The Perfect Match — Ken Liu

Ken Liu is an author and translator of speculative fiction, as well as a lawyer and programmer. His fiction has appeared in magazines such as The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Asimov’s, Analog, Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, Nature, Apex, Daily SF, Fireside, TRSF, and Strange Horizons, and has been reprinted in the prestigious Year’s Best SF and The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year anthology series. He has won a Nebula and been nominated for the Hugo and Sturgeon awards. He lives with his family near Boston, Massachusetts.

When you’re checking Facebook, do you ever wonder how, out of your hundreds of friends, the same ten friends’ status updates show up at the top every time? It happens because Facebook uses algorithms that use your past interactions to calculate which friends you’re most interested in talking to, and it prioritizes their placement on your updates page. Google does the same thing: it uses information about your searches and sent emails to put advertisements in the side bar of your gmail account.

Algorithms can help sites tailor your online experiences to make them more satisfying. Sites like Match.com even use algorithms to help you find better dates. But the math is limited by the information available to the program. Websites are loaded with hidden features that help harvest your information to make them more effective. After all, the more effective the website, the more money it makes for its company.

But how much of our information do we want these companies to have? And more importantly, how far will they to go to get it?