The End of Matchmaking

Why Seek a Mate if You Can Clone a Perfect Copy of Yourself?

From The Economist, February 18, 2017

When I first became a professional matchmaker in 2002 people used to ask me if I worried that Internet dating would put us out of business. Match.com and eHarmony launched in 1995 and 2000 respectively. Then those same people wondered if social networking would be the cause of our demise. MySpace and Facebook launched in 2002 and 2003. When mobile dating came to exist, people thought that’s it, they’re toast. Tinder launched in 2012.

But the more technology there is to solve problems, the more problems there are to solve.

Romance scams, confidence fraud, violent crime and sexually transmitted diseases linked to online dating and social networking are at an all time high. That’s why the search for an ideal mate has never been been more difficult. And that’s why matchmaking is more popular than ever.

My largest cohort of clients are frustrated women nearing the end of their childbearing years who are still anxiously looking to meet their match. Most of them have already tried online dating and mobile apps to no avail. According to a 2016 PEW study, 54% of online daters report meeting someone in person who seriously misrepresented themselves online. Many are just too scared to give online dating a second thought. The same PEW study reported that, “just 55% of non-users agree that online dating is a good way to meet people, while six-in-ten agree that online dating is more dangerous than other ways of meeting people.” And that’s why these upscale singles continue turning to us to meet their match.

Besides the obvious, faithful and family oriented, what do you think are the top 3 qualities these smart, successful, financially secure women are seeking in a mate?

  1. Tall.
  2. Intelligent.
  3. Good looking.

In that order. What is tall? I often remind women that only 1% of men in the US are over 6'3". What’s intelligent? To be considered a genius and eligible for the high IQ society, MENSA, you need to be in the top 2% of intelligence. “Physical attractiveness” is subjective of course, but according to the Wikipedia page,

Evolutionary psychologists have tried to answer why individuals who are more physically attractive should also, on average, be more intelligent, and have put forward the notion that both general intelligence and physical attractiveness may be indicators of underlying genetic fitness.[11] A person’s physical characteristics can signal cues to fertility and health. Attending to these factors increases reproductive success, furthering the representation of one’s genes in the population.

So what all this boils down to is “genetic fitness”, “reproductive success” and “furthering the representation of one’s genes”. We know that pretty much everyone would like to do this the old fashioned way. By that I mean sexually. However, there is no shortage of women willing to spend tens of thousands of dollars to freeze their eggs while in search of the ideal man to fertilize them.

Today, The Economist published an article online titled, “Gene editing, clones and the science of making babies”. The author points out,

The range of reproductive options has steadily widened. AID (artificial insemination by donor, which dates back to the 19th century) and IVF (in vitro fertilisation, first used in the 1970s) have become everyday techniques. So has ICSI, intracytoplasmic sperm injection, in which a sperm cell is physically inserted into an egg, bringing fatherhood to otherwise infertile men. Last year another practice was added — mitochondrial transplantation or, as the headlines would have it, three-parent children. The world may soon face the possibility of eggs and sperm made from putative parents’ body cells (probably their skin) rather than in their ovaries and testes.

In the United States, the average cost for one IVF treatment is $12,400 and ICSI adds about $1,500 to the cost, but the number of IVF cycles that are necessary to have have success with IVF vary. Resolve, the National Infertility Association says to be prepared to “undergo at least three cycles before calling it quits”. According to their website,

A doctor in a Swedish hospital, Dr. Catharina Olivius, studied almost a thousand women going through IVF treatment. She noticed that women who underwent three IVF cycles had a 66 percent chance of conceiving, higher than couples that only went through one or two cycles. In her research, she noted that many couples dropped out before their third cycle, often because of financial or mental strain. But those that persevered with a third cycle were most likely to get pregnant.

Its still pretty expensive to use these 2.0 versions of reproduction. Matchmaking is still much cheaper. But The Economist postulates that cloning humans isn’t that far away and we “may soon” be able to create sperm cells and eggs from skin cells.

The author raises moral and ethical questions such as, “Should bereaved parents be able to clone a lost child? Or a widow her departed husband? Should the wealthy be able to pay for their children to be intelligent and diligent, if nobody else can afford to do so?” But what concerns me as a matchmaker is the belief that

Adults should be able to clone perfect copies of themselves, as an aspect of self-determination.

This was something I never accounted for when considering the longevity of my profession. But what if you didn’t need a mate to clone yourself? What if you could raise a you better than you were raised? If the whole point of being attracted to someone is “genetic fitness”, “reproductive success” and “furthering the representation of one’s genes”, what happens if you no longer even need the DNA of another person to accomplish that? Would there be a need for matchmakers any more?