Is AI the ultimate matchmaker? Sci-fi book for young adults ‘It’s a Match’ explores how technology can change how we date – YP

From apps like Bumble and Hinge to virtual Zoom dates during Covid-19, dating has changed a lot in the last 10 years. But imagine what it will be like in another 10 – what new technology today can sparkle into our love life? NFT bouquets? Blockchain marriage certificates?

Samantha Cheah’s Young Adult Novel, It’s a Match, guess how dating in the 2030s could be by combining the age-old tradition of arranged marriage with a non-human matchmaker, artificial intelligence (AI). The sci-fi book, which takes place in London, tells Sarah, a university student from Hong Kong, about the bizarre dating experience.

A polite and introverted girl, Sarah has never treated dating as a priority until her best friend, Jen, starts dropping her off for her new boyfriend, Nate. Wesley and Ana├»s, Sarah’s classmates and friends, also constantly flirt with each other.

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As a result, Sarah feels lonely and begins to weigh her options. After a series of awful dates – some virtual, some in real life – she decides to ask Delphi, her virtual assistant with artificial intelligence (AIVA), to use her preferences to match her with a date. But things are not going as planned and Sarah has to face some harsh truths about how much she wants technology to control her life.

One of the central topics in the book is whether it is possible to have free will, the ability to make one’s own choices and mistakes, even when a more powerful entity has some influence. In novel fiction, free will is often disputed, as writers constantly undermine the characters’ choices and create predictable and sometimes unhealthy tropes.

In this novel, the main characters rely on AI, but in the end, they have to choose for themselves. This presents protagonists with decisions they can make about love and life – and reminds readers that they too can make those choices.

Sci-fi novels explore what the future might look like and can inform about how we respond to technology now. Graphics: Shutterstock

The storytelling feels like you are reading a sitcom with ingenious characters that are three-dimensional. Sarah’s experiences are inspired by the author’s attempts at online dating, making the story fun and original.

Sarah grows beyond being just “the perfect one”, and even other characters like Wesley, “the funny one” who looks like Jake Peralta from the popular sitcom Brooklyn 99, gain more depth as the plot progresses. Near the end, we see the perspectives of different characters, which show how they have matured and the reasons for their actions. In addition, the author undertook to portray the diversity of London, as most of the main characters are colored.

In the author’s note, Cheah explains that although she is not an expert in artificial intelligence, she believes that the technology in this novel has the potential to exist. Futuristic objects are used in routine settings, such as virtual reality glasses, self-driving cars or holograms.

There are also contemporary references that make the book seem as if it is set in a very possible future for our world – for example, mentions of the Covid-19 pandemic or Brooklyn 99.

Nevertheless, it is not a perfect book. Within its tight 280 pages, the first part about Sarah’s dates pulls out, while the plot twist comes late and feels rushed. The novel’s main problem – and most shocking moment – is solved too quickly.

While It’s a Match is not a masterpiece, it is a quick read that is both fun and innovative. The novel is also current in how it deals with our morals and ethics regarding technology.

Especially, as Cheah puts it, if you “are the kind of person who finds it both creepy and fascinating when an ad for something you talk about on your phone pops up on your laptop,” this book is for you.

It’s a Match was released on February 14th.

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