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An artist’s illustration of artificial intelligence (AI). This image depicts a look inside how AI microchips are designed with inputs and outputs.

Technology has changed the face of dating, creating the potential for connections, emotional, physical, fleeting, intense, across distances. Today, one has the option of a wide range of dating apps that offer all kinds of possibilities – the rough and tumble of roulettes; the more curated subscription-based apps, the flick of the finger of Tinder, and the now very recognisable ping of Grindr. While digital technology has dramatically changed the possibilities of love and sex and connection, one of the pitfalls of these platforms is entrepreneurs taking advantage of those in search of love. Just in the last month or so I’ve matched with two different men online. Both attractive professionals, with slightly vague job descriptions, who took their time to get to know me online, but who I did not meet offline. In both instances, after a few days (in one of these instances it was weeks) of banter online, it became clear that one of their hobbies was cryptocurrency, and that they were interested in making some money to supplement their income. Not that there is anything wrong with this. But when the man you are flirting with online, who you haven’t met in person yet, starts asking you if you are interested in investing money and tells you why you should be considering cryptocurrency investments, you know that there is a problem.

A few years ago, when I lived in Sydney, I matched with Andrei, an attractive Russian man, who was scheduled to visit Sydney over the summer. Andrei was very enthusiastic about chatting online. He was very interested in my life in Sydney and personal details, including when my birthday was, and would call me regularly on WhatsApp to talk about his life in Russia. When he called, the background was always a room that was quite plain, and he said he was speaking from there since he lived with his mother and needed some privacy. He seemed really excited about his trip to Sydney and peppered me with questions on where he should stay, and how he should spend his time. I gathered that he lived with his family, worked in a munitions factory in a small city in Russia, and was close to his mother. His excitement was infectious.

As it got closer to the date of his scheduled departure, I began planning my schedule around his arrival, and was excited to show him around town. I knew which hotel he had booked himself into and the flight he was taking. Just a week before he was to leave, Andrei called me in panic, saying that he was having problems with his bank account, and that he needed some money for the visa which he would pay me back when he arrived in Sydney. Of course, it all made sense to me then. This was another attempt at online fraud really trying to take advantage of the currency of loneliness. The fear of being alone is a powerful motivation for taking risks online – the risk that someone you barely know could turn out to be Mr Right. And if you are a bit of a romantic like me, it can be even more difficult to spot these red flags online. But with a bit of experience, one becomes a bit more worldly-wise. Also, maybe a little bit more disappointed and disillusioned with the possibilities of digital technology, and lots of nostalgia for the old-fashioned friends ‘set up’.

Even as I jump through the hoops of online roulettes and dating apps, I can’t help but wonder if it would just be simpler to go the whole way and think of a more pragmatic solution for loneliness. Perhaps follow Joaquin Phoenix on the trail of a curated AI partner. Maybe acquire a robot to shower my attention on. Perhaps a robot programmed to be ethical, compassionate, and tender. A good conversationalist skilled in the art of lovemaking. Even with all the risks that AI poses, it seems a safer bet than humans trying to exploit dating apps to make quick money. After years of tricky dalliances online, I’m ready to either go fully high tech or really the more old-fashioned route. It’s no wonder that when my sister-in-law sent me the link to The Guardian newspaper’s announcement asking for entries for its blind date column in Australia, I jumped at the opportunity to send in my details. That’s the closest I will get to a human setting me up using a database. Hopefully, I will be sharing this experience with my friends on our WhatsApp groups, laughing at how the date went. At least I can trust a human moderator to weed out fraudulent dates. While it does risk some public humiliation, it sounds safer (and much more fun) than navigating strangers wanting me to invest in cryptocurrency.

Cover Image: Photo by Google DeepMind on Unsplash