Black Mirror (2017): Finding Soulmates with AI
An uplifting scene about encountering a soulmate for the first time
The Hang the DJ episode in season four of Black Mirror is about finding love in a world run by advanced dating applications.
In this scene, Amy and Frank are looking for each other in a bar after AI-versions of themselves successfully complete 998 of 1,000 dating simulations. Amy studies the dating app on her phone with a picture of Frank. She spots him across the bar doing the same. They make the connection and smile. Then they’re somewhat stunned, trying to figure this connection out. A knowingness is felt, like the love the AI-versions of themselves felt in the simulation. After an infinite gaze, Amy walks toward him with another smile.
The scene starts at 00:49:34 in the episode.
INT. BAR - NIGHT Amy looks down and back up from her phone, making sure he’s the right guy, and not wanting to be caught staring at him cold like some psycho. They meet eyes and Frank is like a deer in headlights. But Amy plays it cool and smiles. It puts him at ease and he smiles back. It feels so easy so fast that he shakes his head slightly in disbelief, like saying hey, how do I know you. She looks at him intently, like saying, I don’t know but I feel it too. She smiles again, almost with relief, happy she’s made it here. Then, back and forth, a knowingness is shared. A connection that makes the music, bar banter, and everything else waves in the background of this special moment. With a tilt of the head and another smile, she says, let’s do it for real now and walks toward him.
This is the most optimistic Black Mirror scene ever made. It posits the idea that artificial intelligence can reach a point where it brings people together who share a deep connection.
Dating applications today are a crapshoot. You can see pictures of the person and read a short autobiography about them, but dating applications have no significant data that can predict if you’ll connect with them. The AI-based dating app in this episode does. And the gaze between Amy and Frank that’s filled with humor, romance, and intrigue alludes to the idea that AI can go further than predicting connection and predict love.
Teams within dating applications like Bumble, Hinge, and Tinder could draw inspiration from this episode. Today, the technology they use seems as advanced as Facemash, the initial version of Facebook in 2003 that let Harvard students judge the attractiveness of other students.
I’ve met about 20 women through dating applications between 2017 and 2022. I’ve shared a connection with about half. A few could have developed into a loving relationship if I was open to that at the time. The other women? The dates with them were either uncomfortable and awkward or flat. I’ve never met someone through a dating app where the connection was known on the first date, like it was between Amy and Frank.
If you’re ready to be with someone—like, really ready—using technology that could identify a connection would be a game changer. The consequence is that it would be so easy that it would remove some of the mystery of life.
The only time I met someone where we locked eyes and both knew that we knew each other from somewhere before, like Amy and Frank, was not facilitated by a dating app. We were quiet people in a loud club who didn’t speak the same language and, after dancing for ten minutes, she motioned me outside. We hopped on her motorcycle, returned to my little rental in Floripa, Brazil, and spent the rest of the month together. The connection was so strong that not much talking was needed, even when at a restaurant or on the beach. (I couldn't speak Portuguese anyways, and she couldn't speak English.)
What if an AI-based dating application could inspire more experiences like this? But again, the mystery. These experiences are probably so special because they are so rare. I wouldn’t want to ruin that. There is also the question about the thousand AI versions of myself that would be stuck in the simulation. I wouldn’t want them to suffer. It seems like the show creator, Charlie Brooker, thinks they would given other Black Mirror episodes like USS Calister.
Would you use artificial intelligence to find a soulmate?