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Family has always been a touchstone of identity, but how has technology changed our idea of who we consider our family? We now have the ability to communicate with our family in more ways than ever before. In this episode, host Claire L. Evans talks with Chris Mikkelsen of Refunite about how refugees are finding their way back to their families, and Wendy and Ryan Kramer, the mother and son co-founders of the Donor Sibling Registry, who are using technology to challenge traditional notions of what family means.

Guest List

Justin Long

App developer of Tinder automation bot Tinderbox

Kelly Rakowski

Photo editor at Metropolis Magazine and founder of dating and community app Personals

Jess Carbino

Former in-house sociologist at Bumble


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Justin L.
Jess C.
Vox Pop Speaker
Kelly R.
Claire E.
Back in 2014 a Canadian programmer named Justin Long found himself frustrated with online dating. Then one night when he was out with friends, he had this idea.
Justin L.
Here we are at this bar. I'm with a group of friends, and I noticed nobody's talking. And nobody's talking because ever¬ybody is staring at their phone, swiping away on Tinder. And I thought to myself, "This is ridiculous. Aren't we here to meet people? Aren't we here to talk to people?" I looked at my buddy Jim and my buddy Matt and I looked at them and I said, “I'm just going to automate this. I'm sick and tired of watching you guys get do this, I'll just build something that does this for you.”
Claire E.
According to Justin, he and his friends would start conversations with people and they would go nowhere. He'd have an inbox full of messages and only one or two of those threads would actually lead to a date. So Justin's idea was to use artificial intelligence, specifically a method called machine learning, to swipe and start conversations for him. So he set to work and within a month he built a prototype called Tinderbox. The AI that he created, which eventually became known as an app called Bernie, did everything, that decided who was worthy of a right swipe. That knew who was an instant left, that even started conversations with people that he matched with.
Claire E.
Two of the most successful opening lines. Do you like avocados and pancakes or waffles? But did Justin's idea actually work?
Justin L.
I was actually testing Bernie. I was watching Bernie do his thing on the inbox and everything and then I see this girl popped from the university. I was like, “Oh, I know her." And I'm watching the logs and here Bernie is about to start a conversation and I will admit I had to jump in at that point, and I started the conversation myself because Bernie was sending funny jokes and everything and I was like, “Well, funny joke is a great way to a conversation but it will come off as aloof, because we already have some history. So it would probably be a good idea for me to start to conversation."
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I think the idea of online dating in terms of how it's informed our view of love, that it's made the market logic of love far more real and meaningful because it's literally at our fingertips.
Jess Carbino