Could DNA-based dating rewrite the laws of attraction?

Dating apps are making matches based on users’ DNA. Some say the science is shaky... and others worry about the ethics.


December 17, 2019

Dating sucks. From village matchmakers to personal ads to dating sites and apps, there’s no perfect method for finding The One. But some scientists think the solution might be written in our DNA.

Not everyone is happy about this version of modern love

A “60 Minutes” profile of geneticist George Church covered a lot of weird science, but it was a conversation about his DNA-based dating startup (he calls it digiD8) that raised eyebrows… and Twitter ire. 

Many accused him of promoting eugenics and trying to wipe out people with disabilities.

  • In a subsequent interview with the WaPo, Church said the point of DNA-based dating is not to eliminate genetic diversity but to prevent fatal hereditary diseases like Tay-Sachs or cystic fibrosis.

Don’t swipe left just yet…

Church likens digiD8 to genetic counseling some couples already undergo.

  • But whereas those screenings help couples decide whether to have a baby, digiD8 would keep them from meeting in the first place.
  • It blocks users who “match” on certain conditions from seeing one another’s dating profiles.

There’s always other fish in the sea

  • Pheramor, another DNA-based dating app, makes matches based on the results of DNA swab tests and an algorithm that examines social factors.
  • The science is unproven — but so far the Pheramor app has about 10k users, around half of whom have sent in their spit for sequencing.
  • This hardly compares to the number of people using Tinder (50m) and Bumble (40m), but it’s not nothin’.

Given the prevalence of direct-to-consumer genetic testing, it makes sense that services — DNA-based dieting, anyone? — would follow.

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