to do X without a blockchain. They know what they’re investing in, they just value a different part of it than the creators do.

            (If they deliver something that doesn’t resemble what’s described, then yeah, definitely scam, then.)

          • jonm says:

            I don’t think that necessarily counts as a scam. I’ve worked at a few startups and the engineers always want to try whatever the latest gimmicky technology is, regardless of whether it’s the best fit and the marketing people always want to tout those buzzwords. Never mind that the MongoDB/hadoop (it was a while back) solution could have been done more efficiently on a laptop in SQL or even an excel sheet. I don’t think anyone was scamming in that case, although it was certainly a poor use of engineering resources. This sounds like more or less the same type of thing.

          • srconstantin says:

            Purely “decorative” technology is a long tradition in the tech startup industry. (Working in machine learning, I see a lot of companies that don’t actually need machine learning to solve their problems, but it makes them look cool.)

            There’s really a “scam spectrum” between the kind of fraud that’s straight-up illegal and the kind of puffery that comes standard in almost every business. Decorative/inessential technology is one of the milder forms of fakeness, IMO. Using decorative technology intentionally is indistinguishable from stupidity, which means you can’t really enforce rules against it. And investors are well aware that people jump on bandwagons and use buzzwords, so I think they’re perfectly well equipped to protect themselves from this level of “scam”; the best investors are probably much better at identifying fakeness than we are.

          • Careless says:

            It’s not a scam if you accurately describe what you’re doing and then do it, even if what you’re doing turns out to be stupid.

            I could build a 3-wheel drive car (with four wheels)(well, I can’t, but someone could). It wouldn’t be a scam to advertise that and get investors, even if building a 3-wheel drive car is a damned stupid idea, unless I made outlandish claims about performance.

          • MugaSofer says:

            It strikes me as quite like a book editor insisting a writer insert a love triangle into an already-fine story.

      • Vinay Gupta says:

        Have made a long comment, explaining my involvement and perspective, but it seems to be stuck in a moderation queue?

      • Vinay Gupta says:

        Yes, I came up with the mechanism a couple of years ago, then chanced upon a team that looked like they had the rest of the pieces necessary to make it go. It was a very fortuitous meeting!

        It’s a very, very exciting project. I’m going to be fascinated to see how it unfolds. I’m mainly working on http://mattereum.com these days.

    • Lambert says:

      Intermediate position between scam and not-scam:
      It’s being designed ostensibly for the blockchain, but covertly for a centralised ledger too.
      It uses the blockchain to build hype now, but once the bitcoin bubble bursts, they will switch back to more conventional technology.

    • Doug says:

      Remember, the only function of a blockchain is to avoid double-spend attacks without trusted authorities. If a trusted authority exists, then she can always verify transactions with much less technical overhead. Even if one single party isn’t trusted, but some N-of-M in a group can be (like a committee that has to approve with a quorom), then multisig encryption can solve the problem. Blockchains aren’t even required to preclude mis-spend attacks, which can be done with public key signatures. (Though a transferrable claim that can be double spent probably has little intrinsic value, rendering the need to avoid mis-spends moot)

      This is really important for money-like digital assets, i.e. bitcoin. Even very trustworthy people or organizations may not be trustworthy when millions in value a day is being spent. (Or alternatively the people may be trustworthy, but their computer systems may not. I.e. the centralized node becomes a major target for hacking.) Arguably it’s also important for smart contracts, even smart contracts that still rely on a trusted arbiter of information.

      E.g. a sports bet that still requires an authority to publish the final score of the game. Even though the trusted authority may fail, the smart contract can limit the space of outcomes to a specific hyper-plane. The sports score publisher can declare that the Jaguars won, even if the Patriots actually did. But he can’t arbitrarily declare some contracts for the Jaguars and others for the Patriots. Hence this lowers the incentive to cheat.

      What blockchains can’t do, and what a lot of SV hype-men claim they can, is eliminate the technical costs of maintaining a database. Scalable and reliable internet infrastructure is really expensive and painful to maintain. You spend millions a year paying DBAs boatloads of money so they wake up at 3 AM when your servers crash. Operating a public facing internet service is like defending a fortress in a zombie apocalypse. You’re always a single kernel panic away from impeding doom.

      Given this it’s quite natural that a lot of tech executives and VCs see blockchains as a magic solution. Alice sends Bob $2000, and Internet magic means it “just works”. There’s no Bitcoin LLC that’s constantly burning cash, no worries about AWS crashing, and no panicked calls at 3 AM.

      But the reason this doesn’t happen is because all of these issues are being handled by the Bitcoin mining pools. In fact way way more problems, because blockchain consensus comes with an order of magnitude complexity than even very scalable centralized databases. But it’s not a free lunch, because the miners are being paid way more than the developers and cloud hosting services would cost. The cost is certainly less visible, because the miners are paid either in the form of seigniorage or transaction fees by the users.

      • Confusion says:

        the only function of a blockchain is to avoid double-spend attacks

        That does not seem right to me. Both physical money and the banking system already have perfectly good ways to prevent double spending. There was no reason to invent a new technology to prevent that. Preventing double-spending attacks is just a necessary precondition for a blockchain to be usable.

        Isn’t its function having a cryptographically secure decentralized ledger, so no centralized authority or participant can make unilateral changes to the ledger? When applied to a currency: to be able to do without a central authority that can perform chargebacks or otherwise seize funds.

        • rlms says:

          You’re comparing the blockchain to other currency type things; Doug is comparing it to other (distributed) databases. His point is that although blockchains are the most prominent distributed databases at the moment, there are other choices that are often better.

        • John Schilling says:

          Both physical money and the banking system are, in their current forms, dependent on large centralized institutions that are ultimately backed by the power of the state. Absent the state, physical money doesn’t prevent double-spending because as soon as someone gives me a hundred-dollar bill I just put it through the photocopier and make a few thousand copies(*).

          The Blockchain was a clever first attempt at creating a sort of money that would be immune to double-spending even without the state or some large centralized institution backing it up, because crypto-nerds don’t trust the state.

          * Yes, I need special paper and special ink and whatnot, but absent the state those are things that I can buy at extra cost, <$100 per banknote's worth, rather than things that will bring a SWAT team down on whomever advertises them for sale.

    • Andrew Cady says:

      what is the advantage supposed to be here of a blockchain over a centralized ledger?

      Because the whole point is to create a new currency. That’s where the big money potential is. Not in selling mate advertising. The daters are supposed to be the critical mass that gets the bubble started.

    • Christian Kleineidam says:

      If you look at the issues with OkCupid right now you see the problems with a centralized ledger. The owner of the website makes changes in it that the users don’t like and nobody can fork to provide the old user experience.

      The Blockchain allows different apps to interface with the same pool of profiles.

  3. MicaiahC says:

    I’m still skeptical. I have bots pretending to be pretty women try to friend me on Facebook something like once a week, even though I have no idea what their endgame is or how this results in them making money.

    Allow the hysterically funny computer science researcher explain in this vid (starts at 21 minutes in, don’t know how to link to a timestamp on vimeo) https://vimeo.com/95066828

  4. James says:

    Luna solves this by making attention a commodity tradeable on the free market. Users who want to catch someone else’s attention can bid the local cryptocurrency, Stars, to get their message to the top of another user’s queue; all Stars spent in this way go to the user receiving the message. Stars can be bought with dollars and vice versa, so popular users can actually earn money reading all the messages sent to them.

    Didn’t we work something like this out, half as a joke, in the comments here once? I think our main conclusion then was that its biggest obstacle to success would be convincing people it isn’t creepy, because of how it mingles the sacred value of romantic attention with the profane currency of money.

    Meanwhile, I agree that the blockchain aspect seems pointless (albeit very on-trend). Stars seem like a pretty much centralised (fiat?) currency, and they even take a little fee when they make transactions in it, so I don’t see why they’d want anyone else fiddling about with it outside of their centralised ledger, nor why anyone would want to. So is there a good reason for it to be a cryptocurrency?

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I don’t remember that. Anybody remember the link?

      • James says:

        I guess it was at least a year ago, maybe more. It’s a shame OTs here are so hard to Google, but some people seem to keep savant-level manual records of what was discussed when, so maybe someone will pop up with a link.

        • albertborrow says:

          Was it this thread with a comment by Andrew Hunter? It’s a proposal for a bet on scamming dating websites.

          I’ve proposed a few variants on this game before. The last time I actually did it, a hot friend of mine and I played Trading Places: he used my pictures and sent whatever messages he thought were good, I used his pictures and sent mindlessly bad ones. (I won, comfortably.) But I generally propose a one-sample test: you write an okcupid profile using my pictures of your choice (I’ll give you all of them)–say whatever you want so long as it’s true about me. (I can provide you with a couple old profiles of mine for baseline copy.) I give you a list of, say, 100 profiles to message. You do whatever you want; I pay you $N per one who actually goes out with me (and isn’t actually a bot / hooker / scammer, obviously). Again, you have to say true things about me. Your side is a flat $M, so you “win” if you get me at least $N/$M dates.

          It might be this one where they discuss that adultery dating website scandal, which operated off of a similar principle?:

          For a conversation between two members, one of the members — almost always the man — must pay five credits to initiate the conversation. Any follow-up messages between the two members are free after the communication has been initiated. Ashley Madison also has a real-time chat feature that is metered. Credits are utilised to pay for a certain time allotment of chat. Women can send messages to men for free, but the men must pay to read them. Men must always pay to send messages to women.

          (this is a quote within a quote from Deiseach, who got the source from a wikipedia article. The system is mentioned, but discussion only lasts for two comments)

          I admit, I’m skeptical either of these are correct. I’m having difficulty finding the source even when sorting through relatively few (50+) google search results. Is there a keyword you can remember that might not have been used in the post above?

          No, this isn’t a savant level archive, I just had 20 minutes free.

          • James says:

            Naah, it’s neither of those, though the second one is getting warm. The discussion was about a hypothetical model of spending credits to send messages and receiving credits by reading them. I don’t remember whether the credits in the proposal were actual cash dollars or some kind of made-up token.

            Despite emphatically not having twenty minutes free, I too tried searching combinations of the obvious keywords too (“dating site”, “online dating” “OKCupid”, “dollars”, “tokens”, “messages”….), also without luck.

          • userfriendlyyy says:

            I just read that post where everyone gave Andrew comments on how to get more dates and all the advice is answering the wrong question, assuming you are looking for a relationship. Maybe because I’m gay I have a slightly different perspective on this.

            First off don’t try to appeal to girls with your pictures. Try to appeal to the kind of girl you would actually be interested in dating. If you like sporty outdoorsy types then pics of you hiking and whatnot. If you like ambitious social climbers than pics of you in suits and with nice things that don’t seem overly staged. If you like theater geeks pics of that.

            When I look at profile pictures obviously overall attractiveness is factored in, but then I usually try to imagine what dating the person would be like; do we have enough in common, want the same things, what could I learn from them, would they like my friends, are they gonna judge me for xyz? ect.

            If I’m just looking for a hookup it’s a very different process for choosing pictures and what I respond to. If you are just generically trying to maximise your responses you are bound to be getting responses from the wrong type of people. You should be judging your success based on the quality of the respondents not quantity of the responses.

          • Matt M says:

            Try to appeal to the kind of girl you would actually be interested in dating

            And what if “the kind of girl you would be interested in” is “literally anyone”

            I very strongly disagree with your entire premise. I think a whole lot of the misery in the “dating market” is a product of this sort of thinking – that you have to find the “right” person.

            I feel like for most of human history this was not the case. In most societies, people solved for one variable (status) and occasionally maybe also a second (physical attractiveness). Even in America within our lifetimes, I feel like most of our parents and grandparents matched up largely in this way, based on general characteristics rather than looking for a very specific “type of person.”

            Finding a successful enough, attractive enough, person you can stand to be around who can also stand to be around you is hard enough, in and of itself. It gets a hell of a lot harder when you add 10 more variables. Now, everyone wants a successful enough, attractive enough person who also likes the same TV shows, shares the same political beliefs, works in a similar career field, has the same appetite for travel, etc. Well, it turns out that it’s a lot harder to maximize for 10 variables than it is for 1-2, and the results are self-evident. Most happy couples I know didn’t meet through any well coordinated effort to attract the “right” person. They met through some combination of random chance and general interest.

            This whole premise devastates the market, because at the high-status end, you have people who are convinced they deserve the “right person” and will reject anyone who isn’t maximally appealing across all 10 dimensions. And at the low-status end, you have people who are convinced that they can’t possibly appeal to anyone who isn’t desiring the exact combination of 10 dimensions they hold. So you have a group of people who automatically rule out anyone who doesn’t immediately seem like a perfect match, and another group of people who won’t even bother to try and appeal to anyone they don’t think they would be a perfect match with. And then we wonder why these people are so miserable and alone?

          • userfriendlyyy says:

            @Matt M
            If ‘Literally Anyone’ is all you want than why do you need to maximise the number of responses? As soon as you get someone who can stand you, go for it. I know plenty of serial monogamists who have been single for less than a year from age 16-35; I have no problem with that and they are generally not the type on dating websites (or at least not until they get divorced).

            I’m not saying you need to have unrealistic expectations, but if you make your profile reflect who you are and what you want you will have a much better experience than trying to be generically pleasing to as many people as possible.

          • Matt M says:

            if you make your profile reflect who you are and what you want you will have a much better experience than trying to be generically pleasing to as many people as possible.

            All I can say is that this is the exact opposite of my actual experience.

            I was single 100% of the time from 16-27, and not by choice. I spent all my time following the conventional “just be yourself” advice you’re giving here – and had no success. Zero.

            When I adopted a “make yourself maximally appealing to as many people as possible and be willing to settle for people who at first glance don’t seem ideal” strategy, my results immediately improved.

            My perception is that most people interact with dating profiles looking for reasons to rule someone out, not reasons to like them. If you post a picture of yourself rock-climbing, it will do very little to attract other rock-climbing enthusiasts, but will serve as an excuse for anyone who isn’t looking for an “athletic” type mate to immediately rule you out. I once saw my results on a particular site measurably improve by doing nothing more than taking out about 50% of my profile. I deleted pictures and removed sentences talking about what made me unique – to be replaced by nothing, and started getting more responses.

            IF you legitimately do have deal-breakers that you think are reasonable then fine, feel free to include stuff that will rule those people out (i.e. if you don’t want to date a vegetarian, include a photo of you eating a giant steak), but otherwise, keep it as simple and general as possible and let people imagine that you might map well to their 10 required criteria, rather than instantly providing evidence that you don’t.

          • userfriendlyyy says:

            Meh. I think you’re confusing my suggestion to pick one thing with throwing a million things out there and being overly selective. You don’t even have to be as specific as my earlier examples. I’m looking for someone who will think of me as xyz. What pictures make me look xyz?

            Maybe it’s just me, but if xyz is generically superficial while trying to fit in and be popular it triggers a gag reflex.

          • Nornagest says:

            First off don’t try to appeal to girls with your pictures. Try to appeal to the kind of girl you would actually be interested in dating. If you like sporty outdoorsy types then pics of you hiking and whatnot. If you like ambitious social climbers than pics of you in suits and with nice things that don’t seem overly staged. If you like theater geeks pics of that.

            Yeah, this is terrible advice.

            You said elsewhere that you’re gay, I think? That makes dating dynamics for you very very different than for straight dudes. The typical dynamic on these sites is that women (looking for men) get deluged with messages expressing interest. Anyone getting hit on a hundred times a day has little reason to read profiles on spec, and still less when you factor in that women aren’t generally socialized to make that initial approach.

            Now, 80% of those messages are gonna be “hey wan sum fuk?” or something equally inane. We can throw those out right away. But even the remaining 20% probably represent more possible dates than anyone wants. Which incentivizes reading profiles as a way of filtering potential partners, not as a way of finding potential partners.

            That changes the optimal approach on the other end. You don’t want to draw as clear a picture of what you’re into so as you can so that people like that can find you; you want to minimize the reasons for those people to reject you. You already know you’re attracted, because you’re the one sending all the messages, remember?

            This is a heuristic, not a hard rule — I’ve been the first one to get approached on OKCupid before (though I haven’t used it in years). But I think it’s probably representing the 80% case.

        • Reasoner says:

          You might try googling site:slatestarcodex.com open thread your usernames here your keywords here

    • Sniffnoy says:

      Didn’t we work something like this out, half as a joke, in the comments here once? I think our main conclusion then was that its biggest obstacle to success would be convincing people it isn’t creepy, because of how it mingles the sacred value of romantic attention with the profane currency of money.

      I seem to recall that Luna intends to make it so you can’t tell what message any stars you get were attached to, though, or who they came from (or at least it will try to). Although I can’t find this in the whitepaper at the moment, so it’s possible I’m misremembering.

      In any case, I’m wondering to what extent this earlier experiment had the problem of being able to tell who attached the star-equivalents to their message, and whether it would have worked better had that been solved.

    • Matt M says:

      I think our main conclusion then was that its biggest obstacle to success would be convincing people it isn’t creepy, because of how it mingles the sacred value of romantic attention with the profane currency of money.

      Yeah, I feel like “applying market forces to dating on a website” already exists, in sites who have a various spectrum of social approval and/or legality. Places like Seeking Arrangement, MyFreeCams, and The Erotic Review all essentially duplicate this business model… and as far as I know, they don’t tend to result in long-lasting marriages with children.

      “How did you and grandma meet?”

      “Well, I paid her $20 to read my greeting, then I paid her $50 to go to dinner with me, then when a mommy and daddy love each other very much and daddy has $500…”

      • Barely matters says:

        I’m still a little amazed that someone managed to combine the sketchy parts of prostitution *and* loot boxes, and further managed make it sound not immediately terrible to silicon valley types. That’s blockchain magic, baby.

        (Seriously, who sat down and said “You know what would make online dating really pop? Definite upfront payments and intermittent rewards!”)

        • Vinay Gupta says:

          That is not quite how it looked in my mind when I said “why don’t we just use tokens to order the message queue?”

          I mean, I see the point. I do get it. But it’s not like there was a grand machiavellian instinct here. It was a pretty straight forwards attempt to impose order on message queues so that there’d be much less spam for women to wade through, giving sincere men a better chance of being heard.

          People seem to prefer the economics to be cleanly polarized: the hidden economics of the conventional dating game, or outright prostitution. The middle ground seems to be acutely uncomfortable. Not a reaction I had expected, but understandable enough.

          A lot of folks seem to doubt my motives in designing this. I’ve been really explicit. I don’t know exactly what it will turn into in the hands of the Luna team – their emphasis on AI puzzled me at first, although I now get it. And they’re veteran, marathon internet daters, so they’ve got tons of context I lacked – and still lack! But, at the end of the day, this thing was not designed as an engine of exploitation for anybody, and I very much doubt it will be such an engine in practice.

          And I’m not saying that from a position of having a naive faith in human nature. Rather, I think there’s every chance that the typical dating site is carnage because it’s not focussed on the nerds, and the nerds are basically – when given the chance and a little encouragement – basically nicer than the average population. I hope that faith is not misplaced!

          • Aapje says:

            Well, you presented it as a way to redistribute money to women, to make women profit significantly from the bitcoin bubble economy. You also presented it as a way for really rich men to display their wealth.

            Both of these goals can only be achieved if men make significant payments, not just small payments to get more attention. Some people, not illogically, assume that men will only do that if they get something significant in return, preferably guaranteed. Furthermore, they assume that these men will weigh your offer against the other options and choose the best bang for the buck (perhaps literally).

            You seem to believe that there are large numbers of very desirable women that are extremely desperate for rich men, so they will flock to Luna, to date men with poor social skills, but with lots of money. In other words, the western equivalent of Eastern European mail order brides.

            The problem with this belief is that it is fairly obvious that very desirable western women are way better off than very desirable Eastern European women, in just about every way (including the quality of men they can attract without going the Luna route).

            So the quality of women that Luna can attract will presumably be way below that of mail order brides. Furthermore, it seems likely that Luna will have more scammers than mail order services, decreasing the value proposition to men even more. So I don’t think that you can compete with that option.

            So at that point either the price has to go down, which means that all the claims you made are nonsense…or you have to offer more, where we get into the camming/prostitute category.

            I don’t know exactly what it will turn into in the hands of the Luna team – their emphasis on AI puzzled me at first, although I now get it. And they’re veteran, marathon internet daters, so they’ve got tons of context I lacked – and still lack!

            You’re doing this kind of appeal to authority a lot, when you cannot answer our questions in a satisfactory way. However, on this forum we are not known for assuming that other people know what they are doing.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            Both of these goals can only be achieved if men make significant payments, not just small payments to get more attention

            I think this is a good point. In the West, a man has to be pretty well off before he can pull girls based on his money. Maybe Western women have watched James Cameron’s Titanic too many times or something.

            The other problem is that if the man’s pitch is “date me because I’m rich,” there is a serious risk of attracting the wrong kind of woman. At that point, the man may as well just go to a sugar daddy dating web site.

            You seem to believe that there are large numbers of very desirable women that are extremely desperate for rich men

            Yeah, as I pointed out up-thread, most women with a bona fide interest in math or science already have far more male attention than they know what to do with. I have a female family member like this. She is 20 years old, not overweight, and studying science at an Ivy League college. She is about a 4.5/10 in looks. Every boy in her Dungeons and Dragons club wants to date her; boys in her science classes want to study with her; boys offer to walk her home from the lab; etc.

            Why would someone like that bother with internet dating? She’s not particularly money-oriented, but if she were, it would be easy enough to discretely figure out which of the boys who are interested in her come from wealthy families.

            Meanwhile, after reading this thread, out of curiousity I started reading the blog at seekingarrangement. Apparently there is a huge problem there with phony sugar-babies who ask men for advances, air-fare, etc., and then disappear. These are the types of girls who would be attracted to Luna.

            My impression is that there is a corollary to Gresham’s Law at work in any dating venue. Low quality people of one sex tend to drive out high-quality people of the other, which in turn drives out high-quality people of the first sex, and so on. In fact, one can think of the Ivy Leagues as a very expensive dating and networking club.

  5. Jack V says:

    I would go for, blockchain probably doesn’t provide a useful feature to users, but the people running the site may be anywhere on a scale from “sincerely believe it will” to “don’t believe it will, but investors will only fund the development if there’s a blockchain involved”. Or I suppose, it subverts some regulatory hurdle, e.g. allowing users to have credit might be some financial problem.

    If the site it successful, it may turn out that the blockchain wasn’t an important part of it and they might accept other money, I don’t know.

    I don’t like the paying money aspect, I’d prefer something that tried to solve the problems in a more organic way, but I’m not sure how much that’s just personal bias and how much it’s responding to the possible bad incentives.

    • Drew says:

      “Regulatory hurdle” sounds like the right answer.

      Lots of places let pay money for various forms of tokens. Even Pokemon-Go and Chuck-E-Cheese do this. The only places that let you win tokens that you can turn back into cash are Casinos.

      My guess is that, the instant the ‘tokens’ start representing real-world money, the site would get regulated like a bank, lottery, or money-laundering outfit

      Blockchain lets you see the content of other people’s accounts without actually holding anything.

  6. nameless1 says:

    >OKCupid famously wrote about Why You Should Never Pay For Online Dating, the answer being that it incentivizes dating sites to keep you single – after all, the longer you’re single, the longer you’ll keeping spending money on dating sites.

    Obviously, you should pay for dating sites that charge for success, not services. Much like the Chinese doctors of oldie times whom patients paid regularly when they were healthy and not paid when they were ill. Of course the problem would be people succesfully finding a partner but lying about it.

    An offline dating agency I know chose an intermediate method. Cough up a decent sum, like $2000 in a poorish country so in the US make it $10K, it was for professionals. They organize a lot of dinners and dance events and what not all included. When you find your SO, you stop coming. So the faster they help you find one the higher the margin is on that initial fee. Technically people could couple off and lie and come anyway to future events, but partially I think you simply don’t want to tempt your partner with dating events and partially there is a personal relationship with a counselor who talks to everybody after each event in detail about their experiences. In that sort of setup people who find an SO will just not really lie about just to get some more free dinners it is really unlikely.

    • poignardazur says:

      Doesn’t really work for online dating service, since they all need a “try our website for free!” model or people won’t even bother.

      Though I guess OkCupid could do something like a one-month free trial, then forced payed subscription (I mean, no they couldn’t, that would be economic suicide at this point, but let’s play pretend). You can use the site for free for a month, then you have to pay (only once per account, forever) to keep using the site. People could game the system by creating a new account every month, but creating an interesting account on OkCupid requires uploading photos, profile text, answering questions, etc… if you skip that and you’re a non-model guy, your chances get pretty low. So while people would game the system, overall the incentives would be roughly right.

    • Garrett says:

      As someone using a well-known offline dating agency, I haven’t been too impressed. Enough money upfront that I was vaguely terrified of the idea. 2 dates in about a year. One with a nice gal who was too scatter-brained to be able to make effective plans for a second date and I suspected was high at that point. The other who showed up 15 minutes late, drank like a fish, and drove home intoxicated (despite my offer to pay for a cab).

      I’m willing to pay for results. I’m tired of paying for not-results. And online dating sites don’t guarantee results.

    • JulieK says:

      Do the free online dating sites work on ad revenue? Doesn’t that have the same problem, if they succeed, you’ll no longer be there to look at ads?

    • lambda_calculus says:

      There’s still a perverse incentive there, since the service makes money when you leave, regardless of whether you actually found a partner.

  7. johan_larson says:

    I’m trying to understand why this system needs a (“the”?) blockchain system at all. If the point is to keep the number of messages to women (or very popular men) at a manageable level by making senders pay for messages and receivers get paid to read messages, why do cryptocurrencies need to get involved at all? Couldn’t the dating system just act as a broker, with the senders paying by PayPal and the receivers getting paid through PayPal? Or if not Paypal, then just regular cheques or direct deposit or whatever.

    • Grek says:

      If you make it into a token economy, it becomes harder for prosecutors to claim that your website is just an online brothel.

    • eclairsandsins says:

      In a libertarian society, yes, such a buisiness could probably operate through the normal means. However, there is a chance that the government could interpret the service as prostitution – or Paypal or the banks could just reject your service out of a fear of that happening.

      I don’t know if that’s enough of a benefit to justify using crypto if you ignore the marketing factor. They may feel more secure from the government, but in exchange they make the rewards intrinsically volatile…

  8. poignardazur says:

    well, goodness knows we need new dating sites now that OKCupid has devolved into an off-brand Tinder clone

    You take that back, OkCupid is still pretty decent!

    Seriously, they get a lot of flack for every change they make, but way I see it they’re only trying to find solutions to the same problem you describe: overabundance of men and the incentives it creates. They’re being pretty community-blind about it, and, yeah, overall, their community manager(s) probably need to be fired, but overall their site is still pretty solid.

    Saying OkCupid is trying to be like Tinder is like saying Blizzard is trying to be like Call of Duty because they made Overwatch.

    • James says:

      Until recently I’d agree, but the latest change—only being able to see messages from people you’ve liked—does seem like a huge leap in the direction of Tinder, and seems to wreck what was in some ways OKC’s best USP: being able to generate interest by sending witty or charming messages. But you are right about the problem it’s trying to solve.

      • poignardazur says:

        I think it’s reasonable to argue that this change is intended to downplay the “men send millions of messages, women sift through their inbox” dynamic. I dunno, it makes some sense to me.

        Also, as a single data point, I was able to get a date by sending a witty / relevant message to a girl which she responded to. Obviously my perspective is limited, but so far I’ve seen no evidence that OkCupid’s new system reduces the “number of answers to numbers of witty messages” ratio.

        • James says:

          I admit that while I have an account it’s pretty much dormant right now, so I don’t have any empirical evidence either way.

      • Andrew Hunter says:

        seems to wreck what was in some ways OKC’s best USP: being able to generate interest by sending witty or charming messages

        This was never a thing. They claimed it was a thing; it is not replicable in the data. I am glad they are no longer lying to you and claiming you can get attention that way.

        • James says:

          Admittedly, my experience doesn’t exactly directly disprove that.

        • Null42 says:

          Actually, I disagree. My personal experience only, but a well-written message was in fact able to get me people slightly to moderately above my actual level of attractiveness and I was able to convert them into dates.

          Problem was, then my lack of game (as the PUAs say) did me in and I never got a second date with any of them. This may be why Tinder was so useful; it deals with the physical-attraction aspect right upfront.

          • Matt M says:

            Don’t kid yourself. Every woman on OKC immediately looked at your picture and asked “attractive enough or no?” as well. Being really good at crafting an approach can help, for sure, but it’s useless on its own. Call it “necessary, but not sufficient.” Being really good looking is sufficient.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Call it “necessary, but not sufficient.” Being really good looking is sufficient.

            If one thing is sufficient, nothing else can be necessary.

          • Null42 says:

            Matt M: Of course they also looked at my profile and questioned whether I was attractive enough!

            I actually do have some numbers here; a while ago, back when OKCupid’s code was less sophisticated (2012 or so?), using an accomplice (a recent ex with whom I was still on good terms), I was able to figure out how the site had rated my attractiveness (did the same for her of course). I turned out to be a 3 on a scale of 10. (She was a 6 I think.)

            Now, were there 7’s and 9’s who were going to go for me? Of course not! But were there 5’s and 4’s who probably wouldn’t have liked my picture but were impressed by my prose? Probably.

            They’ve updated their code, and you can’t do that anymore, BTW.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I’m OK looking, but I wouldn’t say I’m especially handsome. I did better on OKC than I expected I would – a lot of guys make it sound like they’re searching for bottle caps in the postapocalyptic wasteland – probably due to having read some of the OKC blog type stuff. Meant my message writing skills were probably a bit better than the norm, and my photos probably a bit better too. Of course, according to some, the OKC blog was full of crap – but maybe there’s a placebo effect.

    • Christian Kleineidam says:

      They made multiple changes that aren’t about solving overabundance of men and the incentives it creates.

      * The changed the matching algorithm so that you can’t get high matches with people outside of your area. That’s bad for people willing to travel.
      * The first name policy is disliked by people who care for privacy.

      • Aapje says:

        Presumably, people who merely want a one-night stand are more likely to want to travel further, so that first change ought to reduce the impact on the site of men who are merely looking for sex. That would then result in fewer ‘wanna fuck’ messages to women, which reduces one of the imbalances a bit.

  9. Inside a semicircle of displays says:

    It doesn’t have to be a scam to fail, and intelligent and skilled people are perfectly capable of putting together a useless product, especially in an environment where running pump and dump schemes on small, promising coins is a perfectly valid and profitable strategy.

  10. jonmarcus says:

    Commodified romantic attention? Why did no one else ever think of that in the history of the ever?! Could it be they’ve invented the world’s newest profession?!

  11. RicardoCruz says:

    Something isn’t clear to me. What prevents my girlfriend from going to that website and saying that she is “single” so that suckers will talk to her and she gets paid. Hell, I don’t even mind doing that for her.

    I’m guessing this could be discouraged by publicly revealing statistics like how long this person has been on the website, how many dates she has ignored, etc. But then she can just close the profile and create a new one. I’m guessing an ID will be needed for this to work – or maybe having good machine learning that can see if a new profile has the same photos as a previous one.

    • Murphy says:

      Why change her profile? Set up a dozen of your own user accounts, send a message to her from each and each week mark an account has having had a successful date with her.

      Her metrics show that she dates at least one different guy per week. -> Steady flow of free money

      or she could just cam-whore and send nudes to anyone who tips big and take requests to keep revenue flowing.

      • eclairsandsins says:

        That wouldn’t work – the guys would have to pay to acquire the tokens in the first place.

        • Murphy says:

          Message with minimum tip, it’s a minor cost to keep the other paid messages rolling in by giving the impression that some guys get lucky.

    • Matt M says:

      What prevents my girlfriend from going to that website and saying that she is “single” so that suckers will talk to her and she gets paid.

      Nothing, except that this is already a pretty huge problem on every other existing dating site, such that most guys are very sensitive to it and tend to recognize pretty quickly when they’re being scammed.

      • j1000000 says:

        Given the persistence of these bots I’m assuming some men don’t recognize scams all that quickly. Like Idiocracy’s “I can wait so good” guy.

        Hell, I have friends who acknowledge they’re being catfished but keep talking to the other person for weeks/months on the 1% chance that they really are the person in their incredibly attractive pictures. They’ve never paid anything, though, nor do they pin their hopes and dreams on it, so that’s different. Still hilarious to me.

      • rlms says:

        If this is already a problem on other sites where AFAIK you have to actively persuade the suckers to pay you, I dread to think what it will be like on a site where the money rolls in simultaneously with the initial messages.

  12. Rm says:

    I know!
    People being kind to people, even in such inhuman settings, would be more beautiful. Seriously. Better filters -> less interaction.

  13. Murphy says:

    I’m going to take a contrarian approach and argue that this company could actually be successful.

    Not successful at getting people paired up with dates. Not at all. Indeed that’s a terrible outcome for the company and everything about the business model seems to scream that that’s not the model they’re pursuing.

    This is a system that optimizes for repeat online-interaction rather than for people actually finding partners. In particular it optimizes for repeat online interaction where the 2 parties don’t switch to some other free service. So it’s going to be a client-server model.

    The people making the most money on such a system are the ones who get a steady stream of people willing to keep paying to exchange messages with them.

    Dating/actual intimacy and finding long term partners doesn’t scale for that. No.

    Why would someone keep spending a dollar a pop long term? To exchange for nude pictures and video requests of course. The system is perfect for prostitution and camming.

    Counting offline meetups with ratings isn’t terribly useful as a “finding a soulmate” metric but it’s a useful metric for finding active and well-rated prostitutes.

    So the company bills itself as an online dating app but when it comes right down to it the pie they’re trying to claim is that of camsites, prostitute rating sites etc.

    Indeed camsites already use the model , people buy tokens from the site, tip the performers and the performers cash in the tokens.

    This is just a “blockchain” version, decentralized so that the company trying to cash in with “stars” can stay hands off and claim they can’t help it if lots of their users who meet through their network happen to decide to exchange cash for sexual services.

    It’ll be a decentralized strip club with “stars” as an inhouse currency to wave at the dancers to get lapdances or for clients to pay thai pimps for access to sex slaves.

    They’ll face stiff competition but I think the model could work for making them money.

    • Inside a semicircle of displays says:

      Why bill it as a dating service though when it’s all geared towards being a camgirl service?

      • Murphy says:

        In some jurisdictions you may face legal hurdles if you’re trying to run a service straightforwardly facilitating prostitution while taking a fraction of the earnings.

        Many places have laws on earning money as a third party from prostitution or sexual services, nominally as anti-pimp measures.

        The currency angle makes that more circuitous and paying for messages on a distributed platform makes it easier to claim that it’s not designed for prostitution and it’s no more your fault than someone using whatsapp to negotiate prices with a hooker.

        Then there’s the real money: the market cap of many cryptocurrencies has little to do with the actual quantity of currency traded. Most X-coins never move from early-adopters wallets.

        Every tom dick and harry has released seperate tom, dick and harry coins and 99% of them are so close to worthless that the difference is a rounding error. If, however, they can trickle “stars” into circulation slowly and get a few people using them through this service to establish a real “value” then they can make theirs stand out above the herd and get some speculators investing in “stars”. At that point anyone with significant holdings in stars (ie, the founders) are suddenly in a good place.

        it’s a solid-ish plan and they could make quite a bit of money.

        • Inside a semicircle of displays says:

          In some jurisdictions you may face legal hurdles if you’re trying to run a service straightforwardly facilitating prostitution while taking a fraction of the earnings.

          When it comes to camming – isn’t that exactly what Chaturbate does? They seem to be getting away just fine with clearly advertising themselves as a sexual services kind of thing and taking a significant part of the profits.

          I think there’s a lot of merit to your analysis, but this point eludes me a bit.

    • mindlevelup says:

      See [this](https://spankchain.com/) for a far more explicit (cough) approach.

  14. Aella says:

    But everywhere this solution is tried, it runs up against its one great weakness – rich people with mild preferences can outbid poor people with strong ones. I can’t predict how this particular market will clear, but this doesn’t necessarily have to be a big problem here.

    We’re planning to integrate discount adjustments based on predicted compatibility. So if you have a “99%” predicted response from someone, you’ll get a significant advantage in the cost it takes to get into their inbox. In the reverse, you could view it as a penalty for incompatibility. I didn’t put this in the whitepaper because the whitepaper has like specific legal requirements and this isn’t a 100% guarantee yet and it is gonna have interesting effects on the in-app economics.

    >A more practical issue: how long before someone finds a photo of a supermodel, limits their profile to “I AM A NYMPHOMANIAC”, and watches everyone trip over themselves to send paid messages? Luna alludes to vague plans to “verify” profiles, which could mean anything from “you have to Photoshop a picture halfway convincingly” to “you have to get an actual pretty girl to help with your scam”.

    Right now the idea is to have Bumble-style verification, where you submit a photo doing something specific, like a ‘hand on your head’, and then we can either check each one manually, or check it if someone reports scam suspicion.

    >One part of the white paper I still don’t understand: why is it on a blockchain?
    >Why is their crypto token more efficient than paying for Second Life in Linden Dollars, or any of the other silly token currencies that have existed forever on the Internet?

    There’s a lot of reasons for this, but in my opinion one of the primary ones is something like this: If I proposed “A reddit, but with tokens instead of upvotes!” the immediate reaction might be to ask why not just dollars, or something like camsite credits – but Steemit exists and seems to be relatively successful in a way that I don’t think would have happened if they were using a traditional currency system. The effects are super psychological – more use means the value goes up, and it really emphasizes the sense of community. If we used something like ETH, the value created by the platform would bleed out into the rest of the market. A token means that increased value gets captured, which incentivizes everyone to use it more.

    Also thanks for the review! Never thought I’d see a SSC review on something I (partially) wrote.

    • Deiseach says:

      Right now the idea is to have Bumble-style verification, where you submit a photo doing something specific, like a ‘hand on your head’, and then we can either check each one manually, or check it if someone reports scam suspicion.

      Totally a photo of me, not some random image found on Google in two seconds. Do I get verified now?

      • moonfirestorm says:

        Now find a picture with you holding a quarter with thumb and forefinger, with tails facing the camera.

        Probably possible to find one, but will it be the same person as the first picture? And if you give them the requests one at a time, they won’t be able to try and find someone who has pictures of both in advance: as they submit the first picture, they’ll have no idea what later ones would be.

        I agree single-photo verification seems problematic though.

        • Doctor Mist says:

          When I read Aella’s scheme, I thought, “How clever!”

          When I read Deiseach’s hack, I thought, “Well, yes, how clever!”

          And when I read your fix, I thought, “I give up, I am just too dim to live.”

          I’m going to step away from the computer before somebody suggests a way to hack your suggestion.

        • Shannon Alther says:

          It’s pretty common for girls to just help people catfish by supplying pictures. Here’s an example I googled.

          • moonfirestorm says:

            Yeah, doesn’t seem like there’s a way around that one.

            But even in the example you linked, the catfisher claimed it was a one-time thing. It’s unlikely the girl supplying pictures would have supplied another one, meaning the catfisher wouldn’t have passed another verification round.

            And if every catfisher needs a real, attractive girl in contact with them (and likely a fairly good friend, if the verification is complex enough) to pass the spam filter, you’re looking at significantly fewer catfishers.

            Of course, at some point you’re just driving away legitimate users with long verification processes.

          • Deiseach says:

            Lads, if ye have spare cash to throw at a dating site, let me recommend Willie Daly to find ye a woman (or indeed, a man) and the Lisdoonvarna Festival.

            Ye mightn’t get the love of yeer life but sure ye’ll have the bit of craic for a weekend holiday (or even make a week of it, it’s running for the whole of September), that’s more than ye’ll get out of paying Stars to get yeer messages read! Granted, they will be playing country music but then again, that’s what the pubs and drinking are for, to help ye block it out!

        • Deiseach says:

          Yeah I know I look different here.

          I cut my hair.

          • moonfirestorm says:

            Have to respect the effort to get the picture, but that’s not going to pass a human looking at it. Especially when it’s not the first time they’ve seen that picture, because it’s not the first time someone’s tried to pass it with an image off the Internet.

            You can also probably get a program to do some of the obvious searches and compare the submitted image against the results. Yes, maybe the person in the picture just happened to want to find a date and was lucky enough to have a picture matching the request, but that should be rare enough that you cut down on your manpower needs by only handling those situations manually.

      • Aapje says:

        @Deiseach

        Sorry, but your IP says that you’re from Ireland and the person in the photo doesn’t have red hair. Rejected.

    • vV_Vv says:

      We’re planning to integrate discount adjustments based on predicted compatibility. So if you have a “99%” predicted response from someone, you’ll get a significant advantage in the cost it takes to get into their inbox. In the reverse, you could view it as a penalty for incompatibility.

      So it’s not a floating-price market based system, it’s just a message fee.

      Right now the idea is to have Bumble-style verification, where you submit a photo doing something specific, like a ‘hand on your head’, and then we can either check each one manually, or check it if someone reports scam suspicion.

      What stops a pretty girl from doing that without any intention to go to any date?

      There’s a lot of reasons for this, but in my opinion one of the primary ones is something like this: If I proposed “A reddit, but with tokens instead of upvotes!” the immediate reaction might be to ask why not just dollars, or something like camsite credits – but Steemit exists and seems to be relatively successful in a way that I don’t think would have happened if they were using a traditional currency system. The effects are super psychological – more use means the value goes up, and it really emphasizes the sense of community. If we used something like ETH, the value created by the platform would bleed out into the rest of the market. A token means that increased value gets captured, which incentivizes everyone to use it more.

      My BS detector is over 9,000!

      • Aella says:

        The price is decided by a bidding system, and discounts happen off that price – at least is the plan right now.

        And re: BS detector, I was pretty skeptical at first too. It took a while for me to feel like I saw other examples in the wild of the type of token incentive we were proposing, but now I think it’s super viable.

        • vV_Vv says:

          And re: BS detector, I was pretty skeptical at first too. It took a while for me to feel like I saw other examples in the wild of the type of token incentive we were proposing, but now I think it’s super viable.

          And that was before or after taking LSD?

          You are entitled to do whatever you want to your brain, of course, but excuse me if I don’t trust the judgment of somebody who, by their own admission, took enough drugs to incur permanent cognitive problems.

        • prigoose says:

          Hi Aella,

          Any examples in the wild you could point us to?

          I’ve been following Luna from afar since the beginning, but I’m still skeptical. (I just don’t quite “see” it, plus I had the same concerns that Scott did).

    • The Element of Surprise says:

      We’re planning to integrate discount adjustments based on predicted compatibility. So if you have a “99%” predicted response from someone, you’ll get a significant advantage in the cost it takes to get into their inbox.

      But why? Shouldn’t a large probability of a match increase a user’s willingness to pay?

  15. Roxolan says:

    A twisted incentive:

    Because the owners take a fee on every Luna transaction on their service, they want there to be lots of Luna transaction.

    Luna transactions happen whenever someone expects their message to go unnoticed and “bids” for attention.

    So the owners are rewarded when lots of people to desperately bid higher and higher for a small pool of highly desirable people.

    If their search engine found your soulmate but that soulmate isn’t already in high demand, it is in their best interest to hide that result from you, and instead show you someone less compatible but with a sexy pic. (The least compatible the better, actually, so long as you can be convinced to message anyway. Low-compatibility messages are penalized, so more Luna must be spent to make them reach the top of the pile.)

    On the bright side, this does tend to increase the supply of highly desirable people, since they get most of that money. Though like RicardoCruz said, this encourages such people to pretend to be open to a relationship when really they just want to part desperate users with their Luna.

    (Which can be mitigated by publicizing reply rate, confirmed dates etc., although this is an attacker/defender race with cleverly written bots. Or by some form of user reviews; but then you give users power to harm each other if the interaction doesn’t go how they like, and how much of that do you want to introduce in your dating app?)

    • vV_Vv says:

      (Which can be mitigated by publicizing reply rate, confirmed dates etc., although this is an attacker/defender race with cleverly written bots. Or by some form of user reviews; but then you give users power to harm each other if the interaction doesn’t go how they like, and how much of that do you want to introduce in your dating app?)

      But even if not abused by bots and scammers, the end result will be the same of those “sugar daddy” or “escorting” websites: prostitution, essentially. I don’t have any strong moral objection against prostitution, but sure this new service will have lots of entrenched competition.

      • Matt M says:

        The simple fact of reality is that prostitution is the most “efficient” form of dating there is (or at least it would be, if not so heavily distorted by state intervention). So any attempt to “make dating more efficient” will inevitably end up looking quite similar.

        We’re fiddling around at attempts to bring “market incentives” towards a sphere of life where having, you know, an actual market, is explicitly illegal.

      • Aella says:

        I don’t think this is practical for prostitution. The app allows for one transaction between users, ever, and it can’t be higher than the auction price; as in, it’s second-price, so you automatically pay what the person below you does.

        We’re also planning to implement other token things that aren’t only related to the messaging system. For example, you can pay tokens to boost your profile, and everyone who views them gets a fraction.

        • The Element of Surprise says:

          The point of second-price auctions is to incentivize participants to signal their true willingness to pay, but how does this work when there is a variable quantity of goods (read messages, user interactions, whatevs)? If user X has messages from users A, B and C in her queue, respectively priced 3$, 2$ and 1$, and she reads messages from A and B, does A pay 2$ and B pays 1$, (which would incentivize A to under-bid) or they both pay 1$ (and what happens if X reads C’s message at a later point)?

          EDIT: Apparently the whitepaper specifies that there is a limited number of messages that go through to a user every day, and that the price paid is according to the most expensive message that was not yet relayed. I was confused at first because searching for “auction” or “bid” in the whitepaper didn’t give any results.

      • vV_Vv says:

        The app allows for one transaction between users

        Then the legitimate users will be paying just to talk to bots or people who are just there to make quick cash.

    • meh says:

      I read it as you bid on the currency, but messaging is a fixed rate. So message price can fluctuate, but every message costs the same…

      yeah, I don’t know what the point of it is either.

      • Roxolan says:

        No, you can absolutely pay more Luna to have your message be sorted higher in the recipient’s inbox.

        (Well, you only actually pay if the recipient does read & reply to your message. But they get most of that money, so they’re also more likely to.)

        The price of Luna will also fluctuate based on how successful the app is (at attracting users that can be convinced to bid), and also on speculation and outside trades and whatnot, and that could have interesting market effects but it’s a separate issue.

        • meh says:

          Ok, yeah you pay to boost. But, you pay the boost if they read/respond or not. It is only the processing fee that is returned if there is no response.

          If the recipient does not respond, or only responds after more than this number of days, this fee will be re-paid to the sender. The number of Stars transferred to the recipient, however, will remain the same, whether they respond to the message or not.

        • meh says:

          Wait, so is a message free if I decide to attach no stars?

          How full does your inbox need to be where you do not have time to read all your messages? And if you have genuine interest in dating (and not in income), is your selection criteria going to be based on star boost?

          • Aapje says:

            @Meh

            OKCupid found that 2/3rds of messages from men go to 1/3rd of women and that men message women 3.5 times as much than the other way around. So then it seems perfectly believable that some subset of women and a far smaller subset of men is getting more messages than they want to deal with.

          • meh says:

            Yeah, I believe it. But for the users that get to that point (have a large pool of dates to select from), is their selection criteria going to be stars?

          • Roxolan says:

            is your selection criteria going to be based on star boost?

            Yeah, you’d think that if there was some magic-sauce AI that can match you extremely well, you’d go with what it says, not with the person who paid an extra $20. The app could hide compatibility scores from the recipient, but that would be the misaligned incentives speaking.

            I think the reasoning is that the AI will not be that good. So someone could see your profile, figure out that you’d go together much better than the AI’s score suggests, and put their money where their mouth is. “I’m so certain this date will go well that I’m willing to pay an extra $20 to make it happen” is a decent signal.

  16. fortaleza84 says:

    Seems to me that any way you slice it, the male/female ratio for online dating is going to be very unfavorable for men, even worse than in real life which is already pretty bad. Why? Because online dating offers men the opportunity to hit on girls in such a way that the uncomfortable feeling of rejection is softened. At the same time, the more desirable girls have no need for online dating since they get hit on all the time in real life.

    If the male/female ratio is fundamentally skewed, I don’t see how blockchains or bidding or anything else is going to help, except of course to the extent where men are charged a premium. But in that case, there’s no need for anything fancy, just set up one of those “millionaire” dating sites that charges men a premium.

  17. Jugemu says:

    >it’s a place you can go to meet the sort of people who want to date on the blockchain

    So, an even higher male:female ratio than usual.

    • Matt M says:

      Yeah, this was my thought exactly. It’s taking the existing problem of online dating (too many geeky socially awkward men, not enough women who aren’t scammers) and increases it by a couple orders of magnitude.

      The way to help “people who want to date on the blockchain” get dates is to train them how to not act like a person who wants to date on the blockchain. Not make it easier for them to think that success is likely in this particular arena…

      • James says:

        Reminds me of a friend of a friend who joined a dating site strictly for atheists and agnostics. The ratio of (real, non-bot) women to men on such a site must be Vanishing.

    • Null42 says:

      Yeah, pretty much. There’s a shortage of nerd women. The best way (from what I’ve seen) for a nerd to get a woman is to stop being a nerd–either adopt toxic masculinity or get into the arts.

      Part of the reason it took me so long to get started dating is I just didn’t find sex a compelling reason enough to throw out my whole personality. (Demisexual? Gray-ace? I don’t know.) I have to stop reading scifi novels and RPG books and all I get is something marginally more physically pleasurable than, ah, solitary vices and on top of it I have to risk STDs and child support if things go *really* wrong?

      In the end I only started dating to improve my interviewing skills for the workforce. (It worked, too.) But it’s funny that men usually get money so they can get laid, whereas in my case it was the other way around.

  18. kobayashi says:

    The reason it uses the blockchain is probably so they can fund it using an ICO, which lets them get millions of dollars of funding without giving up any stake in their company or even developing a prototype. It’s not *necessarily* a scam, but it totally could be. I personally wouldn’t trust any ICO-backed project that only has a whitepaper, which is most of them.

  19. Randy M says:

    I was several paragraphs in before I started to suspect that this wasn’t one of your quirky first-person sci-fi short stories.

  20. Brad says:

    Bitcoin solves the problem of not being able to trust peers via proof of work. As long as 50 + sigma percent of miners are honest — or at least aren’t dishonest and coordinating with each other — then the longest chain doesn’t contain any double spent coins. This invention was in response to a “Sybil Attack” on earlier peer to peer schemes. In many of those schemes peers would have a crowdsourced reputation. A Sybil attack is simply the creation of large numbers of peers all created by the same user that then dominate reputation voting. Proof of work essentially transforms the voting weight from per peer (very cheap to create) to per unit processing power (more expensive).

    The biggest problem* I see here is exactly the old Sybil attack. A user reputation system, which would be used in order of importance to have some assurance for messagers 1) that the recipients exist as real, discrete people, 2) that s/he is actually reading, responding, and going on good faith dates though the system and 3) is least somewhat honest in his or her self description. But if a nefarious user can flood the system with fake users then he can game the reputation system for profit.

    To be fair, the white paper acknowledges this. But the blockchain is not at all part of the proposed solutions, and indeed it is hard to see how it possibly could be. Proof of work doesn’t buy you anything here. Instead the mooted solutions are ID and other image uploads to try to verify that real people are behind each account (with machine learning to try to catch fraud) and cell phone to cell phone NFC transactions to verify physical dates.

    My two problems with these answers are: 1) I’m somewhat skeptical they’ll work and 2) they introduce and absolute dependence on a trusted third party. The first problem, perhaps surprisingly, not as big a deal. Yes, it is true that not having it work sours the whole apple cart but on the other hand every other dating site has to deal with that too. And I expect there to be some sort of emerging solution that gradually gets better and better. It probably would have emerged already but the for the strong internet norm in favor of pseudo-anonymity. The second problem on the other hand goes directly the question of “why blockchain” and is pretty fatal to most answers. If the model absolutely requires trust in a third party (i.e. Luna) I can’t see any good reason to use any kind of blockchain technology. If you are trusting them anyway, they might as well buy and sell fiat tokens. There’s no reason that those can’t fluctuate in value, the WoW gold/subscription token is an example of exactly such a model with fluctuating prices despite being a controlled fiat currency.

    In one sense, it’s hard to blame these guys for jumping on the crypto-coin bandwagon. It would have been pretty difficult to raise $8MM through traditional VC sources for Yet Another Dating Website. But on the other hand, you really need do need to have a trusted third party to make this work and throwing the latest get rich quick buzzword in for purely business development and marketing reasons is some kind of Bayesian evidence that you shouldn’t.

    I do wish them the best of luck though. I don’t especially like any of the current online dating models, so I’m happy to see experimentation and innovation.

    *Well, the biggest theoretical problem anyway. Probably sociological problems having to do with adverse selection for people that would be attracted to being paid to read messages is bigger.

    • Deiseach says:

      But if a nefarious user can flood the system with fake users then he can game the reputation system for profit.

      Wasn’t that part of the whole Ashley Madison scandal? The operators were creating fake female accounts in order to encourage men to spend spend spend for upgrading accounts and so on?

      I think the major problem with dating sites is, and will continue to be, that they really cannot 100% guarantee that yes, you will meet someone and yes, you will meet someone who wants to go on a date with you. Even if you get responses, even if you strike up conversations with those people, you still do not have an absolute assurance that they will want to meet you in real life (or if they do, that you’ll get a second or more date out of it). We’re not yet at any kind of level of tech to make that happen, even if the algorithms are getting refined and matches are getting better.

      • Brad says:

        Sort of. Any dating website has the potential problem of the website owner being nefarious. That was what happened there. I don’t think it involved fake reputation scores, just fake users, but easily could have.

        This model has those problem (luna could be corrupt) but it *also* has the additional problem that end users could act in nefarious ways to corrupt the system. That too also exists in other dating websites, but in those cases the payoff is advertising (i.e. an account will be advertising prostitution services instead of being a genuine dating profile) whereas in this system the payoff for successfully cheating would be directly getting money. So the incentives to cheat would be that much higher.

        It’s true that no site can guarantee you a date, much less a second date. But I think it is unreasonable to want that. What is somewhat reasonable to want is that there is a real, concrete person behind a profile that is at least open to the idea of going on dates and is at least very roughly honest about his or her characteristics (age, gender, location, appearance, sexuality, marital status, income, etc).

        I’m not saying that’s an easy problem, but it should be a problem that’s possible to get a decent solution to. I’m just not convinced this is it.

      • Garrett says:

        I’d be happy to agree to a contract which stipulates that the company gets ~$25K if they set me up with somebody I’m mutually interested in and we get married and are together within 2 years. Refundable if a breakup occurs before the 5-year time frame or in cases of fraud/misrepresentation. The sooner/better they do, the sooner they get the money.

        • Brad says:

          I thought this is roughly how traditional matchmakers worked. Albeit there’s an upfront fee, but the major payment comes at the wedding. Or at least that’s what I vaguely remember from reading a long article in a magazine once.

        • Aapje says:

          @Garrett

          Marriage is pretty much optional these days, unless you are part of a very traditionalist community (in which case you’d probably not use Luna). So with your scheme there is a big incentive to just wait to marry until 5 years and 1 day have passed.

          • baconbacon says:

            This is relatively easy to fix, just have the refund be a % based on the period of time.

          • Garrett says:

            My personal desire is to get married and start a family as soon as practical, so that’s where I’m aiming and why I chose those metrics.

            As for the risk the company takes – it’s the mirror image of the risks that clients currently take. Except that as individuals we can’t easily pool that risk. At the same time, I’d be fully open to any suggestions you might have on how to shape the contract such that it minimizes the risk of fraud on both sides.

          • Null42 says:

            This is exactly the scam employed by some women to collect alimony, BTW.

  21. futilemoons says:

    This idea horrifies me. I don’t know how you could conceivably look at the current landscape and think more commodification of sex is the answer.

    • Lillian says:

      Commodification? Sex is already a commodity, and humans have been treating it as such for just as long as they’ve been having sex. Due to the plain facts of biology, the amount of sex that men want exceeds the supply that women are willing to freely give, creating a natural price gradient. It’s no different from the fact that the demand for labour vastly exceeds he supply of volunteers, so labour too is a commodity. Indeed this is not even an analogy, since performing sex is itself is a form of labour. Insisting that sex is not a commodity is a socially imposed denial of base reality, one which i would contend causes more harm than good.

      • rlms says:

        Sex is certainly not a commodity — it isn’t fungible. Some forms of labour are more or less commodities, but sex isn’t one; very few people are indifferent to who provides it to them.

        • In the “commoditization” literature, the argument is that something such as sex is treated like a commodity, something to be bought and sold, not that it is fungible.

          The article that may have started this was arguing, in effect, that prostitution as an economic transaction should be legal, but prostitution as an act of speech perhaps should not be–that the economic transaction conveyed the message “sex is something to be bought and sold,” and that message had a bad effect on the culture.

          What struck me as odd about this, for an article by a law professor, is that in our legal system speech is more strongly protected, harder to justify regulation of, than economic transactions, not less.

          • rlms says:

            I was just being pedantic really. But I think you could argue that viewing sex as to some extent fungible (i.e. people searching for sex with anyone rather than someone) is a problem, although certainly not the only one.

        • Lillian says:

          It depends on how strict you’re being about your definition of a commodity. By the narrowest definitions commodities are goods rather than services, and since sex is a service, sex is not a commodity. By wider definitions, such as the implied by the word “commoditization”,a commodity is anything that can be bought and sold, and since sex can and is bought and sold, it’s a commodity.

          Additionally there is some fungibility to sex in a roughly similar way there is fungibility to restaurants. People are not indifferent about what food place they go to, but at the same time they’re not going to stop going to food places just because their favourite closed down, or indeed not go to others just because they have a favourite. Nor do people necessarily feel obligated to have a favourite at all. It’s the same with sex providers. Whether this limited fungibility means it’s a commodity or not, is again going to depend on the width of the definition.

  22. kaakitwitaasota says:

    So here’s a question: why are all dating sites doomed to be sausagefests? Particularly in my own (and most SSC readers’, I’d wager) demographic (young, big-city upper-middle-class people)–there are more women with graduate degrees than men, more “deadbeat” men in crappy, dead-end life situations than women, depressed male labor-force participation. And it’s become a standard trope in thinkpieces that it’s impossible for professional women to get a good date in major cities; indeed most major metro areas in the US are skewed in favor of young, single, gainfully employed women, as opposed to young, single, gainfully employed men. (Though the ratio seems to reset once you stop controlling for employment).

    I assume there’s probably a roughly equal number of men pairing up with men and women pairing up with women, so the straight dating market should roughly line up with sex ratios even after gay couples exit the equation. The demographic situation should ease the “too many men, not enough women” problem of dating websites, but this doesn’t seem to be the case. What gives?

    • dndnrsn says:

      I assume there’s probably a roughly equal number of men pairing up with men and women pairing up with women, so the straight dating market should roughly line up with sex ratios even after gay couples exit the equation.

      The first bit isn’t necessarily the case, and the second bit assumes one “dating market” instead of, say, multiple dating markets with some overlap. I went to a college with a lopsided female-male ratio, and this probably benefited men (for example, it was more common to see a couple where the woman was noticeably more attractive than the man than vice versa).

      • userfriendlyyy says:

        I assume there’s probably a roughly equal number of men pairing up with men and women pairing up with women, so the straight dating market should roughly line up with sex ratios even after gay couples exit the equation.

        I seriously doubt this. Sexuality is a continuum. When women express flexibility on this scale it improves their chances in the hetero dating market. It is also generally easier for non hetero girls to pass as hetero. Also, with men generally as the pursuers bi women have to actively seek out lesbian relationships.

        Bi men are generally seen as less desirable to women, are much more likely to have a harder time passing as hetero, and will have a MUCH higher success rate when they pursue (or are pursued by) other men.

        Plus just my sense as a gay man is that there are much more of us around than lesbians….

    • Matt M says:

      Theories (I do not have any particular evidence to prove any of these things are true)

      1. Women have significantly higher standards than men (pretty sure there is data to support this)
      2. Women are more interested in monogamy than men (men with girlfriends are likely to keep going on dating sites, women with boyfriends are not)
      3. Men are more interested in technology than women (likely to be early adopters of dating sites while women still rely on more traditional methods)
      4. Given that men occupy the role of “pursuer”, they are more motivated to seek easier/more efficient “dating solutions” that minimize the risk/shame of being turned down

      ETA:

      5. To the extent that dating sites flirt with the idea that they can also help you with hook-ups/casual sex (which is all of them except eharmony and christianmingle), that will also attract more men than women

    • AnthonyC says:

      The problem isn’t necessarily about “too many men.” It’s at least partly about differences in behavior and what people are looking for, aka “a percentage of men choose a volume-based messaging strategy hoping someone, anyone responds, leading to each individual woman getting hundreds of messages, most from people they would never want to choose.”

      Conversely, my wife once tried to start a relatively inexpensive but human-mediated matchmaking service, and got something like a 10:1 female:male ratio.

      • baconbits9 says:

        Conversely, my wife once tried to start a relatively inexpensive but human-mediated matchmaking service, and got something like a 10:1 female:male ratio.

        Simple solution, go online and draw males from that pool.

        • aNeopuritan says:

          Careful. If you let out the slightest indication of the ratio, it reverses.

          • It doesn’t work in the other direction. There are social contexts–online dating, libertarianism, I’m sure many others–where it is well known that the m/f ratio is high and yet women don’t swarm in.

            It’s a little puzzling why. One’s first guess would be that you want to be in the place where the gender ratio is in your favor, where you are the input in short supply, in a position to pick and choose and to expect favorable terms.

            I can see two general explanations of the opposite pattern. One is that some social contexts are defined by characteristics heavily biased towards one gender. Perhaps there is some reason why libertarian ideas appeal to many more men than women.

            The other is that presence in that social context is itself a negative signal–you get your pick, but it’s all from the bottom of the barrel. Suppose, for instance, that everyone knows that Tinder is used primarily for hookups–short term sex. Further suppose that many more women than men strongly prefer long term relationships. You could then get an equilibrium with Tinder mostly male and staying that way.

          • baconbits9 says:

            @ David Friedman

            I think what you are missing is that it is qualitative imbalance you want, not quantitative. There was a common saying at the 2:1 male to female engineering school I went to, “the odds are good, but the goods are odd”. It is a cruel way of stating the obvious, unwanted attention is unwanted, and it is very hard to get away from in heavily imbalanced situations. The situation is bad for both sides, if 1 girl shows up looking a date and there are 10 single guys there is intense pressure to compete right then and there which brings out some of the worst traits that guys have.

          • Ozy Frantz says:

            There are things that are distinctly balanced female, and yet men don’t swarm in. There are extraordinarily few straight men who put fic on AO3, for example, in spite of the fact that surveys suggest upwards of ninety percent of users are female. (I have often wondered whether writing really good porn in a popular fandom would be a successful tactic for men to get laid.)

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            I used to think that I should start writing some NSFW Fan Fiction just for that reason, Ozy. I am not sure about the logistics of translating that to something in-person, but somehow girls also seemed attracted to me via IRC, so figured that fan fiction community was an untapped resource.

            I met my wife soon after, so never really put that idea to practice…but I have the same curiosity you do.

          • Aapje says:

            @Ozy

            Do (fan)fiction writers have groupies, like rock stars?

          • Lambert says:

            >2:1 male to female engineering school

            Wow that’s a gender balanced school. Industry’s like 12:1.

          • Vinay Gupta says:

            @DavidFriedman (assuming you’re The David Friedman) big fan of your work. I recommend The Machinery of Freedom a lot!

            On the matter in hand, the Ski Town Dating Aphorism applies: “the odds are good, but the goods are odd.”

            🙂 A pleasure to correspond.

          • aNeopuritan says:

            “Perhaps there is some reason why libertarian ideas appeal to many more men than women.” – Survive-Thrive Dichotomy (Continuum?).

          • rlms says:

            @Lambert
            Where? The gender balance of UK students is more like 4:1, and I don’t think industry is wildly different.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Wow that’s a gender balanced school. Industry’s like 12:1.

            It wasn’t only an engineering school, it is just known as one. It has a nursing program and shares a campus with an art college and music college and had humanities majors.

          • Lambert says:

            I understand.
            It’s just that sometimes departments are officially called ‘School of $SUBJECT’, and that’s what I thought you were referring to.

          • Ozy Frantz says:

            Aapje: I imagine the situation is similar to that of a girl in libertarianism.

          • Error says:

            @Ozy:

            I’m a straight man who puts fic on AO3. I am not sure it’s useful in that way. I think that like general fiction, it’s a hit-based hobby. Most authors get no significant readership.

            (including me. People tell me my work is good, so perhaps it’s because I non-porn, slowly, for very old fandoms)

    • fortaleza84 says:

      So here’s a question: why are all dating sites doomed to be sausagefests?

      I agree with Matt M on this. For men, the idea of being able to hit on decent number of girls without having to worry about being accused of harassment, without having to deal with the pain of face-to-face rejection, without having to face the girl the next day — it’s all extremely attractive. So internet dating sites will inevitably attract lots and lots of men.

      Meanwhile, desirable women don’t really need to use internet dating to meet men; they get hit on every day in real life. For desirable women, internet dating is mainly a way to get validation when they are feeling down.

      And it’s become a standard trope in thinkpieces that it’s impossible for professional women to get a good date in major cities;

      Inevitably the women in those thinkpieces are some combination of over-35, overweight, and deluded , i.e. they think that a 35-year-old woman with a good career is at least as desirable as a 25 year old woman without a good career.

      The demographic situation should ease the “too many men, not enough women” problem of dating websites, but this doesn’t seem to be the case. What gives?

      For one thing, there are actually more men than women. The birth ratio is perhaps 105 to 100 and it takes a long time to even out due to womens’ longer life expectancy. If you are an 80 year old man who wants an 80 year old woman, you are in great shape. But if you are young, the odds are against you.

      For another thing, the most desirable men engage in various forms of polygyny. This can be a matter of dating 2 or more girls at once, but it could also take the form of a man starting a new relationship immediately after a breakup while the woman sits on the sidelines for a few months.

      It’s also worth keeping in mind that age is an important, assymetrical factor. A woman’s sexual desirability is concentrated into her younger years; a man’s is far more spread out. The upshot of this is that a man in his 20s who wants a girl in her 20s is competing with men in their 30s, 40s, and sometimes even 50s.

      Another assyemtrical factor is children. Single mother is a big hit to a woman’s sexual market value, far more than it is to a man. So that a man who is childless wants a woman who is childless, he is nonetheless competing with men who already have children.

      Another factor is the obesity epidemic, which is hitting women harder than men even with a biased definition of obesity which attempts to conceal the discrepancy.

      The upshot of all this is that if you are a man who is young, single, childless, and fit, and all you want is a woman who is young, single, childless, and fit, you face a ton of competition both online and off. The effective ratio is more like 10 to 1 than 1 to 1.

      • Shannon Alther says:

        The effective ratio is more like 10 to 1 than 1 to 1.

        Lies, damned lies, and statistics that have been massaged to fit a narrative.

        • fortaleza84 says:

          Can we at least agree that

          (1) due to differences in biology, there are a lot more fertile men than fertile women?

          (2) the male birth rate is higher than that of females?

          (3) when people do pair off, it tends to exacerbate imbalances in sex ratios?

          All of these things are pretty obvious and non-controversial; all of them contribute to the woman shortage.

          • Shannon Alther says:

            For the record I think your conclusion is broadly correct, but your arguments seem very ad hoc. What other conclusions can we draw from the premise you’ve suggested, and can we test it?

          • fortaleza84 says:

            I would predict that if you did a genetic study, you would discover that the percentage of women who have had children is significantly higher than the percentage of men who have had children.

            I would also predict that social meetup type events which are open to the general public and aimed at young single people generally are attended by a lot more men than women; that as the age range increases, the ratio evens out and then flips.

            I would also predict that as time goes on, couples where the woman is overweight and the man is fit will become more and more common compared to the reverse.

          • Lillian says:

            Your first prediction is in fact completely correct, though i suspect you already knew that. It seems that the global average for most of history is roughly four or five women reproducing for every man. Though there was a period in mid-to-late Neolithic during which 17 women reproduced for every man who did. It’s not entirely certain what happened, but it must have made the Bronze Age palace economies presided by god-kings look like socialist paradises by comparison.

            https://psmag.com/environment/17-to-1-reproductive-success

            Your second prediction should not be that difficult to verify. As it happens my naive expectation runs in the opposite direction, and that social meetup events would tend to be more popular with women than with men. Though i also expect the kind of event and the method of organizing them would play heavily into which gender it appeals the most to. Would be interesting to see some hard data on it.

            The last one seems like it’s already becoming the case. The obesity crisis is hitting women worse than men, IIRC. It’s kind of weird though, the typical stereotype is just the opposite, with men putting on a few pounds and not giving a fuck, while women go on weird diets to stay thin.

          • INH5 says:

            https://psmag.com/environment/17-to-1-reproductive-success

            That study uses Y-chromosome and mitochondrial DNA, which both measure uniparental lineage persistence, not reproduction in general. The method would get the same result for a childless monk and Henry VIII: zero Y-chromosome survival.

          • Aapje says:

            @Lillian

            Men have a higher tendency to try to lose fat by doing sports, while women have a higher tendency to mess with their diet. If the latter is perceived as an attempt to lose fat more than the former, then this can explain why the stereotype doesn’t match reality.

            If losing fat by doing sports is more effective than dieting, you’d expect an even greater mismatch between the stereotype and objective fact.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            Your first prediction is in fact completely correct, though i suspect you already knew that. It seems that the global average for most of history is roughly four or five women reproducing for every man.

            I’m talking about in the modern day industrialized world. I doubt it’s as skewed as it was in the past, but I am pretty confident that there is a significant and growing gap.

            It’s kind of weird though, the typical stereotype is just the opposite, with men putting on a few pounds and not giving a fuck, while women go on weird diets to stay thin.

            I agree that the stereotype is out there, but I think that looks are becoming more important for men than for women due to the woman shortage and the fact that women care a decent amount about a man’s looks.

    • baconbits9 says:

      I don’t think anyone else’s responses are wrong, but I think they are missing the main issue. The problem with internet dating is that there is no opportunity cost for approaching someone, which swamps all other strategies. An approach has almost zero value to a woman, so only women with very low standards participate. In a bar a guy coming up to you is at least not talking to another woman right then, plus you could watch to see if guys are just walking up to every woman one after another until they got the right reaction. This is a really low baseline, but at least it is something to start with. Online they could literally be messaging 100 other women in the same day, and you have no idea for months.

      This is why everything tends to devolve into hookup culture online based on attractiveness, there is no other easy verification for honesty, your looks can be verified in person very quickly and the only thing you can say online that comes across as honest is “I like boobs and sex, lets hookup”. All the feedback loops tend to point down this road, and every guy willing to message 100 woman with “show me your tits” in the hopes of 1 response ends up there, and any woman who is driven away by those messages is gone very quickly.

      • Garrett says:

        plus you could watch to see if guys are just walking up to every woman one after another until they got the right reaction

        I’d note that this is also a big problem inside of non-anonymous social circles. I was/am part of a social group that had both a good gender balance and what I would refer to as the right type of “weird”. As I discovered that a few women were single, I approached a few of them over the span of a year or so, generally rejected by all of them. It’s to the point that I now have a reputation of hitting on “everybody”.

        Which means that you (or, at least me) can’t simply count on finding a social circle with the types of women you’d be interested in because the pool can be easily poisoned. So in addition to having to face rejection and opportunity cost for an individual approach, there’s a requirement to also be seeking out and joining new social circles on a continual basis. And for the type of man who’s willing to comment on their social life here, such social circles with an available dating pool are surprisingly hard to find.

    • Andrew Hunter says:

      ; indeed most major metro areas in the US are skewed in favor of young, single, gainfully employed women, as opposed to young, single, gainfully employed men. (Though the ratio seems to reset once you stop controlling for employment).

      Uh, I don’t think your link says what you think it says? The vast majority of metro areas show way more single men than single women; they show (sometimes) fewer “employed men than women” but conspicuously don’t give data for “employed men vs employed women” which is presumably a better metric.

      (All these measurements are also badly confounded by social class variables. Canonical example is Chicago, which has far more young single women than young single men. All the former are poor women on the south side (with a substantial fraction of the men in jail) and all the latter are rich on the north side (with the women not existing.) These are not markets that mix.)

      • fortaleza84 says:

        I think that if you look at single people of all age ranges, there is not a woman shortage since there are so many older widows and divorcees.

        But for young men, what matters is the number of women who are single, childless, and in a fertile age range. And there is a huge shortage of such women. I would guess that the effective ratio is like 3 or 4 to 1. Perhaps worse. What’s also interesting is that our society is so gynocentric, this problem gets very little attention. Instead, what gets attention is women in their late 30s and 40s who are furious that the most desirable men prefer women who are younger.

        • baconbits9 says:

          The only way the effective ratio could be 3 or 4:1 is if men are impregnating women and leaving them at a high rate. There would also never be any women who get to their late 30s and early 40s single because men would be impregnating women out of the dating pool and then jumping back in.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            The only way the effective ratio could be 3 or 4:1 is if men are impregnating women and leaving them at a high rate.

            To an extent, yes. There are a lot of women who become single mothers either because they get divorced (the rate is something like 50%) or they never get married in the first place.

            A lot of divorced men in their 40s would prefer to date women a lot younger than them. For many, this is unrealistic, but for a lot who are some combination of successful and fit, it happens. Making life more difficult for young men.

            And of course there is also soft polygamy. A lot of unmarried young women are dating men who are seeing other women or even married to other women.

            So I stand by my estimate.

          • baconbits9 says:

            If half of women in their 20s are effectively matched with men within 5 years of their age, then for you estimate to work out you have to have 50% of all men age 35-45 actively pursuing sub 30 year old women to get that kind of ratio.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            then for you estimate to work out you have to have 50% of all men age 35-45 actively pursuing sub 30 year old women to get that kind of ratio.

            Sounds about right — if you add up divorced men between 30 and 50; married men between 30 and 50 who are looking to have a mistress or to monkey branch; and never married men between 30 and 50. That’s a lot of guys and almost all of them would like a girl in her 20s. Preferably 2 or 3 if they can get away with it, which some can.

            In fact, I might have to revise my estimate to 5 to 1.

          • INH5 says:

            I think you’re greatly overestimating the prevalence of May-December romances. According to this article, the average age gap for heterosexual couples ranges from 2 for couples with an average age of 20 to 2.5 with an average age of 25 to 3 with an average age of 30, and it only goes over 4 when you reach an average age of 35. With numbers like these, there’s no way that a large portion of middle-aged men are dating women in their twenties.

            Interestingly, the same graph does show that large age gaps are much more common among same-sex couples. Which makes me wonder if traditional gender roles are really as absent in gay and lesbian relationships as many people would initially assume.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            For what it may be worth, that’s different from my general observations. Especially at the lower end, I see lots of couples where the man is in his mid 30s and the woman is in her mid 20s.

      • INH5 says:

        (All these measurements are also badly confounded by social class variables. Canonical example is Chicago, which has far more young single women than young single men. All the former are poor women on the south side (with a substantial fraction of the men in jail) and all the latter are rich on the north side (with the women not existing.) These are not markets that mix.)

        I would expect there to be more single women than single men among higher social classes nowadays, seeing as how a majority of Bachelor’s Degrees have gone to women in the US since 1982, with the female:male ratio among college graduates reaching 130:100 in recent years. If that isn’t the case, then where, exactly, are all of those college-educated women going?

        • fortaleza84 says:

          I would guess a lot of them are single mothers; and a lot of them are long-term-single cat-ladies.

          I think that in any discussion of sex imbalances in dating, you need to think carefully about what qualifications you impose when you count. Overall in the United States, there are probably more single women than single men, owing to womens’ longer life expectancies. But if you are a young man, this does you no good since most of the extra women are in their 70s and 80s.

          If you are a single young man looking for a woman, what matters to you are women who are young, single, and childless. The sex ratio for you is pretty bad especially when you consider that you are competing with middle-aged men for women who are young single and childless.

          Adding the qualification of “college educated” might help a bit, but keep in mind that “college educated” can mean a lot of different things, all the way from Yale down to BMCC. A lot of college educated women are more on the working class side of things — they might be substance abuse counselors or LPNs who have no problem marrying a man who is a plumber or a cop.

  23. userfriendlyyy says:

    Most dating sites suffer from attention imbalance: men scrounge around for anyone willing to acknowledge their existence; women get inundated with countless desperate messages they don’t want.

    Seriously this is so easily solvable.
    On every guys profile post total number of profiles viewed, and % of messages sent to viewed profiles.
    On every girls profile post total number of messages received, % read, and % responded to that generated a conversation.

    If people are worried about their totals being high and making them look slutty just show the numbers for the last six months and if it’s a shorter time window (new users or returning inactive ones) just say how long.

    If all that is still too revealing use that data to give guys a score (9/10 ect) for how likely they are to be just looking for hookups and girls a score for how likely they are to just be fishing for compliments.

    Play around with displaying all that data for both genders. I would love to see the difference between gay and straight people with that data.

    • Murphy says:

      I strongly suspect people would hate that system because then everything they do becomes something they’re afraid they’ll be judged negatively for. Even if the judgement isn’t real the fear will turn the whole platform into a negative experience for them.

      zero messages received? what a loser.
      Lots of profiles viewed with few messages sent? what a creeping creep
      Lots of profiles viewed with many messages sent? OMG what a spamming loser.
      Few profiles viewed, few messages sent? probably a throwaway account.
      Few profiles viewed, many message sent? OMG what a spamming loser.

      Girl responds to to few messages? : “thinks she’s so high and mighty?”
      Girl responds to to many messages? : “what an attention whore”

      etc etc etc

      If there’s any way for users to negatively rate people expect retaliatory down-marking. He marked me as just fishing for compliments? well screw him! marks everything zero and rates him “creep”

      • userfriendlyyy says:

        Point taken. Then like I said, black box it and put up a rating.

        • Matt M says:

          People with bad ratings will presumably want to know why.

          A site that promises to rate how good of a person and how deserving of companionship you are and refuses to explain to you how the rating is derived will almost surely upset a whole lot of people.

          Remember how much bad publicity eHarmony got for “rejecting” certain profiles? Match.com launched an entire advertising campaign in response on the premise of “We don’t reject anybody!”

        • userfriendlyyy says:

          You can tell people what factors go into it, just not the exact formula. Obviously it would take some tweaking to get just right and you could offer people a way to report if people are gaming it and an appeals process.

          • Aapje says:

            Before too long, a savvy guy will come along who will reverse engineer that and post the results online.

    • fortaleza84 says:

      On every girls profile post total number of messages received, % read, and % responded to that generated a conversation.

      If this were done honestly, male customers would quickly realize that the vast majority of female profiles are inactive or otherwise not serious. That’s one of the dirty secrets of online dating — the male/female ratio is even more lopsided than it seems.

      • Roxolan says:

        male customers would quickly realize that the vast majority of female profiles are inactive or otherwise not serious.

        That seems like a very good thing, in a platform whose incentives are aligned with its users’. (I mean the information, not the imbalance itself.)

        • fortaleza84 says:

          In general, yeah it’s good. But in practice it means that the dating site is not viable. Of course it’s better for such a site to fail than to stay afloat on the unrealistic expectations of male customers.

    • baconbits9 says:

      You then have to make sure they aren’t using multiple accounts, and using across multiple sites.

  24. nimim.k.m. says:

    In addition, Luna may use advanced NLP techniques in conjunction with IBM Watson to integrate [..]

    This sets my bullshit-o-meter whooping. IBM Watson is not a technique, a method, an algorithm, or a model. It’s a IBM brand that contains absolutely anything IBM thinks it can sell by calling it “IBM Watson”, and aside from the Jeopardy stint, it is most famous for failing to deliver the promised revolutions in healthcare.

    • Deiseach says:

      This sets my bullshit-o-meter whooping.

      Agreed. “We use the most up to date special techniques and Secret Sauce to get you the perfect match and ensure romantic compatibility” is what every dating site and matchmaker claims; throwing together “NLP” and “IBM Watson” is veering more towards jargon buzzwords than ‘there’s a sound principle at work here’.

    • Iain says:

      This is what I was about to post.

      As a marketing ploy, IBM Watson is deeply impressive. As a product, it is not. Winning at Jeopardy was genuinely cool, but I’m not aware of any case where that Watson code has produced significant improvements in other domains. Meanwhile, IBM is slapping the Watson label anywhere it thinks it can get away with, most of which are unrelated to the original Jeopardy achievement.

      Even more than the gratuitous blockchain — which is complete nonsense from a technical standpoint, but could plausibly be justified as a marketing feature in the current crypto-crazed environment — the connection with Watson raises a huge red flag for me.

      • pdbarnlsey says:

        The Watson cookbook is kind of cool, though it involved significant input from professional chefs to turn the suggested ingredient combinations into actual dishes.

    • vV_Vv says:

      They are just going by the hype.

      Let’s play a game and try to overdo them: I propose LoopCoin, a train that runs in a sealed vacuum blockchain, powered by deep learning and CRISPR.

      • rlms says:

        That definitely needs virtual/augmented reality in there somewhere. Maybe Big Data and The Cloud, but they might have gone out of fashion. Chucking in a functional language can’t hurt either.

    • Ketil says:

      I was wondering if it was just me, after having sat for hours with five or so nice men in even nicer suits, without them being able to explain in any way what Watson actually is. But managers seem to IBM to death, so they are clearly doing something right, even if it is probably just the suits. At any rate the managerial enthusiasm explains why these people make four times my salary.

      Cynicism aside, what’s with NLP? All the top hits say this is neuro-linguistic programming, which I thought was a pseudo-scientific (but perhaps not more so than the rest of psychology) method used by pickup artists to manipulate women to sleep with them. Perhaps they mean natural language processing, but I really think the former interpretation might be more profitable.

      • Aapje says:

        Neuro-linguistic programming is a theory about how the human brain works and a bunch of techniques that supposedly allow you to change your own brain so it does what you want (and/or stops doing what you don’t want). A key part of the theory is the idea that our behavior is in large part determined by our experiences (unconsciously learning from experience is what they call ‘programming’) and that you can change this with NLP techniques.

        For example, I had a boss who said that his bad relationship with his parents made him act in self-destructive ways and that NLP helped him (although he did some relatively self-destructive things later anyway).

        The original purpose/intent was to use it for therapy, but this is the kind of pseudoscience that is obviously also attractive to people who want to self-improve and who are thing-oriented. Being able to model and manipulate the human brain is of course not just beneficial if you want to understand/manipulate yourself, but also if you want to manipulate others. So NLP seems to be fairly popular among people who have that goal: sales, management, coaches and yes, also pickup artists. But it makes little sense to see it as something that is specifically linked to PUAs.

        • ruelian says:

          I’m pretty sure they actually mean Natural Language Processing, which is a field of computer science/AI concerned with getting computers to understand human languages. It unfortunately shares an acronym with Neuro-Linguistic Programming, making the whole thing seem significantly creepier than they probably intended.

          • Aapje says:

            I thought it was useful to explain what neuro-linguistic programming is, because Ketil seemed to have a misperception, regardless of what the Luna people mean by NLP.

      • Vinay Gupta says:

        They mean natural language processing.

  25. Deiseach says:

    Users who want to catch someone else’s attention can bid the local cryptocurrency, Stars

    It was at this point that I metaphorically threw up. I get that it’s a dating site so yes, it’s supposed to be twee but good God (Aengus, in this instance) does it have to sound like a collectible game for five year old girls?

    If they’re trying to position themselves as The Dating Site For Nerds then good luck, nerds want love too and they deserve to have romances of their own. But I think we’re now in the stage of marketing where “slap the [term of the day] onto our product, Smithers, so the Young People will buy it” is in full force; blockchain with everything!

  26. Elliot says:

    Perhaps also notable that you can only purchase tokens on release if “You are not a citizen of the US, EU, Canada, or Singapore.”. Apparently there are some legal issues in US, EU etc., but I don’t know enough about stuff like this to know if this is a cause for concern or not. Dating sites does seem like an ideal place for machine learning to do its work so I’ll be sad if this doesn’t pan out.

    • Lambert says:

      So who’s left from More Economically Developed Countries?
      Switzerland, maybe the UK soon, Oz, NZ, Japan, SK.

  27. nimim.k.m. says:

    Then, another point.

    By establishing the decentralized paradigm in dating, Luna helps to remake dating culture.

    But I really do hope Luna isn’t a scam. Because if it’s real, it represents everything good about Silicon Valley. Some people use Intellect to wrest a secret from Nature: an elegant reduction of the chaos of human interaction into comprehensible and exploitable principles. To test their prize they build a Sampo, a machine churning out a hundred varieties of human happiness – from loving marriages to ecstatic sex to just sitting on the couch cuddling on rainy days. They give it to the public gratis. In the process they all get super rich and donate the money to curing malaria, good compounding upon good. Also, the whole thing is done in a weird and pointlessly-complicated format that adds nothing except a giant middle finger aimed at government regulators. What could be more beautiful than this?

    I really really hope that Luna is a scam, or if it’s real, it fails. I can think of many scary things, but the thought of a single corporate entity interested in profit-making has any monopoly over any significant aspect of human culture is among the top percentile, maybe higher. Didn’t we learn anything from the mistakes that were Google or Facebook or Amazon, and yet we are stuck with them to the foreseeable future?

    Firstly, my go-to heuristic today is that no matter what kind of principles the founders will profess, the economic incentives are bound to lead them doing something horrible.

    [Addendum. Instead of wannabe billionaires, you need idealistic cranks who are committed to build societies out of utopian idealism, and make that idealism a tradition that will continue to run on its own steam and motivate people to strive towards idealism. No legalistic system can preserve a democracy if the popular will to maintain a functioning democracy is not there, and I believe same principles go for both legal systems and blockchain engineering.]

    Secondly, let me quote that one horrid sentence again.

    By establishing the decentralized paradigm in dating, Luna helps to remake dating culture.

    The idea of a single efficient entity, corporate or otherwise, having any monopoly over any significant aspect of human culture sounds like the most horrible nightmarish dream of all totalitarian tyrants come true. I’d prefer that the important things in our culture were not governed by single decision-making process. Moloch lies in the inefficiencies of failed collaboration and uncoordination, but I’d still prefer the inefficient democratic societal institutions or even the democratic market chaos of many small individuals (because such environments leave room for little people to operate) to single tyrannical entity taking over all of the pasture.

    • eyeballfrog says:

      What’s wrong with Amazon? So far I haven’t found a reason to hate them yet, though I would certainly be open to hearing them.

      • rlms says:

        They apparently treat their workers pretty badly.

        • Roxolan says:

          So I’ve heard, but they’re voluntarily employed, not slaves. Usual libertarian arguments about sweat shops apply.

          (Also we all know it’s just a transitional phase until robots replace all of them.)

        • Creutzer says:

          That still doesn’t make it fit with Facebook and Google. Those two are problematic because of their profound cultural and political effects. Amazon has little to do with that.

    • Nornagest says:

      Instead of wannabe billionaires, you need idealistic cranks who are committed to build societies out of utopian idealism, and make that idealism a tradition that will continue to run on its own steam and motivate people to strive towards idealism.

      I find idealistic utopian cranks a million times scarier than wannabe billionaires — an unscrupulous wannabe billionaire will take your money, but an idealistic utopian crank will take your life, either by wasting it on idealistic utopian schemes that don’t work or by more direct means. And they don’t even need to be an unscrupulous one — if anything scrupulosity makes them more dangerous. But maybe that’s just me.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        “If anything scrupulosity makes them more dangerous”

        Vote for Robespierre: he’s incorruptible!

    • eqdw says:

      With respect: do you understand what the word “Decentralized” means?

    • Lillian says:

      You do realize that there is intermediate space between “venture fails” and “venture becomes a monopoly” right? There are currently as we speak multiple competing online dating websites. The expected result of a successful new entry into the field is not that it grows to devour the entire market, but rather that carves out its own niche.

  28. ContrarianSystem says:

    Dating sites already suffer from a male/female imbalance. Crypto also suffers from a male/female imbalance. Luna users will be 95% male.

    • Aapje says:

      The current marketing is just to investors. They can choose a very different kind of marketing to attract women. Something like: you won’t be inundated with messages, but get a few high quality messages each month.

      If it works…

      • pdbarnlsey says:

        “And get paid to read them”. That’s obviously a huge draw in practice, but you want to be really careful about emphasising it too strongly in your marketing. I suspect neither the payers nor the payees really like that idea when first presented with it.

  29. MartMart says:

    How about this:
    Senders still pay for their messages, bidding for top slots.
    They stars/money goes into escrow.
    At the end of dates, both users have a chance to signal to the system that the date was successful (or not terrible). If both do, then the reader gets to redeem the message credit.
    All credits not redeemed after a set period of time go to fund the the system/ used to pay everyone’s entry fees.
    This would make it very difficult for set up an operation just to collect fees (you actually have to read and go on dates. The amount of dates you can go on is limited)
    Because the house will keep most of the bids, the cost of credits should be relatively low.

    • 4bpp says:

      I remember having a similar idea for something else. A while ago (about a year or two?), an FB overlay app was circulating where you could tick if you wanted to hang out or engage in some form of romantic business for each of your friends and it would tell both of you iff both ticked the respective choice. (This was not bangwithfriends, but something less shiny that was explicitly targeting the rationalist-adjacent sphere) This had the obvious problem that people might just select everyone to see who picked them, and just the possibility of this would discourage people from actually using it as a truthful signal. In that context, I thought this could be rectified by making both parties underwrite ticks they place with some small amount of money ($1 or so) which would be refunded if both parties afterwards verified that the respective other meant it.

      Of course, with the sort of unthemed bare-bones app it was, adding a monetary component would just have quickened its death due to nonexistent userbase, but for a project like this one where users have to commit money regardless, either of the two approaches might actually work. With yours, there may be a problem in that men would have nothing to lose in letting their payment go to the site rather than the date who didn’t hook up with them out of spite; my approach would need to be adapted (to something where e.g. the man pays x+y+z initially, of which x goes to the woman, and if both say it was legit, an additional y is disbursed to the woman and z is returned to the man), which may result in it looking cumbersome enough that all but the most determined of nerds would be driven off.

      • rlms says:

        You are thinking of reciprocity.io (and I think people still use it).

      • MartMart says:

        If the senders are feeling spiteful, it likely wasn’t a successful date. Sure, there is no telling whose “fault” (if anyones) that was. That would encourage the receivers (I’m going to try to keep it gender neutral) to be more picky, selecting only those that they feel they have a reasonable chance of clicking well with. If the sender opts not to credit the date when it was successful, well, they aren’t very likely to get a second one, are they? Although, without norms, this could lead to some awkward conversations.
        So it’s not much use for one night stands, but that isn’t what its for, right?

    • Roxolan says:

      This means that the recipient has a financial incentive to smile and play nice even if they want out of a date, while the sender has power they can use to push boundaries.

      (Probably not too much of either though, as I don’t expect the prices will go too high even if the system works and is successful.)

  30. Icedcoffee says:

    This seems to start with a good idea or two, but implement them in a confusing way.

    The two basic premises: 1) incentivize good behavior, and 2) allow users to allocate limited resources to show relative interest, both make sense. Indeed most apps have this in some form: Tinder has swipe limits, and the Super Like; CMB claims to reward good behavior with better matches, and you can discover matches by spending beans; etc. And most let you spend money to get more of the limited resources.

    Luna seems like it will quickly devolve into a small number of high-value profiles getting hugely disproportionate stars, (like how a small number of Tinder profiles probably get a hugely disproportionate percentage of Super Likes), which they will have no use for other than to cash out. (Very attractive people probably don’t need to spend stars to get a response.)

    I’d think a better idea would be to have people earn stars with good behavior, (e.g. conversations over X messages in length; actually going on dates; maybe some sort of post-interaction “rating” function), make it clear when someone is sending you a message with lots of stars, and possibly hold those stars in escrow until you actually go on a date.

  31. Walter says:

    Sounds like “Just Another Dating Site”, tm, but generally all such things do is push money from rich dudes to pretty ladies (or those willing to pretend to be such), so I don’t see any harm.

  32. Anonymous Bosch says:

    Market forces are the known solution to the problem of connecting resources to their highest-value use. So if you treat user attention as a resource you can trust the market to allocate it optimally – in this case, to the guy who’s just realized he’s your soulmate, rather than the guy who’s spamming everyone with five dick pics.

    But everywhere this solution is tried, it runs up against its one great weakness – rich people with mild preferences can outbid poor people with strong ones.

    This doesn’t seem like a weakness in that context? Assuming that focusing the currently over-divided attentions of women is the primary problem of heterosexual dating sites, and assuming that women tend to value a partner’s financial status more than men.

  33. Vinay Gupta says:

    (posting this in parts, it’s too damn long)

    Hi. I’m Vinay Gupta, the original designer of the Luna system. I’m probably best known for the Hexayurt refugee shelter design (widely used at Burning Man), but I also led the release processes for Ethereum. I’m now doing a tech/law start-up called Mattereum to manage physical property rights for business on the blockchain.

    I figured out the cryptoeconomic mechanisms at the heart of Luna about a year before I met the team which went on to become the Luna team, and remain a significant investor in the project. The idea was basically a thought experiment, which leapt to life in the right hands – which were not mine!

    The basic idea was very simple: 99% of the money made in the blockchain space has gone to men, and that’s creating some very, very distorted gender dynamics. Would it be possible to add some counterbalances, without turning dating into a transaction? For that to work, any exchange of value had to be a gift, maybe an extravagant one. But then how to manage the social games around such a set up? I was kidding around with friends over dinner, came up with the concept that people would give gifts to get their messages read, and that effort would be set by competition, and we all laughed about it. And then about a year later it clicked: people could actually do this, and it might well work.

    There’s a second angle that I hadn’t seen, which is that once you have value flowing over such a platform, it then creates the possibility of additional markets for matching algorithms, and that’s where things get really interesting. I took a while to warm to the idea, but the Luna team have made a good case to me that AI really can solve some of the matching problems, found some killer academic research which looks like it could be built into a product. I believe that the cryptoeconomic mechanisms exist to get effective matching markets set up now exist, and this should go well: with an incentive to get better at matching people, SURELY there are tools to do the job. Surely!

    • Vinay Gupta says:

      (continued) And this is incredibly exciting, because the idea that we could wind up with a data driven approach to discovering what really makes us happy in this incredibly critical area of our life? This is genuinely revolutionary.

      Now the hard question: Will it work?

      The short answer is that I believe Luna to be fail-safe. Yes, fake profiles may waste individuals’ money when messages are sent to robots. But the value at risk is no more than a single individual sends with a single message. These risks are relatively contained, and they can be incrementally mitigated. Verification of profiles can start lightweight, and become increasingly heavy to repel attempts at this kind of fraud. One can also imagine the deployment of insurance, or long-clearing escrows: in short, there are incremental measures that can be deployed to address these problems if robot control becomes problematic. There’s plenty of room to tighten the systems to provide a good environment for daters.

      Now what of the much, much more significant risks on the female side? Because Luna isn’t paying women to do things, it isn’t exposing them to risks beyond any other dating site, and it doesn’t set up the opportunity for exploitation. My vision, and I hope the future evolutions of the project will preserve this, is that women are paid when messages arrive: not when they are read, not when they are replied to, and a simple “unread messages” counter indicates whether people are in the habit of ignoring mail. As far as I can see, this mechanism isn’t exploitable. It is not a mechanism of exchange: it just establishes queue order for something which is otherwise free (sending a message.) It also doesn’t establish incentives for catfishing, because subsequent messages are free. I think this is a good, solid way to go forwards.

      • Vinay Gupta says:

        (to conclude) I would have left Luna as a thought experiment, an interesting intellectual exercise. I’m too old to be running a dating site. But I am excited to see a team this capable picking up the idea and running with it, and if they do succeed in curating a market which results in a fundamental breakthrough in using AI to find people romantic partners, we may all benefit.

        As we went into actually making this real, I sweated blood about the morality and the safety issues involved with Luna, and I came to the conclusion that there’s very little room for exploitation of women with these mechanisms. (I’m aware that, say, very attractive men might actually be net token recipients etc. and that the gay/lesbian users will have different dynamics – I am speaking here to the most common case.) But no design, no matter how carefully implemented, is perfect. People are cunning, and many of them are not very nice.

        So if we missed something, the team has a fair number of very smart women involved who’ll be seriously motivated to fix things for both professional and personal reasons. I trust them. And that’s the bottom line: if problems arise, there are women on deck inside of the Luna team to put them right, and protect the interests of the female users of the platform who are, at the end of the day, the people we need to safeguard first. They’re fundamentally responsible for keeping the women on their platform safe, and I think they are exactly the right people to do the job.

        • Walter says:

          Confused about why you keep on harping on women being unsafe on your platform. They are the ones getting the money, yeah?

          Like, even if it ends up a den of scammers they won’t be taking money from ladies. It seems like the only thing that you want to happen on your site is that dudes pay to send messages to women. If so, you seem kinda confused about what kind of user is vulnerable here.

          • vV_Vv says:

            Something something disposable gender…

          • Vinay Gupta says:

            Remember, men have maybe two or three times as many years to find mates as women. They can afford to make more mistakes. That really matters, and it’s hardly ever discussed.

            Secondly, money is not that important to many of the men in crypto. There’s a large population that are effectively post scarcity as far as cash went, and they’re basically lottery winners. There’ll be a range of traits, but no precise filter, other than having heard about bitcoin etc. early.

            But for those people, a few messages to women who don’t like them, or to fake profiles, just doesn’t matter. The direct hits – women who understand enough about the field to be on Luna – will (I expect) more than justify the price of the misses.

            If you want to be crude, it’s just another way of people showing off their wallets, but rather than going to the Lamborghini dealer, the demonstration of wealth directly benefits women. It’s basically just sending a bucket of roses with the first message.

            And I’m fine with that. Give the girls a break!

          • Aapje says:

            @Vinay Gupta

            Secondly, money is not that important to many of the men in crypto. There’s a large population that are effectively post scarcity as far as cash went, and they’re basically lottery winners.

            The larger the group of people who will not be influenced by the cost of messaging women, the worse Luna will work to spread out the interest of men and the worse Luna will work to dissuade men who seek sex from messaging many women. So it will just revert to having the exact same problems as other dating sites. Why would men then use Luna, when they can have the same shitty experience on other dating sites, but cheaper?

            I’ve explained what I see as one of the biggest if not the problem of dating sites and the more you say, the clearer it is that you don’t actually understand why or how dating sites are bad for most men and women.

            If you want to be crude, it’s just another way of people showing off their wallets, but rather than going to the Lamborghini dealer, the demonstration of wealth directly benefits women. It’s basically just sending a bucket of roses with the first message.

            That the Lamborghini is merely a signal of ability to provide, but doesn’t actually directly benefit the woman, is good for men. It means that they have less problems with getting exploited by women who fake interest just to get gifts, but who don’t actually want a relationship.

            When women do benefit directly, we do see exploitation of men. However, going on dates to get free food is a fairly poor investment of time. You also have to show up in person and be a fairly pretty woman to pull off such a scheme. Pretty women have less incentive to scam like this, because our society already has so much bias towards them that they generally can achieve better outcomes in other ways.

            Your scheme in principle allows a very good return on investment for scammers and enables everyone to scam (at most with a little effort, like paying someone to produce a verification picture for them). So we can logically expect Luna to be flooded with scammers.

            Remember, men have maybe two or three times as many years to find mates as women. They can afford to make more mistakes.

            To an atheist person like me, the end result of life is death aka nothingness. What you have achieved at that point is meaningless. Instead, the journey is the reward. Life is about being happy during your life. A person who needs a (good) relationship and/or children to (really) be happy, but who has to endure decades of loneliness, only to end up with someone/have children late in life, when they have little time to enjoy it, is a fairly tragic outcome.

            A woman who ends up with a partner at age 30, then has children and has 40 more years of happiness due to this is far better off than a man who ends up with a partner at age 50, then has children and has 20 more years of happiness.

            Furthermore, older partners are less physically attractive, tend to have lower libido’s and are more set in their ways, so it’s not like the prospects for men don’t decline with age.

            So I think that you really underestimate the problems for men (which you consistently seem to do).

          • Vinay Gupta says:

            @Aapje Can you fight? Like, have you trained in martial arts, or do you have a natural aptitude for violence?

            If not, I suggest getting some training, because it hugely changes how the world looks. I’m convinced it’s one of the missing ingredients in making nerd culture more liveable. It is *amazing* how much physical capability changes our experience of being alive, and changes how people treat us. I firmly suggest giving it a try if you have not already.

            So, the men who have enough money to spam people on Luna are subsidizing women’s time on Luna, no doubt – they’re sending junk mail, but at least you get paid when you receive it. That seems fair.

            And we can’t fix the casual sex vs. relationship thing because, in fact, that entire division is largely a product of the media. The terms are such crude approximations they make it hard to reason correctly.

            I think that we have almost no idea what is really going on in people’s heads when it comes to relationships or, in fact, sexual behavior in general. It’s all buried in euphemisms, and the illusion that we can ignore reproductive agendas and the biological base.

            We can’t. And when we take that into account, we find that, yes indeed, the dating market is simply the primal battlefield of evolution, dressed up as “having a nice boy/girlfriend.”

          • Aapje says:

            @Vinay Gupta

            I think that you have a severely simplified model of how the ability to use violence relates to the willingness to use violence and to self-esteem and to how a person presents themselves. Doing martial arts is not some panacea that will magically make a person project the right ‘aura’ to get respect and to be more desirable.

            In general, there are usually different core causes that result in the same social symptoms and a solution that works for people whose issues stem from one core cause, may not work for people who suffer from another. This is why the way in which you self-improved is not universally applicable to everyone else with the same symptoms.

            It’s also extremely questionable whether the casual sex vs relationship mismatch is caused by the media or even by culture in general, because we see evidence of such a mismatch in great apes. For example, we see female apes prostitute themselves, but not male apes. So unless they read the Chimp Times, it seems unlikely that the media is the (sole) cause.

            The way I see it, we are currently in an intermediate period where we have shed part of the traditionalist crutches that allow people to somewhat reasonably deal with the gender differences, while not actually understanding them. Traditionalism was only ever somewhat reasonable because of the poverty in the past and other limitations, which have partially disappeared. So traditionalism is probably not coming back. However, that leaves us flailing, combining remnants of traditionalism with high minded ideals (like gender equality) that most people don’t actually want, but want to want. The end result is mismatched monstrosity.

            Perhaps we, like you suggest, should reinforce the traditionalist remnants. But perhaps people would be better served by recognizing the mismatches and establishing a reasonable social contract that describes what sacrifices each gender must make to achieve reasonably fair outcomes for most people.

          • Vinay Gupta says:

            @Aapje just learn how to fight. It’ll change your life, seriously. I have a good basis for this opinion.

            On the rest, I’m not that much for tradition, but I do think that we should be putting considerations of children and child rearing back into discussions of relationships between men and women. And that does, gods help us, mean talking about money.

          • Matt M says:

            There’s a large population that are effectively post scarcity as far as cash went

            If you are truly so rich such that cash is irrelevant, the last thing you need is one more dating site to throw money at. There are already tons of dating sites, many of which will make a lot more direct and suggestive promises than you are willing to.

            Furthermore, this doesn’t seem like a sustainable business model. What is the value proposition here for the 99.999% of society who aren’t crypto millionaires?

            This is starting to look more and more like a sophisticated spear phishing attack. You’re hoping to hook one or two giant whales who will shovel money at (people claiming to be) cute women in the hopes of getting sex in return. But there are cheaper, safer, and more efficient ways to get sex for the ultra-rich.

            As far as finding a meaningful and long-lasting relationship goes, I have a hard time imagining there will be much of that going on when interactions so closely resemble prostitution. I can’t imagine eventually marrying a girl that I had to pay money to just to get her to acknowledge my existence at all. Even strippers will walk up to you and talk to you for free before asking you to buy a lapdance. How am I supposed to have an honest and equitable relationship with someone when from the first second, the entire relationship was premised on the idea that her time and availability was far and away more valuable than mine?

          • Matt M says:

            they’re sending junk mail, but at least you get paid when you receive it

            You do realize that some of your potential customers are reading this, right? This is how you talk about them in public? That their communications in an attempt to attract a mate are of zero value? That the literal only thing they have to offer to the female gender is cold, hard, cash?

            I’m not even saying you’re wrong, but that’s an…. interesting…. PR approach. I’m also not sure promoting this idea will achieve your desired ends of justice and equity for women, either. If I’m paying her, I’m the customer, and then I expect to get what I want, and what I want out of a first date is probably not the exact same thing she wants out of a first date. The implications here do not seem pretty…

          • Vinay Gupta says:

            @Matt M the thing here is that you’re assuming that the men are just trolling for sex. For the ultra rich with that as a goal, there are a variety of other approaches to this problem.

            That’s not my model of the crypto scene at all. They’re just a buncha guys who lucked out, they don’t have that kind of psychology, for the most part.

          • Vinay Gupta says:

            @Matt M note I’m not operating the Luna site. I came up with the original concept, then sat on it because for-gods-sakes I’m a 46 year old man with other things to do with my time. But the Luna team are active daters, they’re super familiar with this whole model, and they’re very finely attuned to these kinds of issues. On this stuff, I bow to their experience 😉

          • quanta413 says:

            Can you fight? Like, have you trained in martial arts, or do you have a natural aptitude for violence?

            If not, I suggest getting some training, because it hugely changes how the world looks. I’m convinced it’s one of the missing ingredients in making nerd culture more liveable. It is *amazing* how much physical capability changes our experience of being alive, and changes how people treat us. I firmly suggest giving it a try if you have not already.

            Off topic, but is this one sort of behavior people are talking about when they say someone is a tech bro? I could never really figure out a good picture of it.

            Not that fighting isn’t enjoyable or good for your health (as long as you’re not getting hit in the head too much), but I don’t think it’s particularly relevant. In my personal life, I think I gained more dating wise from rock climbing than from martial arts. Although I have no convincing evidence either made much difference, lots of other things have changed over the years too.

          • Vinay Gupta says:

            @quanta413 I understand. But this is an experiment that has to be tried. I’m a nerd outlier – programmer until I was in my mid 30s, did some full stack web work about 5 years ago, but I’ve migrated mostly into policy (and now Mattereum.) But the outlier is that I was an ass kicker from a young age, and I maybe did 20 years of regular training, over all.

            About five years ago, I fucked up a leg. I was unsteady on my feet, lost my physical fluidity. People completely stopped listening to what I said, and treated me badly.

            Then the leg healed, and I slowly got back my balance, and people started listening again.

            Do the experiment! Do the experiment!

          • quanta413 says:

            Do the experiment! Do the experiment!

            Well in my case, I’d be doing the experiment in the same direction you did. So I’d have to either give in to laziness or injure myself for a while. I’ll skip out.

            It’s not that I don’t believe it makes a difference for some people. It’s two things

            (1) I’m not convinced it’s fighting specific. I think rock climbing, or lifting and running, etc. should also work.

            (2) I don’t think it will generalize to all social situations for all people. I can get people to listen or even be dominant in some scenarios but not others and as far as I can tell that’s mostly due to other facets of my personality. I can imagine men for whom fighting would be very unpleasant and learning it wouldn’t help them in other social situations because it just runs against the grain of how they ever want to interact with people.

          • Brad says:

            I don’t know about techbro, but it and the other posts definitely gives the impression that the writer is situated somewhere in the red pill / pop evo psyche / biological determinism cluster. With some sort of reversed stupidity pseudo-feminist twist.

          • psmith says:

            just learn how to fight. It’ll change your life, seriously. I have a good basis for this opinion.

            lol

            t.boxed and wrestled for several years

            (it’s fun, it’s rewarding, but that’s about all there is to it)

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            I don’t know about techbro, but it and the other posts definitely gives the impression that the writer is situated somewhere in the red pill / pop evo psyche / biological determinism cluster. With some sort of reversed stupidity pseudo-feminist twist.

            I’m pretty red-pill inclined, and I’ve spent a lot of time in the red pill sphere when I was younger, and this guy does not pattern-match to red pill at all (at least to me).

            This pattern-matches to a techbro guy who may have picked up some red pill ideas that are in the water supply, and is marrying them to the Lingua Franca of intersectional oppression in order to run a hustle.

          • ADifferentAnonymous says:

            Datum here. I learned MMA, and it did not change my life beyond adding a fun hobby to it.

          • Vinay Gupta says:

            @A Definite Beta Guy

            Techbro? Redpill? Absurd.

            Couldn’t be more wrong. Classically trained Hindu religious practitioner in a Shakta linage (that’s the feminism you detect) and a member of the Nath Sampradaya.

            Evolutionary psychology answers many of the questions that yoga (the meditation, not the bendy postures) leaves open about human motivations and the construction of the human mind: it gives an objective way of looking at human beings, in that we are sure to a very high degree of certainty that they evolved, and this can be used to disambiguate certain classes of phenomena.

            But I’m not inside of western cultural landscapes at all for most of these issues, I’m guided by a very, very different set of stars.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Evolutionary psychology answers many of the questions that yoga (the meditation, not the bendy postures) leaves open about human motivations and the construction of the human mind: it gives an objective way of looking at human beings, in that we are sure to a very high degree of certainty that they evolved, and this can be used to disambiguate certain classes of phenomena.

            Ev Psyc probably shouldn’t be called a “red pill” idea, but Brad is correct that from a Western perspective, you’d be placed somewhat close to that camp.

            Like I said, I would guess that it’s just because that’s one idea that is in the water supply. Everyone has heard about Evo Psyc. So if you pattern match Evo Psyc to red pill, you are going to get a lot of false positives.

          • Brad says:

            @A Definite Beta Guy
            I didn’t call it a red pill idea or imply that they were synonymous. Merely that there was a cluster and they he is situated somewhere in that cluster. I think it is far to say that turned out to be accurate.

            Also, I’d note that there’s a difference between evo psyche and pop evo psyche, the latter being freelance, ad hoc, just-so stories without any attempt to even gesture towards the literature, experiments, or any aspect of the scientific method whatsoever. It’s a way of putting science-y appeal to authority gloss on one’s priors.

          • vV_Vv says:

            @Vinay Gupta

            Responding to somebody making technical criticism of your business idea with “can you fight?” sounds like deflecting criticism with bravado. I don’t know what you look like in person, maybe you are physically imposing and this thing works well for you in meatspace, but it is not going to fly on the Interwebs.

            That’s not my model of the crypto scene at all. They’re just a buncha guys who lucked out, they don’t have that kind of psychology, for the most part.

            Those lucky creepy nerdy bastards! Somebody should exploit their psychological weaknesses to correct this cosmic imbalance in the allocation of wealth. Some “ass kicker from a young age” should put them in their place.

            @quanta413

            I’m not convinced it’s fighting specific. I think rock climbing, or lifting and running, etc. should also work.

            There was some recent study about how women rate physically stronger men (especially upper body strength) as more attractive, to the surprise of no one I should add. I suppose being strong also works to impress other men and make them more compliant.

            Strength is definitely strongly correlated with fighting ability. It’s not the same thing, fighting also benefits from good reflexes and technique, but these things are not externally observable until you actually fight, therefore any sort of training that makes you look more fit and muscular will do the trick to dominate men and attract women.

            @A Definite Beta Guy

            This pattern-matches to a techbro guy who may have picked up some red pill ideas that are in the water supply, and is marrying them to the Lingua Franca of intersectional oppression in order to run a hustle.

            A femibro, perhaps? 🙂

          • Vinay Gupta says:

            @vV_Vv Firstly, we’re talking about martial arts because we’re talking about masculinity. What is it that makes the nerds the nerds? We all know who we’re talking about. THE NERDS.

            One of the attributes is physical weakness, or at least the inability to take up space in a way which radiates potential dangerousness to opponents, which is perhaps a slightly different thing. That seems to be an area at which the jocks excel. There’s also the Nerd Social Fallacies stuff.

            As for the rest, I’m not seeing much engagement with ideas outside of the basic rhetoric of the site. Not much *actual thinking* is going on. I don’t see people changing positions. So… dogma has set in.

            Have a good night.

          • Deiseach says:

            Classically trained Hindu religious practitioner in a Shakta linage (that’s the feminism you detect) and a member of the Nath Sampradaya.

            Okay, this discussion really is over. When you respond to “so how will your shiny new dating site actually work, and forget all this ’empowering women via cryptocurrency’ bafflegab”, with “Respect my authority because I know the Mystic Secrets of Lady Mind”, then we can indeed say goodnight.

          • Aapje says:

            @vV_Vv

            I’m pretty sure that it was well-intentioned advice triggered by Gupta incorrectly pattern matching me to his own life experiences. I agree that it was jarring to have him shift from discussing the overall dating situation to my personal situation (which he knows approximately nothing about), but I saw it as a case of excessive empathy, not the lack of it.

            I tried to subtly point out that he was making unwarranted assumptions and that he incorrectly assumed that one specific intervention would help most or all nerds in their lives. Although this level of subtlety didn’t appear to work, I think that nevertheless more subtlety/gentleness is warranted than how you responded.

            @Vinay Gupta

            Physical weakness is a stereotypical trait of nerds, but in so far that it’s accurate, it’s merely that nerds are physically weak more often than non-nerds. That is very different from it being a trait that all nerds share. I’m pretty sure that a substantial number of nerds do engage in physical training of some sort and that a substantial number of nerds have had martial arts training (especially since people who are bullied regularly go train in martial arts to try and prevent further bullying).

            If your experiences were truly universal, plenty of people in this forum would have already noticed.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            Lingua Franca of intersectional oppression in order to run a hustle

            .

            Is there any other use for the language of intersectional oppression? If there is, I’m not aware of it.

          • Nornagest says:

            Huh, so this is actually targeted at crypto whales? I think that decreases its credibility for me. If it’s just a buzzword you’re throwing out to attract chumps, okay, that’s sleazy, but it’s at least an arguably sound short-term business ploy.

            But if people with a lot of crypto money are your target audience… well, there aren’t very many of them for one thing, so right off the bat you’re boxing yourself into a tiny market. But niche dating sites have succeeded before. A bigger issue is that being in that category makes them less likely to buy your core value proposition. If you’ve been in the space long enough to make serious money, you’re probably a crypto nerd. You probably know what a blockchain is and what it’s good at. And that’ll lead you to ask technical questions like I and others have elsewhere in this thread, and which I still haven’t seen a satisfying answer to.

            To say nothing of the fact that if I was a crypto whale, I’d probably be a little bit turned off by people openly discussing how the project is designed from the ground up to divert my money into the pockets of some rando whose only qualification for it is a womb.

            (Am serious martial artist, by the way. Don’t think I buy the life-changing theory, though it’s great if it worked that way for Gupta.)

          • Vinay Gupta says:

            @Deiseach way to be a racist, orientalist fool. People asked where I got my feminism from. I told them. You then decide it’s a race issue: you’re clearly not playing by any civilized rules of discourse. Get a grip.

          • Vinay Gupta says:

            @Nornagest My god people are rigid about this stuff.

            So, let me lay out my assumptions clearly, one more time: the axioms on which my ideas about Luna were built. Note the Luna team are independent of me – it’s their project. I had some critical input at the beginning, and none of this should be interpreted as being definitive about their work.

            But here’s what I saw.

            1) Economic hardship was everywhere around me, and it was really messing up my friend’s lives. I quit 12 years working in large scale disaster relief / energy policy / refugee management (see Hexayurt Project, STAR TIDES, Simple Critical Infrastructure Maps etc.) and went back to tech because I was flat broke.

            2) There were quite a few people that got their lives together with money made from the Ethereum project. I project managed the release and did a lot of the early comms work. I saw my peers get their lives together, quite a few settled down with partners, and they seemed a lot happier than when single. There are a few kids. And that seemed good, the cycle of life observed: make some money, settle down, have some kids. Good idea.

            3) I did not do this myself. I’m hard to match.

            4) But this notion stuck to me: the Ethereum community have pretty much the same demographics of any other software firm, but a very, very successful one. They don’t stand out, unless you’re tapped into the culture enough to recognize Cuben backpacks or Vitalik-style cat T shirts or whatever. They’ve got the resources to support families, but how to make the connection?

            Note: support families. I don’t think there’s *nearly* as much desire for casual sex among nerds as people think, from my observations most of the nerds seem to want a single stable partner. Polyamorous types notwithstanding.

            5) So that sort of planted the seed of an idea. Blockchain-based dating site. What’s the big problem on dating sites: seas of low quality messages flooding women’s inboxes, so they never reply to anything, and things generally suck. OK! Go Go Gadget Mechanism Design!

            6) Out drops the message pricing mechanism aspect of Luna.

            And this is how we got here. Everybody seems to assume there’s some complicated thing here, but there really isn’t: I saw my Ethereum collaborators take their winnings and start families, and I thought “that looks about right” and that raised the question about dating sites, and one thing led to another.

            I really think Luna, in practice, will be way more long term relationship oriented than one night stand oriented, to use the terminology of a poster up the thread. I could very easily be wrong about it, but my strong sense is that people will look around for people they really like, and be serious about their communications, and that will create an atmosphere of directness and choice, rather than the vague and indirect and insincere house style of most dating sites.

            That’s my best guess, anyway.

          • Barely matters says:

            Man, watching you imply that someone not being able to fight invalidates their criticism and then calling Deiseach Racist for pointing out that your religion doesn’t give you any authority or knowledge in the spheres of tech or dating… I really hope you’re better at gauging your audience elsewhere.

          • Lillian says:

            This entire thread illustrates why marketing is a specialized skillset. I fully believe that, regardless of whether he is right or wrong, Vinay Gupta is earnest and sincere in his belief that his idea has the potential to do a lot of good for a lot of people. Nonetheless, i’m still picturing the Luna team facepalming and politely asking him to please stop helping.

            Though notably even actual marketing people tend to be bad at personal level engagement with people. In a sense it’s more a talent than a skill, some people just seem to have it, most don’t. This is why most actual marketing involves sticking very closely to certain talking points which have been carefully tested and rehearsed beforehand, with all questions reframed in light of those points. It is more honest to actually engage like Gupta has been, but it also has far greater potential to go awry, and it has.

          • Nornagest says:

            I’m not an expert in this space. I do work with crypto as my day job, but not with cryptocurrency; I’m just some nerd that read the Bitcoin whitepaper, thought it was promising, bought in at a level that I’m now kicking myself for being too cautious about, and ended up making a large but not life-changing amount of money.

            Vinay Gupta is apparently some kind of big deal. He should be able to absolutely fucking demolish me on technical grounds, if there are any technical grounds to demolish me on. Instead I get… three pages of mushy platitudes? What on earth is going on here?

            Credit where it’s due, though. I’ve built probably around a hundred Hexayurts over the last few years and it’s a good design. It’d be a better one if it was possible to get bifil tape that lasted more than two weeks in harsh conditions without turning into a crusty unadhesive mess, but I can’t judge that fact too harshly.

          • Vinay Gupta says:

            @Barely matters dude, let me quote this to you:

            When somebody assumes things about me which are not true, I correct them by saying:

            Classically trained Hindu religious practitioner in a Shakta linage (that’s the feminism you detect) and a member of the Nath Sampradaya.

            To which the reply is:

            Okay, this discussion really is over. When you respond to “so how will your shiny new dating site actually work, and forget all this ’empowering women via cryptocurrency’ bafflegab”, with “Respect my authority because I know the Mystic Secrets of Lady Mind”, then we can indeed say goodnight.

            I.e. your culture is beneath my contempt, I will not discuss this with you, you savage.

            It’s as racist as hell, and it’s nothing close to civilized debate.

            And you’re misinterpreting the fight thing as well. My experience of martial arts was that it gave me an interface to the world that largely allowed me to escape the nerd ghetto (although, largely, I moved back in because I quite like it here.)

            Quit the willful misinterpretation.

          • Vinay Gupta says:

            @Lillian oh, I’m not here to sell Luna to you, or anybody else here for that matter. They’re doing just fine.

            But I did see people misunderstanding my work, and the reasons for doing it, and I came over to (try to) have a civilized chat about it.

            This has not been easy. People don’t seem all that interested in actually talking about the ideas, and more interested in clinging to various preconceptions about our intentions.

            But that’s why civilized debate is important. It’s not just about restating positions, it’s about reaching understanding. I’ve communicated how I see things, and people can agree or disagree, that’s fine.

            What’s irritating is the sense that people are talking over my shoulder to a straw man just above me and to the right, and that they’re basically ignoring what i’m saying so they can continue to have a discussion with that straw man. That I just don’t understand: I thought this was a different environment.

            But, make no mistake, this is not Mr. Gupta comes to Market His Shit. That is not at all what I’m here to do, and were I condescending to your community by attempting to market to it, we would (indeed) not be talking about the actual issues.

            It may have been a misplaced gesture of respect, but that’s what it was.

          • Vinay Gupta says:

            @Nornagest I’m not here to demolish anybody on technical grounds. I mean, yes, we talk about the CAP theorem and what the implications of Google Spanner are for it, and whether a Spanner-with-Enclaves could kill the blockchain and so on all damn day, but I don’t see what any of that has to do with Luna.

            And, on the hexayurt tape, that’s why you put the foil tape over the filament tape – it protects it from the UV. I’ve tried from time to time to get a manufacturer to put the foil right into the bidirectional filament tape as a top layer (“Project Supertape!”) but so far I haven’t been able to get anybody to do it. Maybe they’re selling enough tape now to give it a try.

            Also, velcro has **really** changed – this new stuff with the very, very fine hook surface is very strong and easy to work with. I think there’s tons of mileage in a honeycomb polypropylene and velcro hexayurt. I might even take a crack at it myself this year 🙂

          • Barely matters says:

            @Gupta

            I think you’re really reaching to try to make this a race thing.

            Do you have any actual points to speak to the criticisms in this thread, or are these kinds of hysterics all we can expect?

            I’m glad crypto worked out for you and made you a Real Big Deal(tm), but damn you’re demonstrating a colossal lack of savvy here. Maybe running your posts past a minder before hitting send would be prudent. Best of luck to you, and I hope that the industry treats you with exactly as much compassion and humanity as you extend to your male userbase.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            I’m not here to sell Luna to you, or anybody else here for that matter. They’re doing just fine.

            That’s obvious just from looking at the web site. Already $8 million in subscriptions sold AND you managed to get a picture of a pretty girl in a minidress sitting alone at the beach with her laptop, desperate to find a wealthy man on Luna to start a family with. I wonder where she got her PhD?

          • The Nybbler says:

            Hey, at least it’s not a stock image.

          • Brad says:

            In terms of the reaction you’ve gotten here:

            1) There’s a fair portion of the community here that are MRAs, die hard anti-feminists, or otherwise are somewhere between disgruntled and extremely bitter about how contemporary society works in terms of gender relations. Many came here in the first place because of untitled or radicalizing the romanceless.

            You were probably never going to win these guys over, but your post about wanting to redistribute money from men that made money in crypto to women could probably not been purposely crafted to piss them off any worse.

            2) There are a fair number of quite technically minded folks here that full well understand blockchains and what they are and aren’t useful for. Neither you, any of the other people affiliated with the project, nor the white paper have made even a barely plausible case that a blockchain adds anything whatsoever to the proposed model. On the contrary.

            That alone probably wouldn’t have been fatal if you had said “Yes, we understand that there’s no good reason to use a blockchain here, and good reasons not to, but we probably couldn’t have raised the necessary funding without that element. We think the benefits of our approach, if it works out, justify this small deception by implication.” But you choose not to be candid. Perhaps reasonably so given e.g. possible legal risks, but this is a community that values (maybe even overvalues) candor and so a blatant lack of it is going to go badly.

            3) The fighting thing was bizarre but decidedly a second order issue as compared to the above.

          • Barely matters says:

            @brad

            There’s a fair portion of the community here that are MRAs, die hard anti-feminists, or otherwise are somewhere between disgruntled and extremely bitter about how contemporary society works in terms of gender relations.

            There are. And there are also a fourth group of reasonably successful men who, like Aapje, do subscribe to progressive ideals of equality, compassion, niceness, community and civilization, but get off the train short of 'Thus white men are acceptable targets for behaviours we would consider abhorrent if done to anyone else. '. Wrapping oneself in the mantle of Justice and progress and saying "You know what would make things more just? Exploiting low status men!" is the equivalent of wearing blackface around here.

            With that addition, I agree with everything you're saying.

          • Nornagest says:

            honeycomb polypropylene and velcro hexayurt

            Interesting idea. But you still need to secure the Velcro to the polypropylene sheets somehow, and doing that cheaply probably means some kind of adhesive, which I imagine would end up having a lot of the same pitfalls — UV degradation wouldn’t be as much of an issue with heavier material over it, but dust infiltration and air bubbles might be a bigger problem, since Velcro is porous. Plus a lot of cheap mass-market adhesives suck — I tried building hexayurts one year with reflective Mylar cladding secured to the substrate with spray glue, and it started decaying after a couple of days.

            I do know someone in the industrial adhesives industry. Maybe I can ask her.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Yeah, art-supply-store spray adhesive is some of the crappiest stuff in the world. I suspect it’s optimized for being very hard for groups of stoned art students to kill themselves with. There are lots of better choices for serious use, like the 3M VHB line.

          • Deiseach says:

            @Deiseach way to be a racist, orientalist fool.

            Well, all that Shakta lineage feminism sure wore off fast, didn’t it? Way to be a sexist, Occidentalist fool back at you, Vinay! If you cannot tell that I am one of that gender out of which you are making such a big selling point that you are worried all about gender equality in cryptocurrency, then I don’t think your site is going to have much luck (a) attracting lots of women (b) working out which are the spam bots and which are the scammers/gold diggers/sugar babies and which are the genuine women looking for long-term relationships. I also don’t take your self-claimed feminism very seriously when your instinctive reaction is to reach for the insults to avoid giving a proper answer to the questions raised. Don’t insult your potential market to their faces, Vinay, it doesn’t help sell the product.

            Answering questions with “I’m an ass-kicker, you should all learn to fight” (oh, and by the way, your “I hurt my leg and my balance was off and nobody listened to me” example would, in SJW terms, be considered ableism and nothing to do with ‘learn to be an ass-kicker’ – please use the right terms when you’re trying to lure in the pigeons!) and saying “Trust my authoritah because I have Mystic Ancient Hindu Traditions backing up my knowledge of what women want and how to be virile manly ass-kicker that you Westerners don’t have access to” – well, you’re the one who tried pulling the Wise Oriental Guru crap first, if it’s racist to point out that this butters no parsnips, then I’m a racist!

          • Deiseach says:

            I.e. your culture is beneath my contempt, I will not discuss this with you, you savage.

            Well, well, well. Who is calling whom a savage, exactly? I can boast back at you that I have a millennia old religious tradition and culture and ancestral lineage* behind me, which means exactly nothing when it comes to kicking the tyres on “but how does this work?”

            First you try touting your social justice credentials (e.g. making hexayurts for the homeless – which you then torpedo by adding in ‘as seen at Burning Man’ – so not for the homeless but for the well-off who like to think they’ve got some boho counter-culture stuff going on but who would never dream of actually roughing it), then you peddle the “empowering the wymyn!” line regarding how unfair it is that the people making profits in cryptocurrency are men – which is bullshit once you look at it for five seconds, nobody is chaining women up in cellars to prevent them investing in crypto if they want, in fact I would say it is a tribute to the good sense of women that they didn’t jump into the New South Seas Bubble of our day – and how are you going to redress this? Not by helping women learn how to invest in crypto, but by parting suckers from their dough and transferring it to women on your scammy dating site after taking a slice of the action for yourself.

            Yes, I said scammy. Everyone has pointed out how it sounds like a sugaring site and not one for “want a spouse and kids”. Throwing around BLOCKCHAIN only makes it sound like the heyday of the dotcom bubble. You’ve been asked to provide “how are you going to avoid these obvious pitfalls?” and your only recourse is:

            (1) It’s nothing to do with me, I just had a fun idea and these people ran with it
            (2) There are all these young people who are actively dating working on it so plainly if they’re still looking for dates and haven’t found partners, they know what will succeed in getting you a long-term partner!
            (3) Hey, I’m an ass-kicker, the guys who made cryptocurrency windfalls and who will be the market for my that site unrelated to me all need to man up and stop being weak flabby nerds and become Real Manly Men like me
            (4) Also I am a feminist because, um, my family religious tradition is goddess worship
            (5) THAT’S RACISM STOP ASKING ME QUESTIONS I CAN’T ANSWER JUST ACCEPT WHAT I SAY YOU RACIST!

            I’m not going to speak for anyone else on here but myself, but I am profoundly unimpressed by being called a racist, fascist or any other term of “Californian liberals don’t like these kinds of people” usage. I’m not a West Coast college-educated middle-class white milquetoast trembling in my shoes lest I splurt my ‘white privilege’ all over Someone Of Ethnicity, so your attempt at branding me with The Only Acknowledged Sin doesn’t wash with me.

            You know who likes to boast of Ancient Mystic Traditions? Every scammer and fake guru who ever ended up in California to sucker rich white middle-class people out of their money and adoration. Helena Blavatsky at least had the out and out barefaced cheek to go along with her creation of a lineage of Ancient Ascended Masters to legitimise her fool and his money-parting organisation new religious society. You, on the other hand, merely sound petulant and whiny like a tired and over-stimulated toddler: I am a real evolved consciousness guy! I am, I am, I am!

            Luna may have all this shiny gloss and buzzwords but it sounds like the same old: guys with new money but no personal advantages can pay us to connect them up with attractive young women who will be interested in them for exactly as long as the money keeps flowing.

            *Quick question – does anybody know how I could create a “My derbfine are baby-eaters” with a ‘showing your teeth/big sharp pointy teeth’ emoji, if such exists?

        • vV_Vv says:

          So if we missed something, the team has a fair number of very smart women involved who’ll be seriously motivated to fix things for both professional and personal reasons. I trust them. And that’s the bottom line: if problems arise, there are women on deck inside of the Luna team to put them right, and protect the interests of the female users of the platform who are, at the end of the day, the people we need to safeguard first.

          C’mon, you know your site is going to be a sausage fest on steroids (pun intended), no amount of diversity spinning is going to attract female users.

          • Vinay Gupta says:

            Then the women on the site will do very, very well from message fees, which will draw in more women, and so on until it all balances out.

            Maybe.

            It’s worth a try, right?

          • baconbits9 says:

            It should draw the type of woman who will draw a lot of attention, and the type of woman who isn’t opposed to the feeling of being paid to be pretty/appealing.

          • Vinay Gupta says:

            My guess is that it’s going to be a lot of sci-fi types – people from tech, people from fandom, people who love futuristic stuff – and that the future orientation will be the defining characteristic. But who can say?

          • vV_Vv says:

            My guess is that it’s going to be a lot of sci-fi types – people from tech, people from fandom, people who love futuristic stuff – and that the future orientation will be the defining characteristic.

            So a base population that is ~90% male.

            Given that even mainstream dating apps like OKC and Tinder are already sausage fests, what do you think will happpen if you target your service to a population that is extremely male-biased to begin with?

          • Vinay Gupta says:

            I really think incentives work.

            Say that very few women are on Luna at first (possible) and they’re collecting quite a decent stream of fees. Surely word about this spreads, and more women join?

            And, remember, the fees are auction-priced, so fees never rise to the point where no messages are sent: the queue will always be filled.

            So that *seems* like it makes for decent odds of a reasonable gender balance on Luna, if fake profiles can be kept to a minimum, and see above for the discussion about some obvious approaches.

            It’s worth a try!

          • Aapje says:

            I really think incentives work.

            Say that very few women are on Luna at first (possible) and they’re collecting quite a decent stream of fees. Surely word about this spreads, and more women join?

            Incentives do work, but they incentivize what they reward. A known problem of incentives is that they very often are not and cannot be designed to actually reward the desirable behavior. So instead they reward a proxy that is correlated to the desirable behavior.

            However, then there is a strong incentive for people to decouple the proxy from the desirable behavior, where they only do what gets them paid and not the thing you actually want to happen.

            For example, you want women who are interested in relationships to sign up and go on dates with men. What you may get is women who just need money, but who don’t want a relationship. What you may get is East-European men signing up and pretending to be women with fake profiles.

          • Vinay Gupta says:

            @quanta413 Right – you’re going to marry a nerd, and you might as well marry one with twenty times more money.

            Brutal, but that’s the use case as I see it.

            That’s what I expect Luna to be like in practice!

        • Sniffnoy says:

          OK, but you still haven’t answered the biggest outstanding question here: Why a blockchain rather than a centralized ledger?

          There just doesn’t seem to be any need for your ledger to be decentralized, and, as other commenters have pointing out, doing things on a blockchain rather than just keeping your own ledger comes with serious performance penalties. Why not do all the things that have been described, but just with your own ledger rather than with a blockchain? What is the advantage you are getting from using a blockchain of a simple central ledger? Because I still don’t see any.

          (That said, the rest of this seems like a really neat idea. It’s just that implementation detail — and to most users, it will be just a completely irrelevant implementation detail that they hear about but never deal with — that seems dumb.)

          • vV_Vv says:

            There just doesn’t seem to be any need for your ledger to be decentralized, and, as other commenters have pointing out, doing things on a blockchain rather than just keeping your own ledger comes with serious performance penalties.

            In addition you have to incentivize the miners otherwise the whole thing falls apart.

            And since this blockchain is used to implement a new cryptocoin (as there was a need of yet another cryptocoin) which the users will have to acquire in order to interact with the system, they will get all the hurdles of acquiring cryptocoins (either setting up their own mining rigs or finding a reputable exchange that supports this coin and setting up an account, then dealing with the volatile prices and the risk of hackers stealing their funds, etc.)

            Lots of drawbacks, no visible benefits.

      • Deiseach says:

        And this is incredibly exciting, because the idea that we could wind up with a data driven approach to discovering what really makes us happy in this incredibly critical area of our life? This is genuinely revolutionary.

        Mate, it’s a dating site. It’s not the cure for the common cold (and since I’ve been hacking up phlegm for the past week, I wish Silicon Valley would get on that asap).

        More seriously, I think the problem is what fortaleza84 was saying: men in the age range 20-50 will all be trying to pull the 20 year old women. They’re not interested in the raddled hags in their 30s. This immediately puts one huge skew into any dating pool, because you have only one particular section of women on the site who will be in their 20s, and all the men are chasing them and ignoring the women older than that (or settling for them as second best).

        Slice it any way you like, even if you make them pay to send messages, there will be enough men willing to pay because they think they can appeal to the attractive young woman than attractive young women to read their messages. I don’t see a lot of “love stories are made on Luna”; it may make some women a few bob, it will probably end with a lot of disgruntled male customers, and I doubt people really looking for a long term relationship are going to use it.

        Otherwise, why aren’t you advertising this as “This is not a hook-up site, this is for people seriously looking for a partner, leading to marriage”? I’m afraid that the women who want to settle down and think about long term relationships are going to be those women in their thirties that the guys are not interested in, and the majority of the guys are simply looking for a pretty young women to date (and have sex) a couple of times, they’re in their prime and want to have fun before they get old and have to settle down and be a family man like their dad.

        But the part that really makes me wince is this:

        I was kidding around with friends over dinner, came up with the concept that people would give gifts to get their messages read, and that effort would be set by competition, and we all laughed about it. And then about a year later it clicked: people could actually do this, and it might well work.

        This is what makes me think your reputation/scoring system is going to have a lot of angry, disgruntled men: “I paid all this dough and the bitch never even read my message”. God knows, I see enough complaining by men about “why do women expect me to pay for the first date?” online by the less romantically successful men; make them pay money to even get a message read and they will expect you to set them up with a sure-fire “will have sex with me tonight” prospect, and if they don’t get it, they can turn ugly.

        • Vinay Gupta says:

          Maybe. But that’s not how I think this will go. My mental model is that you’re going to see a ton of women who’ve, say, recently graduated PhD courses and are intelligent, eligible and pretty nerd-friendly. People keep thinking of “Luna = Tinder with payments” but (and, remember, I thought up the first iteration of the idea, but I’m not running the site!) but I just don’t think you’re going to get Tinder-esque behavior with cost-per-introduction being set competitively.

          I think people will be pretty choosy about who they message, and the knowledge that somebody actually put some damn effort into contacting you will be reciprocated with attention to the actual message in the vast majority of cases.

          But only data from live users is going to confirm or reject these intuitions about human nature and human behavior. We are going to have to wait and see.

          • quanta413 says:

            My mental model is that you’re going to see a ton of women who’ve, say, recently graduated PhD courses and are intelligent, eligible and pretty nerd-friendly.

            This would really surprise me, but I’ve mostly known people in STEM PhD’s. At least in STEM PhD’s though, it seems like most women are benefitting/suffering from a surplus of potential nerdy male partners. They don’t really need a dating site if that’s the type of partner they want.

          • Matt M says:

            but I just don’t think you’re going to get Tinder-esque behavior with cost-per-introduction being set competitively.

            No, you’re going to get Seeking Arrangement type behavior. This is what I keep trying to tell you. You keep comparing yourself to dating sites and saying “But we’re better than dating sites because we involve market incentives.”

            Which means you aren’t actually a dating site at all, you’re a sugar daddy site (or less charitably, a prostitution site). Tinder is not your competition. Your competition is somewhere in the sugar daddy/strip club/camgirl/escort space. Places where “you pay money and cute women pretend to like you” is already well established as a norm. And this doesn’t easily map to “trolling for sex” either. The really high-class prostitutes (i.e. the ones that crypto millionaires might actually interact with) aren’t walking the streets earning $20 a man for meth. They’re offering the “girlfriend experience” for $500/hr. They talk to you and pretend to care and stuff.

            For a man who is not constrained by cash, that is your competition. Actual, in-the-flesh women who are willing to explicitly spell out exactly what you will get for exactly how much money (before you pay any) and who come with references and reviews. Stop telling me why you’re better than Tinder. Tell me why you’re better than that.

          • Aapje says:

            @quanta413

            I fear that nerds are attractive to far fewer women than the actual supply of nerds.

            Luna may thus be attempting to get more women to want be with nerds, by having the nerds pay women money to consider them. However, I really don’t think that women will want to date what they consider to be an inferior man to spend the rest of their lives with, in exchange for a couple hundred or thousand of dollars.

            So based on this I understand Matt M’s concern. Isn’t this proposition far more interesting to women who temporarily sell sex/attention/etc? They get the money from the nerds to pay for their car loans or whatever and then when they want an actual relationship, they go to OKCupid and find a normal guy.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            My mental model is that you’re going to see a ton of women who’ve, say, recently graduated PhD courses and are intelligent, eligible and pretty nerd-friendly.

            I don’t think you realize just how much sexual/romantic attention that kind of girl gets. She probably has more dating opportunities than the head cheerleader at her college.

          • Vinay Gupta says:

            @Matt M that is a risk I was explicitly aware of. And that’s why (for example) my approach didn’t have things like “pay per message” because now we’re talking at least emotional labor, and that’s no damn good.

            Also note message costs are set by competition among men, and it only applies for the first message. After that, free. It would be *really* hard to get a prostitution / seeking arrangement show going on that kind of model.

            I’m absolutely sure that market will be well catered for *elsewhere.* But my approach was explicitly to make us largely useless for that market.

            How it will work in practice I don’t know, and I’m sure the Luna team have their own ideas, but we were clear on the risks from the beginning, and worked out ways to mitigate them.

          • Matt M says:

            Also note message costs are set by competition among men, and it only applies for the first message. After that, free.

            So, from the male perspective, you are bidding on the chance to have your initial message read, and that’s it? That’s the only thing you can pay for? Maybe, if you’re lucky, you get some information before you bid about how often the person responds to messages?

            How much are people going to pay for that? Keep in mind that every other dating site on earth has a virtual currency where you can pay to have your message go to the top of someone’s list with a little icon next to it letting them know that you paid money for the privilege.

            This seems functionally rather similar to the Tinder “super-like”, except that the money goes directly to the girl. Which is good for her, I guess. But as I’ve said, it also changes the dynamic such that the man feels like he is not the platform’s customer, he is the girl’s customer. When scams happen on Tinder, guys get mad at Tinder. When a scam happens here, guys will be mad at the girls.

            If I’m paying you to send her my message, that’s one thing. My relationship is with you, and you cannot control whether she reads and responds to it or not. But if I’m paying her to read my message, I’m now entitled to something. From her. Because I paid. The value proposition of your platform seems to be “you pay the girl directly” but as I’ve said, models where “you pay the girl directly” already exist, and nearly universally, they lead to certain outcomes that you do not seem to be wanting to solve for…

          • Deiseach says:

            But if I’m paying her to read my message, I’m now entitled to something. From her. Because I paid.

            Yep, that’s the most likely, realistic attitude, and the one I’m afraid of. Bad reviews because I paid for attention and the bitch never answered. Depending on how aggrieved any particular guy gets, this could turn nasty from reputation-shredding reviews to online stalking to real life stalking or attempts to ‘get back’ at the woman.

          • Vinay Gupta says:

            @Matt M – remember, the messages are queued, and the highest priced messages are read first. So if people aren’t getting a ton of messages, they’re free to talk to. The people who *are* getting a ton of messages are seeing messages in a priority queue ordered by tokens.

            Brutally simple: attention follows money. The Luna team added the compatibility discount model, which I’m pretty curious about (can we *really* estimate compatibility? Isn’t this a market-distorting subsidy?) but it’s their baby, and there’s plenty of room to tweak parameters.

            Here’s the hard question: what’s a better parameter to sort incoming messages to high traffic profiles? First in, first out? Random? Compatibility estimate? How would you solve this problem?

          • Matt M says:

            Hey, I’m not opposed to commoditizing female attention and auctioning it off to the highest bidder. I’m not even opposed to the ultimate logic of where that goes, the mindset it puts people in, or the question of “why stop at attention?” But I suspect you might be…

        • men in the age range 20-50 will all be trying to pull the 20 year old women. They’re not interested in the raddled hags in their 30s.

          Speaking on the basis of introspection, I think you exaggerate. It’s true that younger looking women are more attractive, ceteris paribus. But lots of women in their thirties still look attractive to men at fifty, judging by my experience.

          And there are tradeoffs. Women whom you can’t have an interesting conversation with are less attractive, again ceteris paribus, than women with whom you can, and younger women are less likely to have anything interesting to say.

          On the other hand, women in their forties may be a poor bet for men in their fifties who want children.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            Yes she’s exaggerating but the basic point is correct. There’s a big imbalance between the number of fertile men and the number of fertile women.

            In an online dating environment, it seems this problem is exacerbated because (1) young women have no need for it and are less likely to do online dating; (2) it’s easier for the most desirable men to monopolize women; and (3) the psychological cost of approaching women is a lot lower so it’s very attractive to men.

      • Jason K. says:

        just replying to address this:

        From Vinay Gupta:

        @Aapje Can you fight? Like, have you trained in martial arts, or do you have a natural aptitude for violence?

        Temporarily accepting as valid the ludicrous postulate that this matters; yes. Probably significantly more than training you, and definitely more than the vast majority of the population. I agree with every point Aapje had made prior.

    • Aapje says:

      @Vinay Gupta

      The basic idea was very simple: 99% of the money made in the blockchain space has gone to men, and that’s creating some very, very distorted gender dynamics.

      What percentage of men actually make or made decent money off blockchain? The recent survey we did showed that it is even a very small percentage of the people/men here, let alone the average man. Do you have any actual figures of how much of their income the average man derives from bitcoin profits? I’m quite confident in my estimate that it is a tiny fraction of what men earn doing regular jobs. If it is just a tiny fraction and doesn’t significantly contribute to the gendered earnings gap, then why would blockchain be the cause of very, very distorted gender dynamics?

      This really seems like an absurd motivation. Either you actually believe it, which makes me think you have little grip on reality; or it is just a fake reason and the actual reason is to transfer more money from men to women in general, perhaps based on the belief that the gendered earnings gap is unfair and should be fixed by post-facto redistribution from men to women.

      Of course, having men earn more money and then spend it on wooing women is just the traditionalist model of the man proving he is a provider. So the Luna scheme just seems Traditionalism 2.0.

      My vision, and I hope the future evolutions of the project will preserve this, is that women are paid when messages arrive: not when they are read, not when they are replied to, and a simple “unread messages” counter indicates whether people are in the habit of ignoring mail. As far as I can see, this mechanism isn’t exploitable.

      Even with the indicator, it’s obviously easily exploitable by women (or men pretending to be women), who merely have to click on each message without actually reading it or have a script do so for them. Then they can keep earning money, while never going on a date. The logical outcome is that if you do care about the financial exploitation of men, you will be in a permanent arms race with the creators of fake accounts.

      However, you seem to see financial exploitation of men as the goal of the system, so that suggests little motivation on your part to seriously combat abuse, as long as men are the victims. As some other people commented, you seem to primarily expect abuse by those who have to spend money against those who get the money, while system abusers typically target the money sources, not the money sinks.

      • Kyp says:

        I agree firmly with Aapje here. I was skeptical of the system when I began reading Vinay’s explanation, but upon finishing it, I’m left hoping that it doesn’t work. It seems to specifically want to see men exploited financially and spends an absurd amount of time talking about the safety of women without providing any evidence that women are being exploited by the traditional dating site system. And you can’t claim this is some sort of common knowledge thing, because many people would argue that the current world of dating sites gives women inordinate sexual power. I don’t have the source handy, but I recall a study about Tinder showing almost every female user surveyed had a successful sexual encounter as opposed to roughly a quarter of the males. I’m not trying to argue that getting laid is what every woman on Tinder wants first and foremost, but one certainly can’t argue that they have no power there.

        The reality is here, this system revolutionizes nothing, and it merely intensifies the weird and dehumanizing process of men begging desperately to even be acknowledged and women being so inundated with attention that they have to stop seeing their potential suitors as humans so that they can actually process the sheer volume. There is nothing noble in that, not a single thing. If you want to offer something to the world, develop a system that can reduce the amount of scrambling for attention that is necessary, so that people can get back to seeing each other as complete people, rather than as objects to be vied for or options to be mulled over.

        As is, your explanation has made your idea go from ‘hopeful but flawed’, to ‘cynical and exploitative’, and unless you can offer some reason why this is not the case, I can’t help but feel the world would be better off without another dating site that promises to change everything while merely escalating the status quo.

        • Vinay Gupta says:

          So remember we are not operating in a vacuum. Luna exists in a society which is already broken, and we cannot fix that society with a dating site.

          What Luna does is puts money on the table at the start of discussions. Back in the age when men paid for first dates, because they were doing the asking, and that’s just polite, women got a change to immediately assess financial security. If you’re going to the opera and then dinner at the Ritz, this guy has the potential to pay for your kids college educations. Particularly in countries without socialized medicine, the financial status of your partner can be a matter of life and death for your children. I see no reason women should not take this seriously if they want kids.

          Furthermore, women have basically half the fertility window of men, if not less, and they need to make effective decisions within that window if they want to reproduce. The earlier they can rule a man out as a person to have kids with on the basis of being unable to provide the kids with health insurance and college educations, the better. The last thing they want is to waste time with men that are ineligible to be fathers, because the biological clock is always ticking, and consciously or subconsciously, everyone knows this: hence the general male preference for younger women.

          Most of the messages on dating sites are ignored because they do not contain any signals relevant to the biological status of the person sending them. Men can see pictures of women and make an estimate of age and health. Women get messages which might contain a bit of information about a man’s mind, but nothing about social status, earning power, or any other signal about how he’s going to be able to handle the role of being a father. No wonder most of these messages are ignored: they contain very little actionable data about reproductive fitness.

          So my guess is that the main female users of Luna will be women that are serious about having kids, and want to remain in or rise to the social class where your kids have health insurance and college educations. These women are very poorly served by existing options, and maybe Luna fixes that.

          But I don’t think it’s going to wind up looking like Tinder-with-bucks. I think that’s the least likely outcome, because those kinds of “just click everything” behaviors will be extremely expensive with Luna. Men will have to think about where to spend their resources.

          I really think this is going to work, and it’s going to produce a less pathological dating environment for people who are looking for serious relationships leading to kids. It may be that I am being very naive, but that’s really how I think this is going to go.

          • Kyp says:

            I think my analysis may have been somewhat unfair because we appear to be focused on two different things. Insomuch as there is already a gender imbalance in the financial aspect of courtship, I agree that this is probably a lateral or better move because it makes the signaling process a little more direct.

            To me, the issue with dating sites has always been more about how the selection system and innate gender imbalance leads to an increasing disconnect between the two sides. It reminds me a lot of the experience of going to a pop culture convention and paying for an autograph from a celebrity. What should be a moment of connection between artist and audience is instead awkward, uncomfortable, and deeply dehumanizing on both sides. It makes one side a customer and the other a product. Most dating sites, in the same way, force men to scattershot in an attempt to maximize their chances, while also requiring women to not treat men as humans in order to realistically filter them out. And it removes the human complexity underneath. It’s like how managers needing to fire 200 people are encouraged to not think of them as individuals. It’s hard to willfully hurt all those people.

            Luna doesn’t resolve this problem at all, at least from where I’m sitting. It simplifies the transactions, but it doesn’t remove the transactional nature of the whole thing, and if I’m someone just looking for a genuine connection, I’m not really sure such a connection can make it through without being mangled. And I don’t think the existing system provides that already, as you say. I think traditional dating sites have done an almost unbelievably poor job of matching people who really have the strong potential for a connection in a way that is at all conducive to connection. So for me, when I hear that someone is offering something revolutionary and new, I want it resolve those problems in some way, and Luna doesn’t appear to do that.

            But, as I said, that’s not entirely fair of me, because it was never really claimed that it was for people like me. If the goal is merely to make the peacocking, prove-you-can-provide dance more straightforward and effective, then it’s pointless for me to pass any judgment, since it doesn’t apply to me. If it can reduce some of the human misery that is the primary product of the usual dating sites, then I hope it succeeds at that. It just doesn’t provide answers to the issues I’m concerned about (which is fine, of course).

          • Vinay Gupta says:

            @kyp the real driver here is that we’ve not really figured out a good equilibrium between men and women after the invention of birth control – the “casual sex” category didn’t really exist in a broad sense before birth control was invented, and we are still negotiating, as a society, how it all fits together with older institutions like marriage and the all-important deals around child rearing.

            In that chaos, making good decisions is hard. The media is invested in the myth this should all be easy. It isn’t.

          • Matt M says:

            Back in the age when men paid for first dates

            LOL if you think that’s not still happening. The man still pays for the first date. The woman may refuse this if and only if she is financially secure herself and wants to signal really hard “I am absolutely not sleeping with you.”

          • aNeopuritan says:

            “So my guess is that the main female users of Luna will be women that are serious about having kids”

            Older readers of SSC: have we ever been trolled better?

          • Deiseach says:

            I really think this is going to work, and it’s going to produce a less pathological dating environment for people who are looking for serious relationships leading to kids.

            That’s a lovely idea. Are you making it very, very clear that this is what Luna is all about? Because right now, all I’m seeing is “Dating site – WITH BLOCKCHAIN TECHNOLOGY ALL THE LATEST BUZZWORDS!” and not “Looking to get hitched to someone who won’t run off with the teenager next door once you’ve had the baby/isn’t a bunnyboiler? Try us!”

            Otherwise all you will get is the usual run of dating site applicants, maybe with a bit more money (or who like to think they’re smarter than the average bear, after all they know what “blockchain” means) and who will judge your site on “how many hot chicks agreed to meet up with me/how many of those put out after I bought them dinner”.

            Fair enough, saying you want to bring people together who will end up married/in stable long-term relationships and having kids would probably scare off investors because “Who does that whole married-with-kids and not fun-sex-dating thing except religious nutjobs? And who wants to run the risk of catching fundie cooties by associating with such a concept?”

            “So my guess is that the main female users of Luna will be women that are serious about having kids”

            Okay, doomed to extinction before it ever gets off the ground. That means women in their 30s at the minimum age and older, which is off-putting to guys except for those wanting to settle down, and the most desirable of those men probably want a woman in her 20s anyhow, which leaves the desperate and those who think “I have relatively much money” makes up for not having a personality or being tolerable to live with.

          • Deiseach says:

            If you’re going to the opera and then dinner at the Ritz, this guy has the potential to pay for your kids college educations.

            Kids cost a quarter of a million dollars each

            Going off on a tangent here, but this is what is making me laugh. Well, I suppose I’m seeing life from the other side now!

            However do poor people manage to have kids? I just can’t figure it out! The numbers are not making sense! 😀

            My parents had four of us, which would come to a million dollars/eight hundred thousand euro in these terms, and if I go by these mate selection criteria we should never have been born since nobody in my family (well, except for the rock star cousin) has ever seen anything approaching that kind of money even over the entirety of their working and earning lives.

            The problem here is that, according to all the studies, it’s the people with the money to “go to the opera and then dinner at the Ritz” who are not having kids, precisely because they believe all that “it costs a quarter of a mil to have a kid” and they prefer to spend that money on, well, going to the opera and dinner at the Ritz.

            If you are really serious about “we want to get people who want to marry and have kids together”, maybe cool it on the “it’s expensive to have kids. Horrendously expensive. GDP of a small country expensive. If you’re gonna have a kid, expect to never enjoy a crumb of pleasure ever again because you’ll be too busy spending every hour God sends earning money to spend on the kid and not yourself” stuff? Because that kind of message is more encouraging “Quick, I’m rushing out to have my tubes tied right now” than “Oooh, I want at least three kids, I don’t want ours to be an only child!” thinking.

            For what it’s worth, I’m seeing enough people around me having kids (and yes, even sending those kids to college) who are not spending that kind of money on them. Maybe your well-off nerds should lower their sights, or maybe if you have a life where your kid absolutely must go to a top-rank college and must get a job on Wall Street and the prospect “Your child will be able to afford a decent middle-class life in Wisconsin (but not Bay Area prices anywhere)” is a fate worse than death or whatever, then this kind of dating service will cater to them.

            But that’s a completely different demographic and one you will have to tailor your site towards and one, frankly, that will sell it on snob value (“we cater to the crème de la crème“) and not “Find true love and happiness here”, and okay, now I see where the blockchain malarkey comes in – it’s signalling to that market that “we’re not a run of the mill dating site for hoi polloi here”.

          • Anonymous Bosch says:

            What Luna does is puts money on the table at the start of discussions.

            Okay but this just changes the question from “how is this different from OKCupid” to “how is this different from SeekingArrangement”

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Deisach

            Kids cost more for the rich than the poor. At the extremes, a poor kid means the mother gets an extra welfare payment and more help from various do-gooder organizations. She doesn’t work so there’s no time issues, but she lets the TV babysit the kids or pawns them off on her good-for-nothing boyfriend or equally-poor friends/relatives or older kids when she wants to do something without them.

            The wealthy, on the other hand, have to have the Best Infant Care Ever. At least one of the couple is going to take off significant time from her (and yeah, it’ll usually be ‘her’) career. Babysitting from vetted agencies with impeccable credentials is ridiculously expensive; so is daycare when the kid is older. And then there’s the education treadmill, from the Best Pre School to the Best Kindergarten. For some it stops there but for others it goes to the Best Private Schools, which cost more than most colleges and last longer too.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Going off on a tangent here, but this is what is making me laugh. Well, I suppose I’m seeing life from the other side now!

            I’m also seeing this from the other side. Floor tickets to the Chicago Lyric Opera are $70/ticket. That’s $140/pair. A fancy dinner is easily $100/pair.

            A guy who regularly blows $250 on first dates is a guy who is either incredibly rich and leveraged up to the eyeballs. The second is more likely, and he will definitely NOT be able to afford your kid’s college education.

            My Dad picked up my Mom for their first date in a garbage truck. They afforded all of their kid’s college educations because they did NOT spend crazy amounts of money at the Lyrica Opera House and the Ritz.

          • Deiseach says:

            My Dad picked up my Mom for their first date in a garbage truck.

            Your parents went on dates? Luxury! 🙂

            My parents – I have no actual idea what they did, to be honest. My mother was always more sociable than my father, and any stories she told us about going to dances etc. when she was young never involved “and that’s how I met your father”.

            Pretty much seems to be he saw/met her, decided he wanted to marry her, and she accepted (and not her first choice, so far as I can tell; there was another guy she was interested in, but he never made an offer. From what my dad said – or didn’t say – my mother was about the only woman he’d ever been interested in). Both in their thirties when they got married; traditional rural Irish courtship all round, really.

          • No wonder most of these messages are ignored: they contain very little actionable data about reproductive fitness.

            That assumes that most of the women are only looking for long term relationships. I expect more women than men are, but I assumed that, in current culture, a substantial fraction of the women are also looking for hookups.

            For which reproductive fitness isn’t the relevant criterion.

          • My parents were in the same class in graduate school and alphabetic seating put them next to each other.

          • Lillian says:

            Both my parents worked for the same corporation in the same office building. Corporate policy at the time disallowed any romantic liasons between coworkers. They are both normally very scrupulous about following the rules, but not if they strongly disagree with the rule in question, and this was a particularly vigorous disagreement. Nonetheless they still were very careful to keep things professional at work and their relationship a secret.

            This lead to a funny conversation when my father was informed that he was going to be transferred to a different country. He was all like, “Erm, there may be a complication with respect to that.” And his boss was like, “Oh don’t worry about your girlfriend, we’ll find something for her to do down there too. That rule is on the way out anyway.” They got married shortly thereafter.

      • Vinay Gupta says:

        Kids cost a quarter of a million dollars each, and the majority of the crypto nerds who’ve made bank are otherwise pretty ordinary people – it’s like lottery winners, rather than (say) investment bankers – far less of a filter on who got rich. For women that want families, these two facts are not unrelated: you need to be in a position to raise kids with things like health insurance and college funds, and finding a crypto nerd who did OK is one way of getting that kind of preferred environment for your offspring. This is perfectly reasonable: life is hard, and money takes away some of the risks.

        These folks aren’t playboys or yacht inheritors. They’re a bunch of nerds with far, far more money than average nerds, and they’re staring at the world trying to figure out what to do next. One of those possible next steps is “find a nice girl, settle down, have some kids, maybe do a bit of coding on something, yeah.” I know several of these people. I am not one of them.

        For the guys in that demographic, Luna might be precisely what they need to move forwards in their lives by finding partners who are looking to settle down. That is where I expect to see most of the actual action on Luna: people looking to settle down and have kids.

        I don’t think for people looking for casual relationships and a chance to use wealth to show off Luna will work better than the regular dating ecosystem, which is basically designed to do exactly that, really really effectively.

        • Aapje says:

          So if I understand correctly, your assumption is that there are a bunch of nerds who right now are bad at signalling their ability to provide, because they aren’t materialist and not very extroverted. So they dress like slobs, drive a boring car and otherwise don’t signal their actual ability to provide in real life or in their online profiles, unlike Mr. BlingBling. You think that you can give them a better way of doing so, making sending messages costly and thus making those a signal of being a good provider. Perhaps you also simply want to price out poorer people, so that any man that uses your site proves a high ability to provide merely by being on Luna, rather than on another dating site.

          Is this correct?

          As I argued elsewhere, signalling provider status is not that easy, because it needs to be credible enough to be convincing, but also not too exploitable by women who take the money and run. Furthermore, it needs to be subtle enough that women can pretend that they aren’t as motivated by money as they actually are (and perhaps also so men can self-delude themselves that women want them more for their personality than is actually the case, but this seems less necessary).

          Your solution seems to be too exploitable, so I expect it to become a hive of crime and villainy, driving away many (and usually the most desirable) men. This then leaves a small population of really desperate men, who may often be that desperate because there is something wrong with them, which is not very pleasant for women.

          I also wonder if a population of nerds is desirable for a large enough group of women. If Luna gets the same reputation as the general stereotype of nerds, then it might not matter how desirable the men are on the axis of ability to provide, when very few women want a stereotypical nerd*. Even the women who are open to a more nerdy man might want to have a dating site with more diversity, even if it is just because nerds have low social status and they don’t want to be seen as having low standards.

          * This stereotype may substantially diverge from the actual average nerd and the actual nerds on Luna, but people judge Luna/nerds by their perception, not by the facts.

          • Vinay Gupta says:

            How would you do it?

            I don’t agree with all of your analysis – not at all – but I’d be interested to see how you think it *ought* to work to create a better dating environment.

          • Aapje says:

            You could give libido-reducing drugs to men or libido-boosters to women. I think that we actually only have usable libido-reducing drugs, so boosting libido is not an option. Reducing libido intentionally is also not a practical option, since that is bound to make men less happy, so they won’t play along (and it’s unethical).

            If your question is specifically about online dating, then you could try to aggressively push out people/men who are only interested in casual sex and people who have high standards. The problem is that I don’t know of a viable way to do so. It’s not like you can expect every date to end in a long term relationship or people not to want to have sex quickly even if they want a long term relationship.

            In general, the incentives seem to generally result in people who are interested in casual sex mingling with the people who seek long term relationships.

          • Deiseach says:

            You could give libido-reducing drugs to men or libido-boosters to women.

            How would that solve things? You make women desire sex as much as men, great, now they’re willing to have sex with a guy they would otherwise not have had sex with.

            So they sleep with him – fine, we’ve fucked, now get the hell out of here, I don’t want to ever see you again.

            Doesn’t solve the problem of relationships, unless we’re going to accept that what men on dating sites are looking for is casual sex partners, not dates or potential relationships. In which case we might as well cut out the middleman and say go hire a prostitute or escort, it’ll cost about the same and you get the guaranteed result of getting sex.

          • Matt M says:

            If casual sex was easier for men to get, they’d spend less time on “serious relationship” websites pretending to be interested in serious relationships (because that’s a reasonably efficient way of obtaining casual sex).

            Legalizing prostitution would also probably work, but society doesn’t seem too interested in that one.

          • Aapje says:

            @Deiseach

            Let’s talk about a simplified model of dating based on these assumptions:
            – People tend to only accept a person who is near the highest level of desirability that the person thinks is willing to reciprocate
            – There is reasonable agreement in aggregate on who is the most desirable (also because of social pressure)

            I believe that if these assumptions are roughly true, you get a hierarchy of desirability that is based on supply and demand. So if you would wave a magic wand and make every man twice as attractive, women would quickly increase their standards and no longer be willing to date the men that they currently accept.

            However, there are actually more or less two different kinds of dating, casual and long term (it is actually more complex, with lots of dating that is a bit of both, but this simplification is good enough). The kinds of dating have different measures of desirability, because people weigh traits differently for deciding who to have a one night stand (ONS) with and who to have a long term relationship (LTR) with. A beautiful person with a gambling addiction is much more desirable to have sex with than to be in relationship with, for example. So a person can be (much) more desirable in the ONS hierarchy than in the LTR hierarchy or vice versa. Furthermore, every person has only 1 ‘product’ to offer in the LTR market (being in a relationship with them), but many ‘products’ in the ONS market (every one night stand they want to have).

            So the LTR market mostly matches the number of men and women in the population, while the ONS market matches how much men and women want to have sex. If Bob wants to have a ONS 50 times a year, but Jane wants to have a ONS 5 times a year, then Bob supplies and demands 10 times as much as Jane. So the greater interest of men in ONS means that there is a surplus of men in the ONS market, but no such surplus in the LTR market.

            The logical consequence is then that the average man has far less ONS desirability than LTR desirability, while the opposite is true for the average woman. This means that men are going to be willing to (pursue to) have sex with a woman that they wouldn’t consider as a LTR partner.

            On a dating site, we can expect that women get two kinds of messages: offers for ONS and offers for LTR. The ONS offers are then going to be from men with far higher LTR desirability than the actual LTR offers. I believe that this tends to really mess up dating, because women aren’t able to distinguish these, for reasons that I will discuss in a follow up comment.

            A young woman then logically thinks that these high LTR men are in her LTR league and tries to pursue them for a LTR, while she ignores the low LTR men, who are actually the only ones she has a good chance with. So she mostly ends up going on dates with men who just want sex or casual relationships, not the men that are the best LTR prospects for her. Those men don’t get a chance (at least not until the woman figures out that she needs to adjust her expectations and go out with the men with lower LTR desirability).

            Of course, the above is about group-level patterns and not true for every individual.

          • Aapje says:

            So why are women often unable to distinguish between ONS and LTR messages?

            The answer is that men who want ONS often pretend to be interested in LTR, because that strategy is far more likely to get women to be willing to have sex.

            The reason is that male and female sexuality differs on average. Studies have shown that men are more likely to get horny for no real reason. So then they tend to try to create an erotic situation (where they typically prefer to get to the actual sex as soon as possible). Women are more likely to get horny in response to being in a situation that gradually becomes more erotic*.

            So this means that men can regularly get women to be willing to have sex by figuring out a way to meet a woman who thinks that the man is fairly attractive and then gradually making the situation more erotic, which might then arouse the woman. So this makes it a logical strategy for men who want ONS.

            PS. Did I just reinforce your disgust of human sexuality, Deiseach?

            * I think that this also explains why men are far greater consumers of porn and women of erotic fiction, because the former is more suited to get a horny person ‘off,’ while the latter is more suited to create arousal gradually.

          • Deiseach says:

            Aapje, not disgusted, just glad I never had any interest in the entire mess 🙂

            Also I don’t think horny men are as capable of that kind of planning you describe; a Don Juan type who has seduction down to a routine and is interested in women mainly as notches on the bedpost and not in fulfilling any particular desire, sure, but an average guy who just wants to get some? “I bought you a bunch of cheap roses, now SLEEP WITH ME” is as ‘creating an erotic situation’ as it often gets!

            Going by hearing conversations back in my younger days, and overhearing what The Young People of my country are still talking about re: sex and romance, it’s pretty much as it always was – Ogden Nash’s “Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker”.

          • INH5 says:

            If casual sex was easier for men to get, they’d spend less time on “serious relationship” websites pretending to be interested in serious relationships (because that’s a reasonably efficient way of obtaining casual sex).

            Legalizing prostitution would also probably work, but society doesn’t seem too interested in that one.

            Prostitution is already legal or decriminalized (that is, exchanging sex for money in private is not illegal, though related activities such as soliciting in public or running a brothel may be) in a fair number of countries, including New Zealand, Australia, all of the UK except Northern Ireland, most of Continental Europe, Mexico, and anywhere else on this map that is either green (legalized) or blue (decriminalized).

            I would welcome testimony from anybody who happens to live in those countries (or in places near enough to those countries that day trips are possible, such as the San Diego metro area) on how dating sites work over there.

          • Aapje says:

            @Deiseach

            I left booze out of my model, but that does indeed change the rules of the game, changing it to a far easier difficulty.

            As for horny men being unable to plan, I would argue that you have a more long term horniness, which if anything makes it easier to focus very hard on creating a plan & a stronger, more short-term kind of horny, which makes people stupid.

      • Deiseach says:

        The recent survey we did showed that it is even a very small percentage of the people/men here, let alone the average man.

        From what I’m reading on various reddits, there are a whole heap of people who have lost their shirts over cryptocurrencies, especially the scams/ponzi schemes that came out of the woodwork when Bitcoin was all over the news in the recent past. I don’t know if I believe all of them, but if they’re true, there is one guy (for instance) who took out a business loan of $500,000 and put it in some exchange which has now folded its tent and stolen into the night, and he’s panicking over losing his business, how does he tell his wife and family, what does he do, is there any way he can get the money back?

        People who made money out of it are professional investors or guys who are amateurs but put enough study into it and have enough experience already investing in the stock market to know when to cash in their chips, which was before all the recent panics and crashes and bounces and skeezy operators promising riches to the pigeons.

        • Aapje says:

          Perhaps we can set up a dating site where women pay men who have lost a lot of money to cryptocurrencies 😛

        • Vinay Gupta says:

          The people who made money are mostly people who heard about it in 2012 and put in two thousand dollars on a whim, in my experience.

      • fortaleza84 says:

        What percentage of men actually make or made decent money off blockchain?

        I would also be interested to know the male/female percentage among people who LOST decent money off block chain. I’m pretty confident it’s 99% men.

        Just a pet peeve of mine: Our gynocentric system focuses on the advantages enjoyed by some men but almost completely ignores the disadvantages. For every Mark Zuckerberg who makes billions, there are probably hundreds of people (mostly men) who work night and day for the best years of their lives and have nothing to show for it.

        That said, I seriously doubt that this Gupta character seriously believes the feminist nonsense he is spouting; he just knows that it’s a good way to get attention from the (gynocentric) media. If I were selling snake oil, I would be sure to emphasize how great it is in dealing with breast cancer.

        And I doubt Luna would ever work. There’s already a big problem with scammers posing as girls online. This platform would seem to give them open season.

        • Vinay Gupta says:

          It’s not gynocentric: it’s child-centric. Everybody whines like hell that we’ve structured things around other people: the women say it’s about the men, the men say it’s about the women, the old say it’s about the young, the young say it’s about the old, and EVERYBODY conspires to ignore the fact that as soon as somebody puts a baby in the room, time stops.

          It’s *all* about the babies, and very young children. We protect them instinctively, for obvious reasons, and we structure society to support them, again for very obvious reasons, and everybody (at the end of the day) colludes to serve this agenda.

          Except landlords.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            It’s not gynocentric: it’s child-centric.

            To the extent that women are better thought of as children, I would agree with you.

            Anyway, here is an experiment you can do: Do a news article search and see how many articles there are on the wage gap between men and women. Then do the same thing for the workplace fatality gap.

            In fact, I defy you to name 2 things where (1) women enjoy an advantage over men; and (2) the gap is seen by society as a problem that needs to be corrected.

            the women say it’s about the men

            They may say that but they are wrong.

            Let me ask you this: Do you agree that most of the money that has been lost by people in blockchain investments has been lost by men?

          • Vinay Gupta says:

            @fortaleza84 Yeah, I understand that position: glass basement is the term, isn’t it? This is not news to me. Neither is the far more important fact that there’s more male rape in America than female rape according to some estimates, and the male rape is largely happening in state run institutions like prisons. That is absolutely true, and not much discussed.

            But none of that has a damn thing to do with dating culture, where the main risk is that women get raped. That’s the real damage a date can do: the rest is just disappointment.

          • Aapje says:

            @Vinay Gupta

            Most definitions of rape don’t call it rape when a man has p-in-v sex against his will, because the definitions only count being penetrated as rape, not being forced to penetrate.

            By those definitions, men of course run very little risk to be raped by women, when dating or otherwise, because women don’t have the anatomy to penetrate a man with their genitals.

            However, I do consider being forced to penetrate to be rape, because not doing so seems to be sexist to me. As a proponent of gender equality where possible, I believe that definitions should generally be gender-neutral. P-in-v is really the exact same event as v-around-p, as both are coitus, it’s merely the perspective that is different.

            The CDC has started collecting the ‘forced to penetrate’ statistics some time ago in their victim surveys and most reports since found that the number of men who reported being forced to penetrate in the preceding year were equal to the number of women who were raped in the preceding year.

            The perpetrators that force men to penetrate are women in about 70% of the cases, while the perpetrators that rape women are almost 100% men. So while women seem to be less of a threat to men than men to women, they are far from harmless.

            It also suggests that men are also at risk for sexual violence by the women they date, not just the other way around.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Vinay Gupta

            I may be missing something, or I may be misreading you. Are you saying that the setup in this thing is going to make women safer in that regard?

          • Vinay Gupta says:

            @dndnrsn I don’t know how to achieve that. I would if I could.

          • dndnrsn says:

            OK, I just misunderstood what you were saying then.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            Yeah, I understand that position: glass basement is the term, isn’t it?

            I have no idea. But it sounds like you are conceding that Western Culture is in fact gynocentric.

            But none of that has a damn thing to do with dating culture, where the main risk is that women get raped

            I’m not sure I agree with that. Rape is surely one risk, but there are also risks of robbery; murder; blackmail; sexually transmitted diseases; false rape accusations; spermjacking; etc. Some of these things are worse than others obviously, but if you focus on one evil to the exclusion of all others, it’s not good IMO.

            But my main question why are you even bringing it up? It’s not as though your site would reduce the risk of rape in any way. Looks to me like you are again waving the flag of feminism to help shill your wares.

    • Memetic Scoville Scale says:

      wait, wait, wait. women not getting enough money isn’t about money, it’s about power. you’re setting up a system where you redistribute wealth from men to women, yes, but that wealth is only redistributed to the women who best conform to male expectations and desires. what message do you think this sends? “your value comes from the way that men perceive you.” THIS. SOLVES. NOTHING.

      • Vinay Gupta says:

        In the case of crypto, I’d argue that most of the people in crypto that made a lot of money were simply lucky – they got the news early, and listened. The getting the news is random, the listening has an element of skill.

        For the rest of society, your analysis is probably accurate. But this is lottery wins.

        • Aapje says:

          Lots of those ‘lottery wins’ are actually merely virtual profits that only exist on paper. If bitcoin/cryptocoins are a bubble and if it bursts, then much of those profits may be wiped.

          • aNeopuritan says:

            And one of the bitcoin subreddits had a suicide hotline number. Remember: women are the main victims of war.

          • Lambert says:

            If they cash out now, they can make bank, right?

          • Aapje says:

            @Lambert

            Cashing out means selling the bitcoin at a high price to another person, so that person is then left holding the bag, if the value of bitcoin crashes through the floor.

            All the air in an investment bubble is money that has been put into the bubble by a person and that will be lost by a person when the bubble deflates. Investors as a group cannot become richer by way of an investment bubble, all the profit that is made due to the bubble will evaporate one day, because there is no actual value being produced. However, it is possible for one person to win a lot and a different person to lose a lot.

        • Memetic Scoville Scale says:

          Sorry, I was unclear. The problem isn’t that powerful men got rich off crypto. It’s that the men (previously powerful or not) who are now randomly rich have power disproportionate to women who didn’t get rich, no? This is why you came up with the idea, right?

          Based on your comments above, I’m assuming that you actually, genuinely want to help women. Luna will not help women, not ever, from a power perspective it is the equivalent of telling a woman that she has to show some leg for the boss if she wants to get a promotion and it runs counter to every tenet of female empowerment there is.

          Luna: “Women should get crypto-rich too, but only the hot women, and only by attending to the whims of men.”

      • fortaleza84 says:

        Well it’s the classic story: Men get money by taking risks; women sharing in that money by providing sexual/romantic services to those men. Which is not inherently immoral, but it’s funny to sell it as feminism. (But only a little funny, because feminists have never shied away from their traditional role when it served their perceived self-interests to do so.)

        • Aapje says:

          @fortaleza84

          Feminism as a movement hasn’t really confronted the issue that fighting for gender equality and fighting for a better life for women are not the same thing. This is rather strange, since commonly accepted feminist theory has such concepts as benevolent sexism, which is a claim that men do things for women. So then logically more gender equality requires that women refuse to take advantage of benevolent sexism, while they at the same time demand an end to hostile sexism.

          Instead, what we commonly see that there is a narrative that women are extremely oppressed and thus cannot afford to lose their privileges. The claimed extreme oppression is very doubtful, as it is supported by cherry picking, denying male disprivilege, biased (non)science, etc. Furthermore, whenever a claimed example of horrible oppression is changed or even reversed so men do worse on a metric, we simply see the narrative shift to new examples of horrible oppression, that somehow were not bad enough to even notice before (like manspreading). So from my perspective, the movement is mostly an advocacy movement for women’s interests, gender equality be damned.

          An advocacy movement for women’s interests with little concern for equality is obviously going to demand more benevolent sexism and the other unequal aspects of the gender roles that benefit women. So it will be partially traditionalist.

          I think that the reason why feminism can’t pull themselves out of this is because any movement that is only willing to address one side of the issue, based on the claim that it is worse, will inevitably lose support by those who (also) want to address the other side and will attract and put into power very biased people who only want to address one side of the issue.

          So the ship can never right itself, because it is like a ship with loose cargo. Once you have a decent tilt, the cargo will move to one side and all is lost.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            I agree with you 99%, but to the extent you are suggesting that feminism was once a noble or principled movement which subsequently was corrupted or went of the rails, I would have to disagree.

            I think that for the most part, political ideologies are unprincipled intellectual window dressing for the raw emotions of greed and envy: More power, treasure, status and territory for the in-group; less for the out-group.

            I think this is especially true for feminism, since (1) women tend to be emotional thinkers; and (2) men have been taking special care of women for so long that at this point, it’s probably part of the human DNA.

            Was there ever a time when prominent feminists seriously agitated for women to be conscripted and sent to die in trenches?

          • Aapje says:

            Even at the beginning of the movement it seems that the bias was already there and quite strongly. However, back then the low hanging fruit was truly hanging quite low, so at least they were pushing society in the right direction, for the most part.

          • Hyzenthlay says:

            So from my perspective, the movement is mostly an advocacy movement for women’s interests, gender equality be damned.

            I wouldn’t mind that so much if they were open about it. Ideologies promoting the interests of a specific demographic have their place. They’re kind of like lawyers for that group. Of course lawyers are not about objective truth or broad, abstract ideals like equality, they’re about protecting the rights of their client, and everyone makes jokes about how slimy lawyers are…but when you need one, it’s a different story.

            What bothers me about feminism and feminist theory (as opposed to women’s advocacy) is their insistence that they’re purely about equality and that being a feminist is just synonymous with being a good person and believing that women are human beings, etc. It’s obvious at a glance that that’s not true and that the patriarchy narrative is (at best) simplistic and incomplete, and yet I’m continually amazed by how many intelligent people of both genders appear to earnestly swallow these lines and to continue repeating the talking points.

            If you push them, they will acknowledge that, yes, there are some social problems that disproportionately affect men and some ways in which being a man is really not a benefit, but that usually gets swept under the rug with a phrase like “patriarchy hurts men too,” with the implication that once feminists are in control they’ll get around to fixing all that stuff…though, in practice, they show no inclination of wanting to actually address or even talk about any of those issues. And bringing them up in feminist circles tends to lead to cries of “derailment!”

            It could be that people are just hardwired on some level to see women as weak and in need of protection, but also want to believe in equality, so they do mental backflips to try to resolve the cognitive dissonance, and the mental backflips take the form of this sinister Original Sin type bogeyman known as the Patriarchy. More and more, these days, feminism takes the form of stripping any sense of agency and moral responsibility away from women and saying that it’s men’s job to protect them from other men. The recent NYT article “Why Is Fixing Sexism Women’s Work?” is a prime example of that. It’s just a reversion back to old patriarchal roles with a coat of feminist paint slapped on top.

            Feminist sexual ethics, as well, feel increasingly Victorian, with a focus on the idea that women are easily traumatized by sex and therefore, for their emotional well-being, all sexual contact needs to take place within a strict set of constraints. They might not exactly phrase it that way, but…I’m thinking of the recent Aziz Ansari scandal where he pressured his date for sex and she accused him of ignoring her signals. Some women responded (sensibly enough) with, “If she was uncomfortable with the situation, why didn’t she just get up and leave?” And of course the feminist response was, “Don’t you realize that women are terrified of men? How was she to know that he wouldn’t murder her on the spot if she refused? And anyway women are socialized not to voice their real preferences. It was his job to realize she was uncomfortable and stop, because as the man, he was the one with power and with power comes responsibility.” These are feminists saying these things, promoting the idea of women as weak, helpless beings, unable to voice or even understand their own wants, who are paralyzed with fear at the slightest sign of disapproval from a man. It’s surreal. I guess not so surprising, though, because beneath the thin veneer of female empowerment, feminism–or at least the dominant form of it–has always been about entrenching the idea of women as entirely passive entities who cannot possibly act or decide or change anything, but only “be heard” (and then of course it is men’s job to do the listening and perform the necessary changes on their behalf).

            I do want to believe that a true egalitarian society is possible, but I’ve long since stopped believing that feminists are actually advocating for that, even if they think they are. It’s kind of depressing; it feels like we’re just going in circles, as a society.

            This is a pretty long derail, I realize, but this stuff has been on my mind more often than usual lately with the whole #MeToo thing.

          • Lillian says:

            Was there ever a time when prominent feminists seriously agitated for women to be conscripted and sent to die in trenches?

            This is the kind of question that carries a high risk of devolving into an argument over what qualifies as “prominent” and “seriously” but the position of the National Organization of Women is and has been precisely that. Here is an issue advisory on the subject from a year and a half ago. Among other things, the advisory mentions that one of the strongest points of opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment was that it would have subjected women to the draft. As far as NOW is concerned that was a feature, not a bug. Here is a New York Times article from 1981 on the subject, with the President of NOW coming out in favour of the draft applying to women.

            In the interests of full disclosure, however, the case the NYT article references, Rostker v. Goldberg was pressed by an anti-war group on behalf of male students. Presumably their gamble was that if the courts ruled in their favour, Congress would not have the guts to reinstate draft registration. On that, i believe, they were wrong, since a large number of legislators were on board with the idea. Indeed Jimmy Carter’s original recommendation was to include everyone in the register, but after a lengthy floor debate Congress only approved the funds to register men.

            Personally, my position is that the draft was abolished in 1973, and its replacement, the Selective Service, is a useless waste of time and administrative overhead. Its only real purpose is to allow us to pretend we didn’t really abolish the draft. That is literally why it was created, as a fig leaf for people who had some kind of moral objection to abolishing the draft, so that we could still have the draft in principle if not practice. So as far as i’m concerned the right thing to do is not to require that women sign up for the Selective Service, bur rather to abolish it entirely.

          • Matt M says:

            Has NOW taken a position on the military having significantly lower physical readiness standards for women than for men?

          • Lillian says:

            No position on the subject to the best of my knowledge. It would not surprise me to find that they have not addressed or acknowledged it in any way whatsoever. However, they do tend to choose language that minimizes the magnitude of physical differences between men and women. Just look at the opening sentence of the advisory, “The role of women in the military has long been a contentious issue, one plagued by sexist notions that devalue women’s physical abilities and emotional maturity.”

            As it happens, my position is that i am in favour of the military having two sets of physical fitness standards, but not the current ones. Instead of dividing by gender, we instead divide by role. A more stringent set of standards for combat roles, and a lesser set for support rules. If that means that most women in the military are only qualified for support roles… *shrug*

            The upside is women who do qualify for combat roles can claim that they are there on their own merits, and not because the bar was lowered for them.

          • Nornagest says:

            The distinction between combat and support roles has eroded somewhat over the last fifteen years. Certainly you’re more likely to get shot at as infantry or armor, but the wars we fight now are fought against diffuse threats, often with no real front line; it’s more than possible for roles who would have been in little real danger in WWII or Korea or even Vietnam to come into contact with the enemy. The most famous casualties of the Battle of Nasiriyah came from the 507th Maintenance Company, a support unit attached to an artillery brigade.

            On the other hand, that might be more of an argument for keeping up standards in marksmanship and weapons qualification for those roles than for physical fitness. We still don’t expect them to often be in extended combat situations, and they probably aren’t going to be humping sixty pounds of gear twenty miles and fighting a battle at the end of it.

          • Lillian says:

            As you say, even accounting for the realities of asymmetrical warfare, our support personnel still have lower practical physical requirements than our combat personnel. More importantly though, we already have two standards, one male and one female. It is not possible to institute a single standard that will both give us quality infantrymen and a military that is more than like 1-5% female. This would present not just an intractable political problem, but also a considerable practical problem. The modern military will simply not function if deprived of its female personnel, who account for more than fifth of total manpower, and it’s not clear to me that men can be found to replace them.

            (Random aside, for some reason the Marines were really interested in convincing me to sign up when i was in High School. Wonder if they have a female recruit quota?)

            So given that two standards already exist, and that nearly all those subject to the second standard are support personnel, it seems to me like it would be both more practical and honest to institute combat and support standards rather than male and female ones. This is particularly important now that we are allowing women into combat roles, since i believe it’s important for unit performance, morale, and cohesion that everyone at the pointy end of the spear to have met the same minimum requirements. Additionally i do think it’s not just sensible but also politically feasable. The military could announce to great fanfare that they are eliminating sex-differentiated standards on the grounds that they are sexist.

          • Aapje says:

            @Lilian

            The only justification for physical fitness standards is that the job requires it, in the first place. So having specific requirements for various jobs in the military makes way more sense than having exceptions for some groups.

            Having different requirements by gender is actually very discriminatory, because it means that support jobs are less accessible for less physically fit men, while women with equally mediocre fitness get accepted.

            I’ve read various reports by the US military that already suggested to have more specific standards for each role, not just because of the gender issue, but also because the current male standards are actually insufficient for combat troops. A lot of male combat troops get pushed beyond their physical ability, causing all kinds of injuries.

            The current male physical fitness standards are already a compromise between the requirements necessary for combat troops and those of other military roles.

            @Nornagest

            The physical requirement of combat troops are not because of the demands of firefights, but because combat troops have to carry enormous amounts of equipment towards battle, on their body, over uneven terrain. It’s typical that they stash a lot of equipment in a support position, before they actually engage the enemy.

            Support troops typically travel around near the combat zones by vehicle, over roads. So they don’t have to carry their equipment, but have vehicles do it.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            However, back then the low hanging fruit was truly hanging quite low, so at least they were pushing society in the right direction, for the most part.

            Even that I am skeptical of. In the 19th century, life, on average, men bore a lot of special burdens and I doubt that life was worse, on average, for women.

            I’m pretty confident that if you looked back carefully, it would be the same old story: Women focusing primarily on men at the top and coveting the advantages those men enjoyed while ignoring the disadvantages endured by men at the bottom.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            This is the kind of question that carries a high risk of devolving into an argument over what qualifies as “prominent” and “seriously” but the position of the National Organization of Women is and has been precisely that.

            According to Wikipedia, NOW was founded in 1966. I happen to recall that in the United States, conscription ended in 1973. Which means that NOW had 7 years to demand that women be drafted.

            If you can show me that NOW made such a demand between 1966 and 1973, my respect for feminists will increase by a couple notches. To be sure, that’s like the temperature rising from 273 below to 271 below, but it’s something.

          • Lillian says:

            No dice there, from their own website: “1980 NOW announces opposition to the draft, but states that if there is a draft, NOW supports the inclusion of women on the same basis as men.”

            It should be noted however that at the time it was a real possibility that the draft would be brought back in response to Society aggression in Afghanistan. They compromised on draft registration instead, but there was lengthy debate in the halls of Congress over whether to include women in the registry, which would have meant a serious commitment to also include women in any future draft. Indeed President Caster originally recommended that be the case, but in the end Congress only approved the funds to register men.

            In the ’66-‘ 73 period
            it is very likely that if NOW had any position on the matter it was that the draft be abolished and the US pull out of Vietnam. Feminist organisations generally tend to be anti-war.

            Might be worth one notch, but not two.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            It should be noted however that at the time it was a real possibility that the draft would be brought back in response to Society aggression in Afghanistan.

            Was there even a draft bill voted on in Congress?

            In the ’66-‘ 73 period
            it is very likely that if NOW had any position on the matter it was that the draft be abolished and the US pull out of Vietnam. Feminist organisations generally tend to be anti-war.

            That’s convenient. But perhaps it’s just a coincidence?

            Might be worth one notch, but not two.

            Not really. My question was whether there was ever a time when prominent feminists seriously agitated for women to be conscripted and sent to die in trenches. It seems the best anyone can do is point to hypothetical statements made after conscription ended when there was no serious risk of it being re-established.

            Moreover, we’re getting a bit off-topic since I was talking about the early days of feminism. It seems pretty clear that modern feminism is entirely self-interested and one-sided, motivated by greed and envy rather than a principled demand for equality. Do any modern feminists demand that the workplace fatality gap be closed?

          • Lillian says:

            Yeah there’s no such thing as a non-self interested political movement. This is why one should always be suspicious of any group which purports to be advocating on behalf of another. This is not to say that political movements are incapable of forming alliances, finding common ground, or even standing up for others on principle. Just that they are they inherently not inclined to do so, so one should never just take them at their word when they claim that this is what they’re doing.

            As for early feminism, while it had its good points, it also had a real bad habit of placing the interests of middle class women over those of working class and poor women, and those of native-born white women over those of black and immigrant women. They were also a major force in the social purity movement that gave us laws against alcohol, drugs, gambling, and prostitution. So in some ways first wave feminism improved individual liberty (giving women the vote), but in other ways it harmed it (most everything else).

          • Aapje says:

            @Lillian

            Yeah, I think that lower and lower middle class women were quite aware that their male compatriots had it rough.

            It’s rather funny, because it’s far more accurate to say that the early feminists wanted to be ‘oppressors’ just like their upper middle and upper class men, than that it was a liberation movement for the truly downtrodden.

            Of course, it is relatively to pretend that this wasn’t the case, but the lack of black women in feminist leadership in the past and today is far move evident & it really undermines ‘the narrative.’

          • baconbits9 says:

            Not really. My question was whether there was ever a time when prominent feminists seriously agitated for women to be conscripted and sent to die in trenches.

            A feminist who is agitating for the end of the draft when men are the only ones being drafted is agitating for men’s rights, or for equality of men and women by improving outcomes for men. At the very least agitating against the draft is a serious notch in a feminists belt during that time in terms of supporting ‘real’ equality.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            A feminist who is agitating for the end of the draft when men are the only ones being drafted is agitating for men’s rights

            I agree. Did Western feminists do such a thing during either world war?

          • Aapje says:

            @fortaleza84

            During both wars there was great nationalist fervor which would have made such a thing extremely foolish. For example, during WW I, the US had the infamous ‘shouting fire in a crowded theater’ supreme court ruling. The ruling was actually that distributing fliers urging men to resist the draft was inciting them to commit a crime and not legal, as obstructing the draft was a crime under the Espionage Act.

            In Britain there was no draft at the beginning of WW I and some prominent feminists shamed men into signing up as part of the White Feather campaign. It was so successful that they had to give badges to public servants and men in essential occupations; as well as those who were honorably discharged due to wounds or sickness.

            Doing this was unnecessary and much more objectionable than just not opposing a gendered draft.

            In general, I think that the issue is that momentum is never there:
            – When the war has big popular support (among the left), people don’t want to agitate, but to support the war effort (which women were always able to do in different, safer ways).
            – When the war has strong opposition (among the left), people just want the war to stop.
            – When there is no war, people have different priorities.

            Also, America is America, so nothing happens politically without heavy lobbying. In The Netherlands, the current government announced that they will write a law to make the draft gender-neutral, despite a lack of lobbying.

            PS. It is quite plausible that a future challenge of the male-only draft will be ruled unconstitutional, because it was upheld in the past based on the argument that because women were excluded from combat, the draft for women would not result in equality anyway. However, now that women can serve in combat, this argument has been invalidated.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            During both wars there was great nationalist fervor which would have made such a thing extremely foolish

            I think that “extremely foolish” is an overstatement. Putting aside flyering, demonstrating, etc., if prominent feminists had signed a mildly worded petition stating that the wars should be prosecuted without mandatory military service, none of them would have been thrown in jail for it, none of them would have been lynched for it, nothing terrible would have happened to them.

            To be sure, making such a statement would have undermined the feminists’ standing with the general public, but that’s the whole point. As far as I can tell, feminists NEVER stick their necks out for men and NEVER advocate for men except when it’s extremely convenient and serves their perceived self-interests. This is just as true in 2017 as it was in 1917 as far as I can tell.

          • Lillian says:

            A number of American women were prosecuted under the Espionage and Sedition Acts during the Wilson administration for opposing the draft and/or the war, but as far as i can tell they were all socialists and anarchists. So it seems like on the one hand feminists did have reason to fear that speaking out would have resulted in negative consequences, but on the other hand this didn’t stop the socialists and anarchists from doing it anyway.

            An interesting case here is the medical doctor Marie Equi. In modern accounts she often times called a feminists or even a radical feminist, due to her open lesbianism and advocacy for birth control and sex education. However she was not in fact actually associated with the feminist movement, instead being a member of the Industrial Workers of the World. So here we have a case of someone you could say is a feminist in the advocating for women’s rights sense, but wasn’t in the being an actual member of the movement sense. It’s interesting because unlike most of the actual feminists, she did openly oppose the war, and she also marched and agitated in favour of the rights of male workers.

            It seems to me at in the early 20th century you basically had two kinds of women’s rights advocacy. One group were the feminists, who were primary interested in women’s rights – mostly middle class women’s rights at that – and social purity. The other group were the socialists and anarchists, who also advocated for women’s rights, but in the context of labour and working class rights in general. Modern discourse is likely to lump all women’s rights advocacy under the label feminism, but that does not seem to be accurate for the period, or indeed the modern day.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            I’d really like to see evidence that a mildly worded petition would get someone prosecuted in the US or Britain during World War I.

            To the extent you are making the claim, I will concede that if you widen the definition of “feminist” to any woman who takes on a traditionally male job; and widen the definition of “male advocacy” to any cause which would benefit men if adopted, then yeah, sometimes feminists stick their necks out for male advocacy.

          • Aapje says:

            @Lillian

            Good point. I think that a lot of advocacy for men in general is and was done as part of movements that are and/or claim to be about a more specific issue like improving the situation of workers. BLM can also be argued to be like that.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I’d really like to see evidence that a mildly worded petition would get someone prosecuted in the US or Britain during World War I.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schenck_v._United_States, which Aapje talked about, has this nice section:

            . In the first case arising from this campaign to come before the Court, Baltzer v. United States, the defendants had signed a petition criticizing their governor’s administration of the draft, threatening him with defeat at the polls. They were charged with obstructing the recruitment and enlistment service, and convicted.

            That’s not exactly at World War I, but it’s within the 20 years prior, and there’s no sign that the US became suddenly more tolerant of minority viewpoints when the fighting started.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            this nice section:

            That’s interesting; but I’m kind of skeptical of a second or third-hand account of the facts. In my experience, people spin like crazy when they are describing a legal dispute. I’d like to see a link to the actual facts in this Baltzer case.

            In the Schenk case, we are told specifically what was done. The Defendants had sent out flyers and mailings which specifically and explicitly “urged men not to comply with the draft”

            That’s very different from a mildly worded petition.

  34. rlms says:

    Some sort of (semi)-decentralised dating site (anonymise data, let anyone come up with an algorithm to match people) would be pretty cool. But this isn’t one as far as I can tell: it’s just using a blockchain for the marketing value.

  35. Andre Ornish says:

    Possessed baby here,

    Thanks for the post. My teammates Aella & Vinay have already commented addressing many of the points raised above.

    Also, if any slatestar readers are in New York (or Seoul for the next two weeks), we’ll be hosting a series of small events and would love to connect. Reach out to Aella or myself (firstname)@meetluna.com

    P.S. We’re hiring!

    cura ut valeas,
    Andre

  36. Nornagest says:

    Blockchain is good when you need to coordinate on not just the state but also the the history of a database, across an arbitrary number of equally privileged nodes, and ideally when whatever you’re coordinating on is important enough that you need to back it up with weapons-grade cryptography.

    That turns out to happen in more cases than you’d think, but this matches zero of those criteria. Mainly because of its centralization: it’s possible to imagine a distributed matching algorithm where blockchain was actually useful, but as far as I can tell this is just as centralized as Tinder or OKCupid. It’s a buzzword.

    • Iain says:

      Adding to this: using a blockchain isn’t free. Bitcoin can push through roughly 4 transactions per second. To support this, bitcoin miners calculate nearly 20 trillion SHA-256 hashes per second, using as much electricity as the entire country of New Zealand. If all you need is a database, you don’t need it to be distributed, and you’re willing to trust a third party, you could get better performance at a hilariously tiny fraction of the price by running MySQL on a laptop. The fact that Luna will be doing (presumably centralized) user verification is pretty strong evidence that decentralization and trustlessness are not requirements.

      Blockchain is a useful tool that can solve real problems, but very few problems are best solved using blockchain, and I see no reason to believe that online dating is one of them.

  37. eqdw says:

    A while back I wrote a comment on a now-deleted Reddit account where I laid out my three mechanisms to make online dating not suck. They were, approximately:

    1) Emphasize qualitative search over quantitative
    People tend not to know themselves terribly well, and the best match algorithm will still be garbage-in-garbage-out. ISTM in practice that match% is just a shitty proxy over identifying who is in your tribe, so why not cut out the middle man? Stop searching for >90% matches and start searching for (eg) college grads, small business owners, fetishists, trumpet-players, whatever.

    2) Aggressively funnel interactions to offline
    A large majority of compatibility is just chemistry, and you can’t tell this online. Save everyones’ time and just meet IRL already.

    3) Charge money to send messages, as a way to cut down on spam and encourage higher-quality messages.
    This appears to be the core value proposition of Luna.

    Consequently I am very hopeful that Luna succeeds.

    I still don’t understand why they need a blockchain, though, and I suspect it’s entirely branding.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      I honestly don’t see the value proposition due to #3. Maybe if #1 was possible, but I don’t see how that can possibly work: l’homme propose, la femme dispose. C’est la vie.

      From the male perspective, I am going from messaging 100 women and getting 10 responses to messaging, like, 20 women, and getting 5 responses. That’s a huge % increase! Except I am actually getting half the responses, and I am paying $20 for the privilege, and I’m probably just going to have to do it again next week.

      I don’t think online dating is a good deal for guys even if it is free. Hell, I don’t think online dating is a good deal for guys even if you got PAID to do it. You are burning time that you can put to use more productively, like increasing your attractiveness so you can more easily date people in more traditional ways.

      • Hyzenthlay says:

        I don’t think online dating is a good deal for guys even if it is free. Hell, I don’t think online dating is a good deal for guys even if you got PAID to do it.

        They’re probably not the best option for everyone, but people do meet each other and form long-term relationships via dating sites, or just online avenues in general.

        I met my partner through an online personals ad. I have a friend who met her husband through an MMPORPG. Pretty much everyone I know who has a partner met them through some kind of internet-based thing.

        I mean, pretty much everyone I know is a highly introverted nerd so it’s probably a biased sample, but I think the traditional dating avenues of “asking a random coworker/classmate/whatever out for coffee” are overrated and something I generally avoided.

        But, yeah, the whole “pay more to get your message to the top of the pile” thing feels kinda scammy to me.

        • Matt M says:

          but I think the traditional dating avenues of “asking a random coworker/classmate/whatever out for coffee” are overrated

          And increasingly dangerous. If you’re low status enough, asking out a coworker carries a significant risk of being fired, and asking out a classmate, expelled.

          Random strangers on the street are pretty much the only women you can safely approach anymore. And feminism is shocked and appalled that people would have the nerve to do that!

  38. vV_Vv says:

    It might be that it’s a place you can go to meet the sort of people who want to date on the blockchain. I could make a lot of cheap jokes here

    And the fact just thinking about the sort of people who want to date on the blockchain immediately inspires a lot of cheap jokes should tell you something about the feasibility of this enterprise.

  39. baconbits9 says:

    Sadie Hawkins proposal to improve online dating by pushing it into meat space.

    The site organizes group date night/meetup events ahead of time, women sign up freely for these events. Men apply for these events and the women who have signed up vote on which men get to come, with the total number of male slots available = to the number of females signed up. If 10 women sign up for the Charlotte Mason homeschooling book club event and only 3 men sign up all 3 get in*, if 30 men sign up then each woman rates her top X and the guys with the most votes get invited. Men are limited to the number of events they can be interested in at any one time, and women put a deposit down for each event that they sign up for (either refunded if they show up or pays for them at the event).

    *Ideally you set up a creep filter where the women can have veto power if enough of them loathe the guy applying.

  40. dvmaster says:

    There was a field experimentt done on a South Korean dating site using an (artificially) costly signaling mechanism that tests some of these ideas. Here’s the abstract:

    A growing number of papers theoretically study the effects of introducing
    a preference signaling mechanism. However, the empirical literature has had
    difficulty proving a basic tenet, namely that an agent has more success when the
    agent uses a signal. This paper provides evidence based on a field experiment in an
    online dating market. Participants are randomly endowed with two or eight ‘‘virtual
    roses’’ that a participant can use for free to signal special interest when asking for a
    date. Our results show that, by sending a rose, a person can substantially increase
    the chance of the offer being accepted, and this positive effect is neither because the
    rose attracts attention from recipients nor because the rose is associated with
    unobserved quality. Furthermore, we find evidence that roses increase the total
    number of dates, instead of crowding out offers without roses attached. Despite the
    positive effect of sending roses, a substantial fraction of participants do not fully
    utilize their endowment of roses and even those who exhaust their endowment on
    average do not properly use their roses to maximize their dating success.

    Overall, the use of this mechanism yields a 20% increase in the acceptance rate, which is similar to
    the increase in the acceptance rate when the offer is made by a candidate from the middle rather than the bottom desirability group. This mostly stems from altering acceptance behavior when a recipient considers an offer from a sender who is more desirable than the recipient is.

  41. greghb says:

    I can imagine all sorts of horrible misalignments between maximizing-number-of-responded-to-messages and maximizing user satisfaction

    A few years ago I met one of the OkCupid founders and talked about their algorithms and data analysis philosophy. They had a general skepticism toward using too much ML, born out of the difficulty of acquiring the right training data for the extremely complex problem their users are trying to solve.

    Message reply rate is apparently the first idea every data scientist candidate comes up with an interview, and if they don’t immediately think of all the problems, the lose points in the interview. Apparently OkCupid explored the quality of this metric, and some large fraction of messages are actually just people getting in fights with each other. This is probably a metaphor for something?

    Since then, I’ve idly wondered what might be even a slightly better computable metric for “found what they were looking for”. Exchanged phone numbers is surely more precise, but… it’s hard!

    • Nornagest says:

      Apparently OkCupid explored the quality of this metric, and some large fraction of messages are actually just people getting in fights with each other. This is probably a metaphor for something?

      Reminds me of the period where Facebook had a prominent sidebar for people you might be friends with, and after you’d friended all your actual friends it just ended up being a list of people you hate.

  42. prigoose says:

    Hi Aella,

    Any examples in the wild you could point us to?

    I’ve been following Luna from afar since the beginning, but I’m still skeptical. (I just don’t quite “see” it, plus I had the same concerns that Scott did).

  43. A1987dM says:

    any baby whose first word is in Latin is definitely possessed

    Luna is also modern Italian and Spanish FWIW

  44. Kevin says:

    I have bots pretending to be pretty women try to friend me on Facebook something like once a week, even though I have no idea what their endgame is or how this results in them making money.

    Sometimes they’re cops.

  45. Aapje says:

    It seems to me that a (or perhaps even the) major reason why online dating has such a mismatch problem is the substantially higher desire for casual sex among men. The result of this is that you get the following issues:
    1. the average man on dating sites is far less discriminatory than the average woman about whom to have sex with and far more willing to go on a date with or keep dating an unsuitable long term partner, just for sex
    2. there are far more men than women who are only looking for sex
    3. women tend to overestimate their desirability as long term partners, while men do the opposite
    4. these mismatches are strongest among the more desirable people (except point 3 for men)

    People who only seek casual sex or who have really high standards for ‘relationship material’ have a disproportionate impact on dating sites, because they are far more active. By contrast, people who are more likely to get into long term relationships tend to remove themselves from the dating pool for long periods far more often. Of course, more desirable people are more likely to find a partner as well, so they are rarer in the pool of people who are actually available to date, than you’d expect given the percentage they make up of online dating website users.

    The most desirable men who only want sex or who have very high standards for relationships, but not for sex make out like bandits, not in the least because they (consciously or unconsciously) get to game the mismatch. They can explicitly or implicitly let women believe that a long term relationship is an option, where that is not the case (note that this deception may often be unconscious). Presumably quite a few women also have overly romantic notions about their ability to turn mere sexual attraction into a long term relationship, which makes them very susceptible to wasting their time with a bad prospect, rather than moving on.

    This is impacts more desirable women who want long term relationships very badly. They typically want more desirable men, of course, but a large percentage of more desirable men on online dating websites are merely looking for sex. The general passivity of women in making the first move makes this even worse. The inbox of desirable women tends to be dominated by men looking for sex or with very high relationship standards, but low sex standards. So the messages by men who make good long term partners will often get lost in the noise, especially since they on average tend to appear less desirable than the messages by other men (who will presumably have better looks on average and such, as high desirability makes a casual sex strategy or a high standards strategy work out better). Even with a relatively low false positive rate, these women will very often end up misjudging men and thus end up in dates with men who are just in it for sex or who have very high standards for long term relationships that the woman doesn’t measure up.

    Another heavily impacted group is men who want long term relationships, who have moderate standards and who are not the most desirable (not even necessarily undesirable, but not the top N% of men that make out like bandits). When these men message women with somewhat similar levels of desirability, these messages are often going to be lost in the noise.

    People probably quite often confuse their desirability as a casual sex partner with their desirability as a long term partner. This means that due to men desiring casual sex much more than women, women will presumably tend to overestimate their desirability as a long term partner, while men underestimate it. My impression is that this causes a lot of inefficiency, especially for younger women, who tend to chase men out of their league (= far more desirable), until they eventually figure out that this is not working and lower their standards (or they don’t and remain single).

    This makes the problem of women having an inbox with a poor signal/noise ratio much worse still. It probably leads many women to ignore the messages by men who are in their league, even though these men would relatively often be a good match, in favor of focusing on the messages by men out of their league, who are almost always going to be men who only want sex or who have such high standards for a long term partner that the woman is not going to measure up.

    I feel that this mechanism is really what turns a ‘mere’ problem of a market mismatch into a full-blown tragedy, as it causes very many women to self-sabotage, spending years, decades or even their entire lives looking for a man beyond their reach, while they would generally be far better off setting their sights a little lower. Especially since what is considered desirable by overall society is not necessarily what results in a relationship that makes one happy.

    • Vinay Gupta says:

      This is a good analysis, but you need to put children into this analysis for it to really nail down what is going on. The entire thing is driven, at an instinctive level, by child rearing and biological selection factors. And until that stuff is clearly modelled, it’s more or less impossible to reason about human relationship behavior. It’s (vastly) less easy to reason about gay and lesbian relationships for exactly that reason: you can’t simply say “ok, so who’s having kids with who?” and work backwards. But for heterosexuals, it’s really far, far simpler: work backwards from the child rearing activity, and model what happens until then as strategy to improve the shot the kids have.

      I’d be interested in seeing how your analysis goes with those factors added.

      • Aapje says:

        Both men and women seem to have fairly similar desire to have children and fairly similar desire to have their children be taken care off well, so I don’t see these as being a significant cause of the difficulty for people to find a mate.

        In fact, what we see is that the dating situation seems to significantly improve when female fertility starts to decline, because at that point, women change their behavior in ways that improves the situation. First of all, they tend to prioritize markers that suggest good fatherhood more and markers that suggest good genes less. Secondly, they tend to become less passive and less romantic & more practical and direct. For example, a woman in her 20’s may hope that if she casually dates an attractive man who merely expresses interest in casual sex, he will fall in love with her and start to want a long term relationship. A woman in her 30’s is far more likely to demand that he make a choice: ‘commit to a long term relationship and/or having children with me or GTFO’. So both these changes in behavior are bad for men who merely want casual sex, but great for men who want a long term relationship and/or children, because these women in their 30’s won’t waste their time with bad prospects as much, so they are more likely to date men who do want to commit.

        Finally, these women can no longer afford to overestimate their desirability as long term partners if they hope to have a decent chance at a long term partner, so they tend to ‘settle.’ They seem to generally perceive this as settling for a man who is less desirable than them, but in reality I think that it mainly means that women become far less likely to rule out the men who are similar in desirability.

        Another interesting factor is that men’s genetic attractiveness seems to slowly decline by age, while their attractiveness as fathers (provider/carer/protector/etc) seems to increase until they are in their 50’s or so. Presumably, this means that a man in his 30’s is maximally attractive, as the decline in genetic attractiveness is still very limited and the attractiveness as a father is already substantial. In contrast, women’s attractiveness seems to merely decline by age.

        The logical consequence of this is that women are more willing to date older men and men more willing to date younger women, which imbalances the situation during a lifetime. Young women and older men are relatively favored, while young men and older women are relatively disfavored.

        I think that this has fairly unpleasant psychological effects on men and women.

        • Vinay Gupta says:

          Yep, I think those dynamics are pretty much spot on. Now add the stuff about infidelity, and women who’re afraid for their own personal wellbeing because capitalism means that if they’re on their own they’re living in a slum, but with a nice boyfriend they can split rent on a decent, safe place to live, and so there’s a mutual care-and-protection element. Oh, and questions about hormonal birth control changing mate selection (see the suggestive MHC studies.)

          The real cultural bloodshed starts if sex robots turn out to be any good, or we see robot wombs, and so on. Birth control and dating sites are just the start of the disruption, and it’s been shifting and breaking since the start of agriculture.

          • Aapje says:

            Yeah, one part of me thinks that the only way out is technology, sex robots, social robots, artificial wombs, etc.

            Dating is fundamentally inefficient in that it is like a trade economy, before money was invented. You have two people who have a need for one thing and who have another thing to offer. They can only make a deal if both people have what the other person wants. In the regular economy we use money, so if Bob has X to offer, but wants Y, while Jane has Y to offer, but wants Z, while Dennis has Z to offer, but want X; they can use money to make a deal where everyone gets what he wants, while no one can actually make a direct trade. But in dating, you are the product, so this doesn’t work.

            One way to improve this is to reduce the dependency that people have on each other, so people don’t have to be compatible in many different ways. Then Bob doesn’t actually need Jane to have a similar sex drive and similar sexual interests, because both do not depend on each other to satisfy them sexually. So then it’s enough if they are socially compatible, which is easier to satisfy.

            However, this is another part of me kicks in: the part that wonders what is left if you hollow out relationships like this. Sex bonds people, so people no longer have sex with their partner, will the relationship be as strong/meaningful? And won’t people eventually just end up living in a simulated reality? Having sex with a robot, talking with a robot, raising a kid with a robot, etc.

          • Deiseach says:

            The real cultural bloodshed starts if sex robots turn out to be any good, or we see robot wombs, and so on.

            C.S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength, 1945:

            “Who is called Sulva? …Where are the cold marriages?”

            Ransom replied, “Sulva is she whom mortals call the Moon. …On this side, the …marriages are cold. There dwell an accursed people, full of pride and lust. There when a young man takes a maiden in marriage, they do not lie together, but each lies with a cunningly fashioned image of the other, made to move and be warm by devilish arts, for real flesh will not please them, they are so dainty (delicati) in their dreams of lust. Their real children they fabricate by vile arts in a secret place.”

          • Null42 says:

            Lewis’s Space Trilogy predicts SJWs (the Fairy), sex robots, edgelords (the bad guys showing people disturbing things to pervert them), and has that great scene when Merlin orders someone’s head cut off for being insubordinate.

            I’m not on his side of the aisle, really, but the dude had a great imagination and insight into human nature.

            I similarly recommend Confederacy of Dunces–see if Ignatius P. Reilly doesn’t remind you of the some of the more erudite alt-righters.

      • Deiseach says:

        I would be really interested to see the response you get if you put it up that Luna is not for casual dating, it’s for those seeking long-term relationships/marriage and kids.

        I’m willing to bet your pool of potential users would drop dramatically; most of the guys would skedaddle, you might get more women. The problem then is that the men who do remain might be good candidates – or might be the really desperate who got nowhere anywhere else and are hoping that “I have a good job” will attract an older (30 year old, if we believe fortaleza84’s criteria) woman looking for a mate. Or even that pretending to be in the market for a long-term relationship will get them a woman for at least a couple of dates.

        • Matt M says:

          That’s also a tough market. eHarmony has the “we’re for serious relationships” niche pretty well locked down, it seems. Which, as you said, attracts women and repels men (but then the men come back once they read an article telling them that’s where all the women are)

          But that gets back to one of my previous complaints, which is that I think a lot of men will find it a tough pill to swallow that their so-called “serious long-term relationship” has to begin with throwing a $20 “token” in a girl’s face and begging for her to pay attention to you.

          • Vinay Gupta says:

            Diversity of approaches. Diversity of approaches.

            It’ll slide into the mess of dating sites, and if it’s extremely successful, there’ll be tons of imitators. There is no outcome where the entire world is on a single dating platform: this isn’t black mirror!

            It has to work for enough people to pay for itself, and that’s a few percent of the human race. Seems very plausible to me 🙂

          • Garrett says:

            What about those of us who have been told we are in the 10% of the population that eHarmony believes they can’t match?

    • Would one (very old) solution to the problem, from the standpoint of women looking for long-term relationships, be sending a strong signal that they are not willing to engage in casual sex–as simple as “Warning: I don’t even kiss on the first date” or something along the lines of “I am not going to sleep with anyone until after it is clear that we are in a long term relationship, so if you are looking for a hookup look somewhere else”?

      The limiting case being the old norm of no intercourse before marriage.

      Does this happen in online dating? If not, why?

      It eliminates men who are planning on having casual sex with twenty women and then picking the one of those that they like best for something longer term, but is that really a problem?

      • Aapje says:

        A known issue with human sexuality is that horny people tend to be willing to do things that they would not be willing to do in their non-horny state, including having casual sex after they promised that they wouldn’t do that.

        As I’ve discussed in a different comment, men with good social skills can reasonably often make women who find them attractive horny (and the other way around too, of course).

        So your solution is likely to not be heeded by the more suave men. It may discourage the less socially skilled, although it may also discourage men for whom sexual compatibility is an important part of a relationship (this is probably a very large group of men nowadays). It’s not unlikely that such a precommitment would make the situation worse for the woman, discouraging more men who are actually interested in a long term relationship than men who merely/primarily want sex.

      • Matt M says:

        something along the lines of “I am not going to sleep with anyone until after it is clear that we are in a long term relationship, so if you are looking for a hookup look somewhere else”?

        About 90% of dating site profiles say this. I can tell you from personal experience that many of them are lying (and I’m not exactly a physical specimen, a millionaire, or a casanova)

        • dndnrsn says:

          This is, based on personal experience and second-hand stories, true. Unchecking “casual sex” does not mean that someone won’t engage in casual sex, and having only “LTR” checked doesn’t mean that someone will wait until they’re in an LTR to have sex.

  46. inky says:

    I’m going to put out an unpopular opinion: I think that no amount of dating sites, machine learning and/or blockchain will help “security-conscious men” to score a date they crave so much. To me, it seems like a classic case of “when you have a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail” problem: when you know machine learning and blockchain, you try to solve a problem with machine learning and blockchain. But how much is all that stuff actually relevant to the problem?
    What could help, IMO, is a way to learn emotional intelligence in a structured, applicative and provable way. A “dating school”, essentially, an institution, that, with help of real human beings will educate another human beings how to pay attention to the partner, how to take visual clues, how to think about yourself so not to freak out on a date and so on. A general way of things can be taught by books, however a lot of things could only be taught from face-to-face, IRL experience. Basically, a mix of psychotherapy, positive reinforcement and counseling.
    I think the School of Life is something in the right direction.

    • Nornagest says:

      But how much is all that stuff actually relevant to the problem?

      It helps attract investors. On the other hand, I am kind of leery of a dating site with such a short-term outlook that it’s trying to get its money from blockchain chasers.

    • Deiseach says:

      The problem is that undefinable thing called the spark, or chemistry; you can be on a date with an attractive, nice, funny, smart person, you like them but – eh. Just not feeling it. No spark. This should be working to get you both together, you are having a good time, they are great, but there’s nothing happening romantically nor likely to be.

      Dating sites can’t help you there – you can have the best theoretical match and it doesn’t mean anything until you meet each other in person. Even a ‘dating school’ can only get you so far in teaching you what to do and not do, helping you identify and break bad habits, and taking it step-by-step.

      But attraction is still something that can’t be pinned down as yet.

      • inky says:

        I am reminded of this.
        I know we are all unique, but we are not so special snowflakes that only one and only will click with us, in that case almost every marriage would have been unhappy, which is not the case. “Dating schools” could have helped with the issue that in order to just have a good time together on a date, one should learn to cope with one’s expectations from oneself, from partner, from the whole affair, and get to grips with the idea that finding a partner is essentially an iterative process, where you are slowly tuning in on a subset of people that make you tick. Schooling could have helped to skip the first, most frustrating and awkward stages, when one doesn’t even know what to do or say and is heaving heavily after each mishap.
        And most of relationship advice for men gravitates towards “how to get laid”. I don’t want to get laid, dammit, I want to find a suitable person to be by my side and love them to death. Metaphorically.
        I would presume that situation with popular relationship advice and/or coaching for women is even worse because of romantic ideals surrounding love and widespread woo that “things will figure themselves out”.

        • Aapje says:

          @inky

          I know we are all unique, but we are not so special snowflakes that only one and only will click with us, in that case almost every marriage would have been unhappy, which is not the case

          A nice feature of humans (although it has its downsides) is that we tend to change to fit in, which also means that people have a tendency to change to fit with their partner. This allows many more relationships to work than if we were truly unique snowflakes that needed a very similar partner.

          I would presume that situation with popular relationship advice and/or coaching for women is even worse because of romantic ideals surrounding love and widespread woo that “things will figure themselves out”.

          Yeah, I think that enormous numbers of women get themselves into various kinds of trouble because they want romance, rather than to make a more rational effort.

          I think that this results in many men becoming highly cynical actors, who suppress all their natural instincts and behaviors, trying to find the magic formula that those women consider ‘romantic,’ while the man in that equation has a completely different and very unromantic experience.

    • rlms says:

      I don’t think the value of the two buzzword technologies here are the same. The blockchain is irrelevant, but online dating is a very obvious application of machine learning (you have data about people and you want to make predictions about compatibility from it). I assume that established dating sites already use it.

      • It seems like an obvious way in which computers and the internet could make the world better–use the data generated by the successes and failures of online dates to figure out how to tell which people will work out together. Is there evidence that anyone has actually done it–produced software that does much better than random at predicting which dates will work?

      • Nornagest says:

        online dating is a very obvious application of machine learning (you have data about people and you want to make predictions about compatibility from it). I assume that established dating sites already use it.

        I thought about that. There’s potential, all right, but a good fitness function seems perniciously hard to find — whether a match is successful depends on factors which are essentially invisible to the algorithm. It’s worse than that, in fact — to the algorithm, establishing a meatspace relationship looks exactly like breaking off a conversation with someone because you don’t like them.

        You could ask users for some more parameters — I went on a date with this person, I went on a good date with this person, this person and I are now married and raising dachshund puppies — but users are pretty bad at giving that kind of info.

        • rlms says:

          I think those problems are surmountable. You can get feedback from people who haven’t succeeded enough to stop using the service by offering them extra messages or something in return for feedback (validating by requiring feedback from both people who go on a date). If the service is paid, you could offer fees back to people who get married in exchange for feedback. You’d have to take care to make sure the incentives work, but I don’t think it would be impossible.

          Alternatively, you could just pay for surveys of people in successful relationships who don’t use your site and use that as training data. I’d be somewhat surprised if OKCupid etc. *aren’t* doing something like that.

          • baconbits9 says:

            If you give unsuccessful people more chances then you will steadily shift your pool to less desirable people, and new entrants will be hit by the lowest segment of your population.

          • rlms says:

            @baconbits9
            If you classify people who leave the service due to finding a relationship as successful and persistent users as unsuccessful then this would benefit the unsuccessful, but that wouldn’t change the population: successful users leave regardless. But within the population of people who stay in the service it doesn’t benefit the less successful (in fact you could make it benefit the more successful by rewarding people whose partners give them positive feedback more). It just benefits people who fill out feedback forms, and that quality should be orthogonal to success.

          • baconbits9 says:

            @ rlms

            Both sets of people should be leaving the service. Successful ones by virtue of finding a partner, unsuccessful ones by getting frustrated/figuring out its a waste of their money. If you stall out the latter by offering them rewards then they will be relatively over represented. If their lack of success is due to some variable that isn’t luck based then they will eventually dominate the pool and drive any new and desirable participants out quickly.

          • rlms says:

            @baconbits9
            The least successful people (those who don’t get any dates/responses) wouldn’t get any rewards, as they don’t have any feedback to provide.

            More generally, you’re saying that churn in the service should be higher than the amount you think this plan would cause. But there’s no reason why this plan should cause suboptimal churn. Some finite level of churn is optimal (you don’t want people to leave the service infinitely quickly), and different setups give different amount of churn (e.g. UniMessage, my hypothetical startup with the USP that users can only ever send one message, will have higher churn than OKCupid). So we can just choose a design that gives too little churn, then add in rewards at a level that bring up churn to a good level.

          • baconbits9 says:

            @ rlms

            It doesn’t matter if you are rewarding the bottom X% or the middle Y%, if there is a difference between the successful and unsuccessful then you are going to steadily shift toward the unsuccessful. This will make it harder to be successful and risk a spiral, rewarding the middle y% will end up with a slower spiral than rewarding the bottom X%.

            So we can just choose a design that gives too little churn, then add in rewards at a level that bring up churn to a good level.

            Churn itself isn’t good or bad, it is relative, you have to churn out the right (or wrong) people, which is going to be complicated.

  47. Thegnskald says:

    I think this half solves one incentive problem and replaces it with another.

    The existing incentive problem is that mass messages are cheap compared to the perceived potential gain – I have no idea how well mass messaging pays off, but at the very least some men think it is worth their time to do. This perverts the online dating marketplace. On the other side, there are women who are incentivized to create profiles, just for the positive feedback of being told they are attractice via the messages they receive.

    As far as I can tell, this doesn’t actually solve the mass messaging problem, because you can still engage in that practice. Likewise, it doesn’t solve the problem of people joining for the sole purpose of being told how pretty they are via a full inbox – indeed, it exacerbates that particular issue by rewarding such behavior twice.

    But it does mitigate the first issue by adding a “I am serious” flag which is too expensive to apply to the mass messaging technique (at least for most people). So earnest men can maybe get through.

    The problem is – who are they getting through to? The incentive system does nothing to incentivize women for being earnest. Indeed, it incentivizes women who aren’t earnest to join, to make some money talking to men who are sufficiently lonely to be willing to pay for conversation. Being willing to pay for conversation, incidentally, isn’t a great signal for wealth – it is a signal for loneliness. That is pretty much it.

    Women who want a serious long-term relationship with a man, I have one piece of advice for you: Message men. Hell, message men you don’t think you have a chance with. Customize the message, make it clear you find them interesting as a person. And if you find them attractive, say so. Men rarely if ever receive that sort of attention, and it feels quite nice, and – even if you don’t think you have a chance with them, well, somebody who makes them feel desired is somebody they will want to be around.

    I have little advice for men. The situation is warped and terrible. Pretty much the only good solution is a coordinated effort to stop putting so much effort in. So, well, relax and try to enjoy life.

    And, uh, don’t pay money to talk to women.

    • Matt M says:

      I have little advice for men. The situation is warped and terrible. Pretty much the only good solution is a coordinated effort to stop putting so much effort in. So, well, relax and try to enjoy life.

      And, uh, don’t pay money to talk to women.

      I’d modify that slightly to something like “Only pay money to talk to women when it’s very clear exactly what is being offered and exactly what you are paying for.”

      Some of the industries out there you’ve been taught to believe are the shadiest are actually some of the most honest, when it comes to male/female sexual dynamics, at least. I’ll leave it at that.

      • Thegnskald says:

        Fair enough, but I’d say if you can’t argue the point you just made, you might not be in a position to identify what exactly is being sold to you, so the unrefined statement might be more useful even if it is less accurate.

  48. Dindane says:

    (Typo: copied ligatures.)

  49. gbdub says:

    I am not a woman, but I suspect this site will show that the only thing women hate more than getting spammed with low-effort, low-quality come-ons is getting an attractiveness value measured in literal currency put next to their name. Or rather, they will really really hate that their number is lower than that of other women.

    As others have already said, this seems likely to be full of camgirls / cybersex (TotallyNotABot responds to 100% of messages! With explicit sexual content! 50 LunaBux per message!)

    EDIT: Also count me into the “blockchain feels like a gimmick here” crowd. The killer app, if Luna has one, is the machine learning matching and the pseudo economy. Have still yet to see a really convincing explanation, even from the founders of the project, as to why that latter needs a crypto currency instead of just the dating app equivalent of Pokecoins.

    • The Element of Surprise says:

      Enough women seem to be fine with being measured in units of followers on instagram, I don’t think being (more directly) convertible into tokens of economic exchange makes this deal any worse.

      • gbdub says:

        Ehh, I think this is definitely a step above that. The vast majority of individual Instagram users aren’t getting monetary compensation (or any tangible compensation at all) for their likes/follows. Whereas everyone on Luna will be directly competing for cash and a tangible reward – getting contacted by more desirable men.

        Plus people are just going to react differently to “Here’s what my attractiveness is worth in cash” vs. “here’s how many people are willing to at least scroll past picture of my dog / baking projects / random selfies”

        Certainly Instagram models are a thing, and there are plenty of those, but they are a small subset of female Instagram users – a dating website where Instagram models are the only women is still going to fail to achieve Luna’s stated goals.

        • Deiseach says:

          Whereas everyone on Luna will be directly competing for cash and a tangible reward – getting contacted by more desirable men.

          Which is where the question arises: what is the definition of a “more desirable man”? One who has enough money to pay to get their messages preferentially delivered? Sure, he looks like the kind of troll who lives under a bridge and he can only talk passionately about one subject that bores you to tears, but he has got the do-re-mi in spades!

          Or is it the handsome young(er) starving artist with the looks and charm but no money?

          Or is it the popular guy everyone wants to send them a message, so having senpai notice you is a feather in your cap worth bragging rights?

          I’m still not sure what Luna is supposed to be, and all this guff (I’m sorry but that is what it sounds like to my jaundiced ears) about empowering women and gender equality in cryptocurrencies is a smokescreen so far as I can tell; is it for guys who are nerdy and so have good jobs, plenty of disposable income, but are as inferior in looks and charm as they are superior in intellect, so we all tactitly acknowledge the women on here are only interested in hooking a rich boyfriend but at least you have a good chance of getting a fairly attractive woman to go on dates with you? Is it for casual/short term relationships, looking for fun but nothing serious? Is it to help you find a marriage partner and future parent of your children, serious candidates only? Is it the equivalent of those adult chat phonelines where the women, by responding and creating a friendly conversation, encourage the guys to keep sending messages with stars – heck, if Mechanical Turk can get people to take surveys for pennies, I’m sure some of the women who look for cash generating opportunities on there would be willing to read messages and tell Bob/Phil/Rasheed what a great, funny, smart guy he is and please tell me more about that fascinating maths class you took in college, as long as they get stars which can then be turned into REAL MONEYS?

          The more responses I read, the more this sounds like the usual “you pays your money and you takes your chance” dating site, only ON THE BLOCKCHAIN which seems to be the unique selling point and indeed the entire and only point of the whole operation.

          • Vinay Gupta says:

            No. A thousand times no. People keep ploughing on with this cultural myth that dating has nothing to do with reproductive strategy. I’ve made the point 50 times in this thread, and nobody seems to actually get the point: IF YOU WANT YOUR KIDS TO HAVE HEALTH INSURANCE, YOU BETTER BE SWEDISH OR BE RICH. Life has gotten *dramatically* harder and more precarious in America, and it’s not much better in Europe. They’re ripping up the Welfare State in the UK, even Sweden’s making noises.

            A woman who wants her kids not to grow up in shit conditions is going to have to make a more financially-motivated match than in the 1990s because there’s just far more poverty and instability around. That’s nothing to do with partner attractiveness in a simplistic “girls love bling” sense, this is the hard core pragmatic risk management via mate selection that women do in crisis situations.

            I saw my friends struggling with this: middle class poor struggling to stop their kids growing up with no hope of reaching stability, women in their late thirties unpartnered still talking about kids, but they can’t take enough time off to have a baby without losing their house and they’re married to their job, all of this.

            It’s a mess. I did not cause this mess. I cannot fix this mess. But I saw an opportunity to take the lonely, nerdy, kind of good hearted people of the blockchain world, herd them into one place (cheerleader effect for men?) and say “look, if you want ’em, here they are.”

            You could accuse me of lining up the lads and parading them around on display as fresh meat: “look, the newly wealthy nerds are available here” and there would be an element of truth to it. The folks from the Ethereum team who married and settled down really do feel happier, more content, more stable than the ones who’re relentelessly single and trying to figure out how it all works. There was definitely a sense of “these guys could use partners, I wonder if…”

            So, yeah, it’s not NEARLY as simple are people are making it out to be. Think health insurance and college funds, not gold diggers. The economic conditions have changed, and the parameters of life with them.

          • A woman who wants her kids not to grow up in shit conditions is going to have to make a more financially-motivated match than in the 1990s because there’s just far more poverty and instability around.

            Looking at the graph of the U.S. poverty rate, it’s been holding roughly steady for about the past thirty-five years. I don’t know the figures for Europe but for the world extreme poverty has been falling sharply–using the World Bank definition, down by a factor of four over the same period.

          • Vinay Gupta says:

            @DavidFriedman

            This is a good graph of health care costs vs. other economic factors which, I think, does a good job of focussing on where the pressure is in the US economy specifically.

            Spiraling costs in health and education make middle class amenities a lot harder to afford, and that’s really where the lifestyle pressure comes from. Whether things are all that much worse for the poorest 20% I don’t know – to be blunt, most of the pain I am exposed to is middle class pain – but among the middle classes, the loss of ground is most severe.

          • rlms says:

            @Vinay Gupta

            They’re ripping up the Welfare State in the UK, even Sweden’s making noises.

            Not my experience. Making the cost of the NHS at PoS at all significant would doom any party that did it.

          • @Vijay:

            Over time, some things get relatively more expensive, some less. A price index is an attempt to combine all those changes into a single number. Real income, nominal income divided by the price index, is an (imperfect) measure of how well off people are, after taking account of increased prices of some things, lower prices of others. Observing that some things have gotten more expensive doesn’t change that, since the figures already take that into account.

            Real income in the U.S. has increased more over recent decades for high income people than for others but it hasn’t sharply decreased, so far as I know, for any part of the income distribution–and you seem to be asserting that for middle income people it has, although you didn’t specify whether for the U.S., the U.K., or the developed world in general.

            I agree that for many people finding a long term relationship, producing and rearing children within it, is a very important objective. It’s probably true that people are having a harder time doing it at present than they did fifty years ago. But I don’t think the reason is that the middle class has suddenly gotten much poorer, making financially secure long term relationships more essential for women than they used to be and men capable of providing such relationships scarcer, which seems to be your claim.

            I think a more plausible explanation is that what has happened to the marriage market is the result of improvements in contraceptive technology. In the pre-pill world a woman who had intercourse had a significant chance of getting pregnant, so in that world women had a strong incentive to refuse intercourse except in the context of a long term relationship–marriage, engagement, or something close. Given that, for most men who wanted sex the best way of getting it was to commit to such a relationship, with courtship primarily a search process for the right partner.

            In the current world, women have the option of safe sex and at least two reasons to engage in it–their own pleasure and what they can get, in attention if not payment, in exchange for the pleasure they give their partners. All women might be better off if all of them declined that option, improving their opportunity for the still more valuable long term commitment, but that faces the usual problem of maintaining a cartel–each woman is better off cheating on the cartel agreement. Since many men find that they can get sex without commitment, the pressure on them to commit is less.

            Obviously none of this is all or nothing. Some women refuse to engage in casual sex, some men strongly desire a long term relationship and use courtship as a search strategy. And lots of people are in the blurry area in between–women who engage in what turns out to be casual sex in the hope that it is part of a mutual search strategy, men who mix search with the pleasure of casual sex.

            But I think that, not impoverishment of the Middle Class, is the real issue.

            So far as Luna is concerned, I haven’t figured out the details of what it is doing or their implication well enough to take a side in that particular argument.

    • Vinay Gupta says:

      I don’t imagine those numbers would be visible. I mean… no way, right?

      • gbdub says:

        I guess I’m confused as to how the bidding / paying for messaging process works then? Is the intent that it is totally blind? How can you have an efficient economy without transparent prices?

        EDIT: I have not read the white paper, just Scott’s review, so if this has a blindingly obvious but not easily summarizable answer I won’t be mad if the response is to read the damn paper.

      • baconbits9 says:

        If you think it shouldn’t be visible, ask yourself why not? Off line, meat space, dating is filled with information on your relative attractiveness for both sexes.

  50. belvarine says:

    But everywhere this solution is tried, it runs up against its one great weakness: rich people with mild preferences can outbid poor people with strong ones. I can’t predict how this particular market will clear, but this doesn’t necessarily have to be a big problem here.

    I wish you wouldn’t handwave this. There’s a lot to unpack (how does this differ from prosititution, and how will it avoid the same pitfalls? will it exacerbate existing disparities like the wage gap?) and you haven’t explained how this system offers better “information about preferences” merely by attaching real-world externalities to the message value token system. You can run a dating site on market principles without introducing real world currency into the equation so you can’t just skip over that caveat.

    For instance, let’s stick with the message priority queue idea. Set possible values of priority token equal to high, medium, or low. Each user may send 1 high, 3, medium, or 5 low priority messages per week. Each week, allow a random selection of users to exceed the limit. This provides the same functionality Luna proposes, but without the externalities. Why do you need to let people buy their way past the limit? How does allowing wealthier users to exceed the soft limit help solve the problems facing dating apps?

    It seems to me the real-world currency externality actually obfuscates information about preferences. For instance, did a sender attach a higher value token to a message because they’re much more interested in the receiver than other senders, or because they have a higher salary? Does a receiver tend to read more messages because they’re actively searching for partners, or because they want/need the monetary compensation? Including externalities into the decision tree is unnecessary to simulate market behaviors (our 1-3-5 system incentivizes the same cost-benefit decisions) and makes it more difficult to analyze which user needs are being met and how to improve your methods.

    I realize Luna wants to make a profit, but why is this consideration allowed to muddy the problem space? Can’t they figure out a different profit model that doesn’t add complex, incomprehensible behavior to the system? If they can’t, why can’t we have an open source dating app working on the same approach that could feasibly offer a better dating experience by eliminating externalities from the data set and presenting a clearer path towards more enriching experiences? What is really so beneficial about allowing rich people to connect more easily with popular people?

    • Thegnskald says:

      Vinay’s comments here suggest “allowing rich people to connect more easily with popular people” might explicitly be part of the purpose here. Inwhichcase, the good being sold isn’t a new online dating site, full stop, but a new online dating site catering to (and extracting some wealth from) the wealthy.

      A site for rich people to find trophy wives, basically, only dressed up to sound less horrible.

      • Deiseach says:

        “allowing rich people to connect more easily with popular people”

        Oh, God. Gold digger Central? What could possibly go wrong with letting men with decent gobs of spare cash but maybe not as romantically successful as they might wish get lined up with attractive young women who would be all too glad to be wined and dined?

        I’m sure this works beautifully, after all I keep getting messages about attractive young Russian women who are just dying to meet a wonderful charming person like me, and I’m not even on a dating site! (Or interested in women, but that’s a minor detail).

  51. Thegnskald says:

    An alternative system, if anybody is inclined to make a dating site to solve the problems that exist:

    New users start with a single “Send Message” point, and a single “Receive Message” point. You get one new point per day for the six days following your most recent login, up to a maximum each of seven.

    You get your “Send Message” point refunded if you get a response. Responses cost no points. “Receive Message” points are likewise refunded if you respond to a message.

    Users with no “Receive Message” points don’t show up in searches, and, obviously, can’t receive messages.

    Messages without responses are automatically deleted from your inbox a week after your first log in since receiving the message.

    The user creation process is in-depth, with a captcha or equivalent technology on each screen, aimed at taking about an hour.

    ETA:

    Actually, slight modification: You get one Receive Message point per week, and get an additional point for each message sent. Let’s have the ladies take some initiative.

    • baconbits9 says:

      I think you end up with issues where new users get bombarded, as the first person to send a message has a large edge.

      • Thegnskald says:

        The first user to send a message to a new user is the only user who gets to send them a message. With the modified version, the new user doesn’t get another message until either the next week, or after they message someone. With the non-modified version, they get at most a message a day.

        • baconbits9 says:

          Right, so the very first guy to send a message has a short term monopoly on her attention. What is the correct strategy here? The correct strategy isn’t to wait a week, log in and look for 6 or 7 profiles you like. If there is any gender imbalance toward men (or multiple accounts) every woman will have their in box perpetually full and its just a race to use your credits as soon as they are earned.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Which is self-correcting, because the incentives for women in such an environment are to message men; they can’t pick and choose among the people who message them, or if they do, they will be picking and choosing amongst effectively random suitors.

            There was a as-far-as-I-know failed dating website a few years back in which men couldn’t initiate contact with women. This might effectively amount to the same thing, but does so without insulting people. (I certainly had no interest in joining a site which began with the assumption that my attention was undesired.)

          • Aapje says:

            The problem is that women are really disinclined to message men and when they do, they shoot really high. I read a while back that the dating website you mention, where only women could initiate, had a tiny number of top tier men, because those were the only ones being messaged. All other men got ~0 messages and quickly left.

            I bet that the men that were left were mostly very pretty men just looking for sex and that once women realized this, they left too.

            Anyway, in your system the women presumably usually can’t message these men, because their receive points are gone. Will they then instead message other men or simply not message anyone. My guess is that they usually will do the latter.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Bumble is based on the idea that only women can initiate, IIRC.
            Here are the (admittedly dated, possibly inaccurate) gender breakdowns:
            http://www.businessinsider.com/dating-apps-that-have-highest-percentage-of-women-2016-6

            You can see that Bumble and Tinder are not dramatically different, even though Bumble only allows women to message first. OkCupid has an even higher % of women.

            The majority-women websites are EHarmony, Coffee Meets Bagel, and Christian Mingle. EHarmony and Christian Mingle SEEM like they have a focus on marriage (or at least LTRs), which probably explains why they have a larger number of women.

            EDIT:
            You can also see that those websites have less daily engagement….so….uhhh…not going to extrapolate anything based on that because I don’t know how to come up with an explanation that doesn’t come across at least slightly sexist.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            EHarmony and Christian Mingle SEEM like they have a focus on marriage (or at least LTRs), which probably explains why they have a larger number of women.

            Another, related, possibility is that those web sites are aimed at an older customer base. Past a certain age, the sex imbalance problem among singles evens out and flips itself.

            In fact, I recall reading an interview with a founder of one of the big established dating sites who basically admitted that there were hardly any young women making use of larger sites.

            But even ignoring the age issue, I would guess that even on sites like Christian Mingle, the actual sex ratio is a lot worse for male customers than it seems. After all, what’s to stop the site operators from aggressively purging dormant male accounts while letting female accounts collect dust? For that matter, what’s to stop them from creating phony female profiles? I have no direct experience with any of these dating sites, but I do know that in general, people will cheat if they think they can get away with it.

            At the end of the day, anything that makes dating easier ends up making it harder since the sexual marketplace is so competitive.

          • Matt M says:

            I read a while back that the dating website you mention, where only women could initiate, had a tiny number of top tier men, because those were the only ones being messaged. All other men got ~0 messages and quickly left.

            This doesn’t seem right to me. I’m not particularly attractive, but I got a few messages on Bumble. Not many, but not zero. They weren’t from very attractive people and most of them were very low effort messages such as “hey” such that I then immediately had to be witty and charming just the same as if I was the one having to message first.

          • Aapje says:

            @Matt M

            I might not be remembering the story right and A Definite Beta Guy’s data suggests that I was wrong anyway.

            So I retract my comment.

          • Matt M says:

            My only point is that the “woman has to message first” idea seems revolutionary and all, but has very little practical value in terms of differentiation, because the woman can “message first” with nothing more than hi, putting the onus right back on the man to provide a witty introductory message.

            IME, using Tinder and using Bumble are basically the exact same experience from the male perspective. And to the extent that men can ignore whatever the woman says in her first message and instantly reply with “show me your boobs” (if they’re the type of person who sends that type of message) or something, I’m not sure it really reduces the amount of low-effort messages women receive either. It probably feels like it does though, since they initiate, and getting a low-effort reply probably feels less intrusive than getting a low-effort proposition out of nowhere.

          • Lambert says:

            Less daily engagement on a LTR-focused site seems to make sense.

            Longer relationships correspond to less haste.

          • Null42 says:

            Isn’t Bumble doing well?

            I’ve avoided it on principle, but much to my surprise, it seems to be taking off.

          • Aapje says:

            If women do actually approach men more, that is good for most men and women, so it seems like a good thing if it succeeds (for part of dating).

          • Matt M says:

            If women do actually approach men more, that is good for most men and women

            I guess my point here is that it depends on what you count as an “approach.”

            On Tinder, most men swipe right on every woman. Females, on the other hand, are much more picky. Male swipes are meaningless, female swipes are a scarce resource. In the event that you do get a match, the onus is on the male to “approach” because the female has as many matches as she wants to have. But remember, the core value proposition of Tinder is that you can’t message someone at all unless they have already consented to talk to you, and it’s the women, not the men, who are the gatekeepers of consent here. In a certain sense, matching with a woman at all might be considered an “approach” in that it communicates “I find you attractive enough to allow you the opportunity to say something clever and draw my attention”

            On bumble, the same matching dynamics are in play. The same resources are scarce. It’s just that the man cannot actually message first. It just creates one more hurdle for the woman to make sure she actually wants to talk to you. But as I was saying, her “approach” can just be “hi”, which does not include any more valuable information than a simple match does. It conveys the exact same message, “I find you attractive enough to give you the opportunity to say something clever to me.” Receiving a “hi” on bumble is no more useful than receiving a match on Tinder. In both cases, it’s just a notification that you passed the “first photo looks good enough” hurdle, and are now at the “impress me with your social skills and separate yourself from the pack of hundreds of other people” hurdle. It doesn’t make things any easier for men.

          • INH5 says:

            @Matt M: Remember that trivial inconveniences can have large effects on behavior at the margins. I’ve never used Bumble myself, but I would expect the additional step of having to type in a message and press “Send,” even if the message is as simple as “Hi,” to both make female users more likely to only get in conversations with men that they are seriously interested in, and due to the sunk cost fallacy more likely to continue conversations with men that they do end up messaging.

          • Aapje says:

            @Matt M

            I think that it is positive for the male ego.

            I think that it gives the man a reasonable guarantee that the account is of an active person who will read his message, so putting in some actual effort then doesn’t feel like a waste.

            These are good things.

          • Matt M says:

            INH5 & Aapje,

            I get what you’re saying. I understand how theoretically, it might be different.

            I’m just telling you that in my personal experience, it wasn’t any different. It was the exact same. It was no easier for me to get dates. It was no easier to get a woman to respond to my first message to her. It was no easier to keep conversations going. Not a single aspect about my experience using it was materially different from Tinder in any way (except for the fact that Bumble seemed to have a much larger number of what appeared to me to be fake profiles – far more photos of stunningly gorgeous 20-something white women and far fewer photos of people of average appearance, people who were a little overweight, racial minorities, etc.)

    • Skivverus says:

      I thought about this a while ago, and while I wouldn’t sign up for a site that did this now, that’s only because I’m not currently single (and it’s targeted specifically at dating).
      A few elaborations, in no particular order:
      – in order for the service to make a profit, I was thinking additional messages sent and/or received (or, for the non-dating-specific version, messages shared/signal-boosted) could be purchased.
      – messages getting positive responses (including replies that got positive responses) would let you ‘level up’ your messaging rate/capacity/etc., partly for Skinner-box reasons, but more to discourage bots and low-effort messages.

  52. The Element of Surprise says:

    From the whitepaper:

    If the
    recipient does not respond, or only responds after more than this number of
    days, [the Luna corp bound] fee will be re-paid to the sender. The number of Stars transferred
    to the recipient, however, will remain the same, whether they respond to the
    message or not. In this way Luna’s financial incentives will be aligned with
    users’ goals at Stage IV in the exchanging of messages.

    Of course, assuming that every paying user’s budget is about fixed, Luna’s incentives are to route traffic towards profiles of people that do respond. Knowing this, a user will probably try to perform the minimal action required to make this fee actually go to Luna (open messages, write one-word-response messages, or whatever).

  53. jblum says:

    I’m both too old and too married to have any experience with dating sites so my outsider question is why is the problem of men spamming/women filtering not solved by rationing through time/scarcity rather than a monetary mechanism?

    My proposal would be 1) everyone goes through each other’s profiles and ranks them in tiers. 2) on Sunday everyone inputs on a calendar for the following week their times available for a one hour date. 3) on Sunday night the site runs a matching algorithm analogous to medical residency matching, assigning one date that week to two people for a certain time that they both have indicated is open. the site optimizes for giving as many people as possible a date with their high tiered choices. 4) every date you go on you get charged a dollar. 5) some sort of feedback mechanism or banishment for cancellations, bad behavior, or stand-ups.

    Since there’s no messaging aspect, there’s no spamming. The site’s profit mechanism operates via actual dates with real people so there is little to gain in their putting up fake profiles. Men are free to select highest tier for every woman if they want in order to maximize their odds for a date but beyond a certain point it’s irrelevant since you’re only getting one date a week. A yes-to-all strategy really just kicks all selection over to women who just pick whichever man they want. I guess one criticism is there’s no communication pre-date which some people may be uncomfortable with, but you could always add that feature and let people freely cancel the date beforehand if they don’t like the vibe or if the other person is non responsive. But since you only get one date a week you’re incentivized not to burn it by behaving badly. Another side benefit is this system seems to me to do a better job of letting people calibrate their desirability than a messaging site where you’re either competing against or beset by spammers.

    Does something like this exist already? If not, why not? If so, why is it not more popular?

    • Matt M says:

      1) everyone goes through each other’s profiles and ranks them in tiers.

      No one is going to want to do that.

      4) every date you go on you get charged a dollar.

      No woman is going to want to do that.

      assigning one date that week to two people

      Absolutely nobody is going to agree to blind dates from a pool of people on a website assigned by an algorithm.

      • Nornagest says:

        >1) everyone goes through each other’s profiles and ranks them in tiers.

        No one is going to want to do that.

        HotOrNot seemed pretty popular back in the day, and it’s basically this. OKCupid came up with a knockoff later. Don’t know if it’s still in use.

        Agree with the rest of your points, though.

  54. Null42 says:

    I’m late to the party, so everyone else has done a better job of tearing down this idea than me. I’m actually really impressed at the way people take this stuff apart.

    The only thing I’d add is that the (brief) history of the internet is littered with failed dating site ideas (just as it is with failed ecommerce ideas and so on), and I don’t see why this one is particularly compelling. I mean, blockchain is sexy now, but mostly to men, and the whole ‘pushing money from men to women’ thing is already covered by SeekingArrangements.

    There’s also the network effects problem–even an inferior site may be worth using if it has a large number of people. It’s the reason OKCupid has gotten away with degrading its user experience over the past few years–it’s still the best site for nerds, kinky, and polyamorous people (who of course overlap) simply because it has been for a while. That’s who’s on. So it’s hard to see why blockchain would overcome that.

    And as for “I hope that lots of libertarian women find lots of security-conscious men and make lots of beautiful, high-price-volatility babies”, well, there aren’t ‘lots of libertarian women’–women tend to be (1) liberal or somewhat less likely (2) conservative. Libertarianism is the political pole most likely to be a sausagefest, at least in part because it has less value as a social club. You can find mates at a Democrat event or business connections at a Republican event, but a Libertarian event? I guess you could find a programmer for your startup or a cleric for your D&D game. I like the Gray Tribe–I’m in it myself, kind of–but it doesn’t have a lot of women.

    • You can find mates at a Democrat event or business connections at a Republican event, but a Libertarian event?

      Some truth, but you exaggerate a little. Students for Liberty seems, from my casual observation as a speaker at their events, to have a m/f ratio about 2/1, which is far from equality but much closer than most other libertarian settings. I wouldn’t be surprised if Porkfest was even better, but largely married couples, again by casual observation. And Georgia has the distinction of being the only country in my experience where libertarian women outnumber libertarian men, at least at the event I spoke at.

      I have suggested to them potential for either import or export.

      • Matt M says:

        In my brief experience with college libertarian groups, the overwhelming majority of the female members were the girlfriends of male members. But that’s purely anecdotal, n=1

  55. dndnrsn says:

    I may have missed something here, and trying to open the whitepaper is locking up, but given there’s at least one person actually involved in this: what price is sending messages predicted to be like, overall?

    Assume a guy of middle-ranked attractiveness (let’s say a 6/10, and yes I get the issue with trying to put a number on attractiveness, but for our purposes let’s say it’s possible, and further that it’s a quality with a standard curve distribution – so most people are 4-6, 9s are really rare, 10s are people who potentially will be remembered for their attractiveness decades hence) messages a woman of similar attractiveness, who he’s interested in for whole-package reasons (let’s assume they’re both smart, decent, etc). This is a better strategy on free sites than finding the most attractive people and messaging them; presumably if there’s a market where you gotta pay that would be true too.

    Is the cost going to be a relatively low amount, but enough to price out the guys who send out thousands of “hi” messages, weird harassing messages, dick picks, whatever – all the things that make up the parts of online dating that women complain about, thus reducing the parts that men complain about? (I’m only talking about men seeking women and vice versa; complaints for men seeking men and women seeking women tend to be different)

    Or, is it going to be expensive, enough that it’s only really feasible for guys who have a wad of cash from their latest startup that uses the blockchain to keep your pets from jumping on the couch? Because, if those guys are in a situation where they need online dating to find women – well, at that point, a canny woman would be going and seeking out those guys herself (a rich guy who’s bad at meeting women? Jackpot!)

    • but enough to price out the guys who send out thousands of “hi” messages, weird harassing messages, dick picks, whatever

      It occurs to me that if all you want to do is that, and if the appearance of men paying women for attention is a problem, you could set up a structure where the marginal cost of sending a message was, say, five dollars but the average cost close to zero. People’s payment for the service is the higher of [$5x(number of messages sent) – (total income from messages)/(number of customers)] or zero. If the gain to the service from people whose payment would be negative without the zero constraint isn’t enough to pay its cost, add a constant per member fee.

  56. Deiseach says:

    Seeing as how Mr. Gupta so kindly informed me I was an Orientalising racist, why I have no vindictive motivation at all to give the Luna site a good kicking let me offer a critique of first impressions looking at the beautiful production.

    This site is to empower women and redress the gender inequality in cryptocurrency profiteering due to the fact that men (how very dare they!) are the ones losing the shirts off their backs because few women are dumb enough to throw good money into a scheme like this.

    24 images of people involved in Luna. Out of those, a whopping three are what I would identify as women or female-identified (there’s one person I’m not quite sure about, they look like they might identify as non-binary, but I’m not going to assume anything).

    For a Shakta tradition feminist, Mr Gupta’s site isn’t that great at the oul’ gender-balancing itself, is it? Could they not get more competent women? (Why yes, this is a loaded question where you are damned if you do or damned if you don’t – accusations of sexism are as easily traded as ones of racism, after all).

    Oh, and that about it being Mr. Gupta’s site? For all that he’s saying that it was only a fun idea he had at a dinner party, he’s up there on the page as Key Member – Cryptoeconomics. So slightly more involved than just “Here’s the idea I’m handing over, now run with it you crazy kids!”

    I did like the BLOCKCHAIN POWA! touch. Reminds me of Rot-13 before it got all serious and dropped the AWESOME POWA! because they thought it was a bit juvenile.

    Also, they have a FAQ in which they engage with the type of questions we’ve been asking. Why, Mr. Gupta could just have quoted this to us and stopped all that impertinent querying!

    How will you prevent bots and catfish from taking over the platform?
    Verification will be done via a service such as the Google cloud vision api. Mid-term we also plan to integrate (anonymized) feedback from dates and conversations.

    There you go – all your questions answered! And they’ll be selling it in Korea, what more do we need or want to know that this is unimpeachable? Plus they have an animated Youtube video telling us all about it, sure only a fool would quibble any more!

    My only question is did these people at Viola.AI come up with the idea separately or are they dirty rotten idea thieves?

    And the young lady on the front page – ah, what thoughts of love and marriage are going through her lovely little female head as she tippy-taps away on her (awkwardly-propped) laptop?

    “Dear Diary:

    Here I am at sunset on a park bench freezin’ me bleedin’ bits off in a summer dress and flip-flops, because night-fall beside de ocean means de cold wind goes right through ya! But I can’t even wear a cardie to ward off de goosepimples because tha’s not sexy, and I has to be sexy or me profile picture will never attract any rich fellas lookin’ for de shift.

    I bleedin’ hope dis wurks, I can’t afford to get de peumonia – have yeh seen de price of American hospitals? Shockin’ altogether! But shur, if I can hook a rich Yank to bring home to me Ma, ’twill all be worth it! Accordin’ ta Mr. Gupta, there’s a fierce load altogether a’ desperate fellas with more money dan sense with deir tungs hangin’ out, lookin’ for a yungwan!”

    • Murphy says:

      I skipped down to the end but then had to head back up to see what you were talking about… wow that thread turned into a trainwreck. (I cringed when I got to the fighting and pseudo-spiritualism bits, if they want people to take their brand seriously he is not a great face for said brand) I get the strong impression that he hangs out with a social group with lots of people who got rich quick and doesn’t get quite how unusual that is.

      if you’re a crypto millionaire and willing to pay pretty girls for interaction…. whatsyourprice.com , sugardaddie.com, seekingarrangement, richmeetbeautiful, my-sugar-daddy… the list goes on and they’re probably better suited to your needs.

      If you’re a girl keen to trade interaction for cash there are also probably better venues.

      • Deiseach says:

        I skipped down to the end but then had to head back up to see what you were talking about… wow that thread turned into a trainwreck.

        I believe the conventional reaction in such cases is “Well, that escalated quickly” 🙂

        This is not really a site where “my spiritual background” will paper over the cracks in a business plan, especially one alleging it is founded on machine learning and blockchain technology. I could waffle about being in a Sodality and having Marian devotion and that makes me favour empowering women, but it won’t do as an answer about “so how does your perpetual motion machine actually work?” and calling objections anti-Catholicism will get me nowhere.

    • alef says:

      > And they’ll be selling it in Korea

      Great point. To work, it surely needs a geographically concentrated critical mass of participants, including (we are told) men who’ve made a ton of money off the blockchain, but excluding (as per the FAQ , but for unexplained reasons) citizens of US, UK, Ireland, Canada, China or Singapore. There is marketing material on their site in English and Korean (nothing else though, that I could see).
      So maybe the reality is that, for the near future, they intend Korea to be _the_ (effectively singular) test market.

      Under this theory one should be hesitant in criticizing this solely in terms of western dating dynamics.

      You could probably evaluate this theory of their business by looking at how much Korean cultural expertise the luna team brings.

      • Nornagest says:

        Koreans do like cryptocurrency — one of the major Bitcoin exchanges (Bithumb) is denominated in won, for example. It’s a logical market if crypto people are who you’re going after.

      • Deiseach says:

        Under this theory one should be hesitant in criticizing this solely in terms of western dating dynamics.

        You could probably evaluate this theory of their business by looking at how much Korean cultural expertise the luna team brings.

        If we go by this extract from a comment over on the sub-reddit, they are banking on traditional “the guy shows off his fat wallet, the girl agrees to be arm-candy” mores:

        One of our primary target markets is Korea, actually, where the dating culture is very different. The “status of the man” is a lot more openly discussed here, and proving status via traditional means is really accepted as a dating strategy.

        I’m really starting to doubt this is meant for a Western market at all, they may just be hoping to soak some American VC for start-up funding with the whole “empower women!” yaddayadda.

  57. Aapje says:

    Aella has written a blog post with more information about Luna.

    • liquidpotato says:

      I’m more confused than ever by the blog post to be honest. The blockchain is to increase value of the in-app tokens by creating a speculative bubble on Luna? This is a sincere question. I don’t know much about blockchain.

      • If I correctly understand it, the increase doesn’t have to be speculative.

        Suppose they release 10,000 stars. All of them end up with people using Luna, either the purchasers or the people the purchasers messaged with stars attached. There is some equilibrium price, the price at which people want to buy as many stars as other people want to sell.

        Now suppose that Luna is a great success and many more people want stars in order to get their messages into the inboxes of people they want to message. The demand for stars goes up. The price goes up. Anyone who is holding stars and no longer needs them–for instance someone who has already found the love of his life on Luna–can now sell them at a profit.

        • Nornagest says:

          That just introduces further problerms!

          It means you can’t calibrate the price of anything on the site, because it’s all denominated in a token with a fluctuating (and probably highly volatile) exchange rate with fiat or other cryptocurrencies (in practice probably just fiat). Picture this: Bob signs up, sees Alice’s profile, and decides he’d like to send her a message. It clanks through whatever price-determination system they use, which decides it’s a pretty good message and prices it at one star. But stars have been on a bull run recently, and a star now costs fifty bucks.

          “Holy fuck,” says Bob, “I could get a month’s subscription to eHarmony for that, or two lap dances.”

          Bob leaves and never comes back. After a while there have been enough Bobs that the bottom falls out of demand and stars go to ten cents. Now Edgar signs up. Edgar is a simple soul, and decides to send identical messages reading “wanna fuck?” to Alice, Carol, Dana, Felicity, Giselle, Holly, Irma, Janet, Kelly, Leona, Michelle, Nimiue, Olivia, Patricia, Quinn, Roberta, Sally, Tina, Undine, Vivian, Xena and Zoe. The price-determination algorithm correctly decides that this is a low-value message, and prices it at two stars. That comes to four bucks eighty, which Edgar happily pays.

          Obviously price swings that extreme are unlikely, but this type of problem should happen all the time.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Bob leaves and never comes back

            Bob only never comes back if he finds a match at eharmony. If he doesn’t he might well end up saying “well I spent $50 a month on eharmony and got no replies, it is wroth $50 to guarantee a reply”.

          • Nornagest says:

            That’s possible, though unlikely. But the point is that to come up with a sane business model you need to tie the prices you’re charging to the service you’re providing, and by denominating them in a token with an unknown fiat exchange rate you’re making it impossible to do that.

            (Demand is always going to be in fiat, unless Bitcoin takes over the world or something, and then demand is going to be in Bitcoin. It is never going to be in stars.)

          • baconbits9 says:

            @ nornagest

            Somewhat Devil’s advocate here but one of the major issues that dating sites have, and maybe THE issue, is that they aren’t providing the same service across time. How valuable the service is to an individual depends on how likely it is you will find a good match, but the service has a large incentive to mislead you into thinking that from the outset. $10 a month is an unbelievable deal to match you up well in a short time frame, and a terrible deal for those that get no replies (as they lose $10 a month and feel shitty about it over and over again).

            Large price swings are not automatically unhealthy, if they actually are responding to scarcity and the prices are drawing in more of the needed resources when it happens then the are vital to functioning markets. The stability you see in most markets is due to long periods of development smoothing these cycles out, not the inverse of monetary stability creating the environment.

        • Brad says:

          I don’t think it is as simple as that, because while the number of stars may be fixed, they are highly divisible. If supply and demand for messages are fundamentally in USD, which I think makes sense, the price per transaction in stars drops as the number of dollars per stars go up (i.e. prices in stars drop in order to stay stead in USD). That’s a countervailing force to the increased demand related to the number of people looking to do transactions. I’m not sure how it all works out at the equilibrium.

        • vV_Vv says:

          Now suppose that Luna is a great success and many more people want stars in order to get their messages into the inboxes of people they want to message. The demand for stars goes up.

          So you’ll have speculators holding stars, increasing their price, preventing regular users from doing anything, until demand falls, speculators panic-sell, and price goes down. Rinse and repeat.

          Bitcoin, the most well established of all the cryptocoins, still has extreme volatility, and Bitcoin has some practical applications (you can use it to buy drugs and pay off the ransomware criminals who encrypted your hard drive).

          These stars, on the other hand, you can use them to participate in an auction to show your message to somebody who will probably not respond, and on top of that, the auction itself is denominated in a floating-value token that can’t be spent on anything else, and will become completely worthless when the scammer run off with the money if the startup inexplicably happens to fold.

          High risks, no benefits compared to the alternatives.

          • Deiseach says:

            if the startup inexplicably happens to fold

            I’m betting on “the start-up which just happened to be tested and launched in Korea of all places gets bought out by one of the Asian online dating services, whoever could have foreseen that, certainly not we the founders taking our profits and going home” rather than folding 🙂

            More I look at it, more I think it’s not intended for a Western market at all.

        • Deiseach says:

          So if the women who get stars cash them in for Real Money, the stars go back into the pool and can be sold again, right?

          • Aapje says:

            The stars are presumably tradable like Bitcoin is today, so the women would sell the stars directly to men.

        • liquidpotato says:

          Thanks for the explanation DavidFriedman. I guess it’s like some club membership that are exclusive and hard to get into.

          It seems needlessly complicated tbh.

    • Nornagest says:

      Still not convinced.

    • baconbits9 says:

      This basically means that the value of Luna’s token directly reflects the amount people value Luna itself. This isn’t the case with fiat – spending a dollar on a mega choco shake at McDonalds doesn’t mean anything special about McDonalds – because you could spend that dollar anywhere.

      Wait…. huh? The fact that I could spend the dollar anywhere else means that I value the mega choco shake at McDonalds MORE meaningful, not less. I throw away most of the “20% off any one item at Bed, Bath and Beyond” coupons even though those coupons could theoretically be worth hundreds of dollars, but I almost never intentionally throw away a dollar bill.

      • Aapje says:

        I think that the point is that they want the Luna currency to reflect the popularity/economy of Luna, not the overall economy.

        Today, the euro doesn’t reflect the Greek economy, but the economy of the entire euro zone, which results in some issues, including the currency that the Greeks use not reflecting their relative productivity.

        Basically, I think that they want a currency that fluctuates quite a bit, based on what happens on Luna, which they wouldn’t get if they used the dollar.

        • baconbits9 says:

          Giving Greece its own currency doesn’t increase that type of information though, you still have to adjust it to the rest of the Eurozones currency(ies) to see figure out the popularity of Greek products, it gives you no standalone information.

          Basically, I think that they want a currency that fluctuates quite a bit, based on what happens on Luna, which they wouldn’t get if they used the dollar.

          Yes, but the reason you want that is for the network effects whereby early adopters have an incentive to recruit more people to play, not for the stated reason.

  58. Deiseach says:

    I think the Korea linkage will make the true aims of this proposed site very clear. From a comment over on the sub-reddit by one of the Luna people:

    One of our primary target markets is Korea, actually, where the dating culture is very different. The “status of the man” is a lot more openly discussed here, and proving status via traditional means is really accepted as a dating strategy.

    I do think this lets us scrape off the marketing foofawraw and see what is going on, which is your basic dating site. Stars are the in-game currency which lets you pay to play. The “empowering women” fake feminist guff is a filter against “Russian brides” scammers and – it is to be hoped – will attract Nice Girls (college-educated young women who will be more prone to believing this line of old rope).

    For women? Stars guarantee that the guys on the site do have the dough and are worth responding to. At the very least, you’ll get a couple of expensive dates, maybe even a present of jewellery. Play your cards right, you might get a (relatively) rich husband or long-term boyfriend!

    For men? The above-mentioned Nice Girls – attractive young women in their 20s with a decent education, the type you could bring home to Mother. Or at least not overt blatant gold-diggers. Guaranteed to read and respond to your messages because that’s what you’re paying for; you may get a couple of dates out of it and if lucky, a Real Girlfriend.

    It’s a cash for companionship (not sex, they’re not going that blatant) transaction. Men in their 30s or 40s who haven’t been romantically successful up to now but have an access of new money and can use that to get young, attractive, relatively poorer women to pay them the time of day now. The point of the blockchain bafflegab? It’s the “Engineer playing the Stock Market because he understands systems” gambit: ‘you’ve been lucky in wealth using this method, now use it to be lucky in love!’

    I’m going to be really cynical here and say that Luna isn’t really aimed to a Western audience (hence why you can’t sign up if you’re in the UK, USA, etc). I think they want to test the model, get it up and running in Korea, and hope to be bought out by a local operator in the online dating site market – I’ve mentioned Viola.AI as the same kind of thing which has been set up by Violet Lim, someone who’s a Big Cheese in the online and offline dating world in Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong markets. What price Luna being sold off to someone hoping to emulate Ms. Lim’s success? Or even bought out as a competitor by Ms. Lim’s company?

    Honestly, look at the Viola.AI site – complete same line of “Blockchain! Machine learning!” sales yap!

    • Matt M says:

      It’s a cash for companionship (not sex, they’re not going that blatant) transaction.

      Seeking arrangement tries really hard to be this too… and yet…

  59. chridd says:

    “In this way Luna’s nancial incentives will be aligned with users’ goals at Stage IV in the exchanging of messages.”: There are a couple letters missing here, and a control character where they should be that’s breaking the RSS feed for me.

  60. waltonmath says:

    Is Luna really located in Silicon Valley? I couldn’t find evidence for this, and the website says they’re incorporated in Ireland.

    • Lambert says:

      Read: taxed in Ireland.

      • Deiseach says:

        Read: doing some dodgy tax avoidance/potential profits shuttling in Ireland. I don’t know what our position on cryptocurrencies and/or websites using same is, but I’m guessing that the Luna company is exploiting some gray area where US and/or Korean law won’t apply to them?

        I note the other partner in Gravity Analytics Ltd. is Max Robbins of aiScaler so presumably that covers the website and how it handles traffic, etc. Slightly interesting that he’s not mentioned on the Luna team page, but that probably means nothing.

        Now, why are Gravity Analytics Ltd. registered in Ireland? Well, according to the Application to incorporate a company, their Dublin address will be the place where the central administration of the company will be carried on, and they intend to carry out an activity within the State (of Ireland), namely:

        NACE Code 5829: Other software publishing
        Synonyms: Computer software design (non-customised) , Computer software documentation of (non-customised) , Computer software supply (non-customised) , Publishing of software for business , Publishing of software for operating systems , Ready-made (non-customised) software development, production, supply and documentation , Software publishing , Translation or adaptation of non-customised software on own account , Computer software production (non-customised)

        and Mr Ornish owns all the shares (1,000 Ordinary shares valued at €1.00 each). So probably something along the same lines as Apple and other companies who find it very handy to have an Irish “headquarters” office where they can do the magic paperwork of transferring funds from Peter to Paul and not be taxed under the rules of Paul’s country of origin, domicile, or business.

    • Aapje says:

      @waltonmath

      I looked up some of the team and and see no clear location. Several people in Israel, New York, Korea and the Bay area.

      They almost certainly don’t all work in one office.

  61. Until just this moment, I presumed this entire post was fiction, the product of Scott’s fertile imagination, the illogical extension of the current mania for cryptocurrency, full of hilarious combinations of buzzwords like “open data ecosystem” or “blockchain dating”.

    But then I noticed a link to the Meet Luna web site. I don’t think Scott would have gone to that much trouble. So this madness is for real?

    I am just blown away. It’s almost like finding out that Jonathan Swift was serious when he suggested recipes for roasted, baked, boiled or fricasseed Irish babies.

  62. danielcompton says:

    One part of the white paper I still don’t understand: why is it on a blockchain?

    So what is blockchain doing for them? The null hypothesis might be: the same thing it does for Long Island Blockchain Tea and half a million other scams. I have hopes that Luna isn’t a scam.

    To my reading, they just about come out and say that it’s because anything to do with the blockchain can raise millions of dollars:

    Blockchain is an integral part of that – it’s what pays the bills to do the science