Monthly Archives: January 2015

The Unmeasurable Value of Nanaya

Atoms, or perhaps it would be more accurate the say those aspects of the atom which scientists choose to consider, are immeasurably less complicated than men. And yet nobody who is not professionally a physicist would venture to discuss the nature of atoms. Where man is concerned, the case is different. Not only the professional anthropologist or sociologist but every human being thinks himself qualified, by the mere fact of his humanity, to lay down the law about man and society and with what arrogance, too often, what absurd cocksureness! An amateur like the rest, I too rush in. But before rushing, I would offer some brief apology and explanation.

Aldous Huxley, “Measurable and Unmeasurable” 


Some people might be moved by the numerical results: that there are genuine odds of finding love that can be predicted. Or that there may be a uniquely shared bond between one and their partner that may be better or worse in provide happiness than any other.

As I wrote in my first post, I’m actually not one of those people. Of course I believe we can calculate those odds or simulate that happiness, but to measure that which is unmeasurable leaves me feeling unmoved.

Rather, I personally value Nanaya for the process we are busy designing, not just for its numerical results. When we have enough data to finish the implementation of our algorithm we won’t just be putting together a machine that generates numbers. For the algorithm to work, we need to ask detailed questions about what you want in life and how certain you are of it. Do you want to settle down? Do you want children? How many? Where do you want to live? How do you get along with your friends?

Not everyone has these answers. People may never have actually sat down and asked themselves these questions. Even if family and friends have asked those questions, did you answer?

Of course some people may have these answers but they may not have the answer to the follow up question: Are you sure?

Marriage or any long-term monogamous bond may be singularly the most important life decision – and there’s a lot of discussion online. Notably Tauriq Moosa  expresses “We need to have a frank discussion about marriage” on The Guardian on the mythos surrounding matrimony. Carolyn Hall addresses men in a frank open letter that exposes the truth of living with someone for decades beyond the ideals that have been engraved by culture and media.

Last week, Nanaya was covered by the New Scientist. There was a critical remark expressed by Dr. Harry Reis, “You simply can’t do [prediction of attraction] from paper and pencil characteristics.”  Though Nanaya does quantify quality of life in relationships, I agree with his sentiment. As far as Dr. Paul Eastwick’s comment on matchmaking, Nanaya does not perform traditional matchmaking and we do plan on performing extensive validation during the Beta with a control set (there will be emails to users and a post about that when the product becomes ready). Plainly, Nanaya will provide the best estimate of your romantic options you’ll ever find.

To return to the introductory quote by Huxley, Nanaya is yet another group to try to understand and assess human behavior. I can’t deny that! However, whereas online dating is a platform to explore others, I hope that Nanaya is a platform to explore yourself.

Ultimately,  Nanaya does assess relationships in a numerical way but the result is not an end in itself. I hope future users value the process of Nanaya, the questions we ask and the results, as much as I do. Think of Nanaya as a canvas where you can sketch out your life dreams and see what it looks like. If you don’t like what you see, contemplate further what you want out of your life and why you seek it. The sketch is but a draft – completing the masterpiece is up to you.

A Work in Progress

This last week has been really exciting! We’re at thousands of users and well before we expected or planned.

That’s not always good. I’ve been contacted by quite a few people telling me about ways to improve Nanaya. We’re listening but unfortunately Nanaya is not funded so we can only work as hard as friends and I can find the time to put together a user-friendly site.

In the next few weeks we’ll be focusing on the following:

  • Internationalization. Lo siento! We’re not keeping of where users outside of the US are from. We need to so we can eventually integrate our algorithm for other countries. Estoy pensando en ti, mundo Hispano!
  • Social media sharing. Once we have personalities from about 100,000 people in the US, we can finish the algorithm. That’s a lot easier if you have something to share on Facebook. Tell your friends your top trait and direct them to the personality test, with two clicks!
  • Survey Portal. Are you on a college newspaper? alternative weekly? radio station? Need a way to boost your readership engagement and build content while providing a new venue for your advertising for free? Contact us and we can build your portal starting the last week of January. Just in time for Valentine’s Day!
  • Mobile optimization. Google analytics tells us almost everyone accessing Nanaya is doing it from a desktop, which is great because our site isn’t the most responsive right now. Until this is fixed we recommend using Nanaya on a computer. 
  • Sociology studies. One of the things I’m most excited about. We’re getting very high resolution data within the US of romantic personalities.  Unlike OkCupid, our psychology studies are done via scientific psychometrics as opposed to an ad hoc list of values. While we cannot say our studies are wholly scientific (sample bias is not controlled for), we can provide unique insights and plan on publishing interesting results on values & psychology based on demographics as we build users.

If you have any questions, comments, or concerns drop an email to info@nanaya.co. If you’re interested in partnering for your media organization, contact either melissa@nanaya.co or tom@nanaya.co.

What is Nanaya? Video edition!

As a little boy, I dreamed of doing great science that helps discover new frontiers in the universe. When I started at NASA JPL as a mission architect, I dreamed of designing new mission concepts that can explore new places in new ways with less money.

I’m a generally private person, but I really looked forward to helping science outreach and educating society about the value of science and scientific methods in society.

For now, I’m dancing with a cat on youtube! I hope it gives a good idea of what Nanaya is about and that people can get a chuckle, even if it’s at my expense.

For fun sharing, here’s a few GIFs:

…and another one just because Jak is such an awesome cat.

“Should I Dump My Girlfriend? Will I Find Another?”

Well let’s not get too hasty.

Earlier this week, I posted the Nanaya white paper to ArXiv: “Should I Dump My Girlfriend? Will I Find Another?” Or: An Algorithm for the Forecasting of Romantic Options. The title is a bit melodramatic but it’s a reference to Peter Backus’s “Why I Don’t Have a Girlfriend.” Apologies to everyone, especially Dr. Backus.

So this paper summarizes how the Nanaya algorithm works. I genuinely wonder who will have actually read it. Theory papers are hard enough to get through on their own and then harder yet when it’s an interdisciplinary mush. So we’ll go over some of the key points here.

The first major issue is uniqueness. Did we do anything academically worthy? Well, a lot of people have worked on the Secretary Problem (to be covered in a future post), but no one has really tailored it for a situation like romance. There are simplifications that do little justice to the complexity and information available to people – but those aren’t useful. Let’s just call it overzealous journalism…

We also do something new: comparing a specific relationship to being single and the chance of any other relationship. This is options analysis and rather new to the problem.

The Nanaya process.
The Nanaya process.

The rest is explaining what’s going on in the algorithm. Let’s check out the first figure:

So let’s break it down by each step:

Assessment of Inputs

When the Nanaya Beta is up (pending funding, be sure to call your local, friendly Venture Capital fund and request them to fund Nanaya) we’ll be asking a bunch of questions to understand your life circumstances:

  • What is your personality and social and romantic history. This gives us an idea of how likely you’ll be successful in finding a match, attracting a match, and how happy you are when you don’t have a partner in your life. We also need to know how long you’ve been in the city and job you’re in as that has a huge impact on how many people you’ll be meeting. You can check out this blog post that goes over this detail.
  • What is the ideal This is a mix of personality and specific values that are shared.
  • If you’re with someone, how do you feel about them.
  • The groups you interact with, like at work, geographically, and in socializing.

Determining Match Probabilities

With all of that data we can use our database and others available to us to figure out what the chance is of finding a match in any given encounter, depending on the group.

These numbers are typically low. Something like 1-in-10,000 is not unreasonable. This is where statistics comes in to play and you have something like the birthday paradox to offset those low odds.

Sociological Modeling

This is where we mix the match probabilities with your social behavior to figure out what are the chances of actually meeting someone. This is a bit of sociology and a bit of statistics to solve a problem no one’s really touched before, at least in this context (if I’m wrong, let us know). The sociology is based on personality, group types, and the results of some of our prototype experiments. The probability is based on binomial distributions and a variation of the Urn Problem. This is how we describe our social interactions…with urns!

The Nanaya implementation of the Urn problem
The Nanaya implementation of the Urn problem

We admit we make some simplifications in the paper, namely use of binomial probability distributions and assumptions that populations are very large. For almost everyone, these are pretty good assumptions but not for people in small populations. This gets into a lot of theoretical combinatorics which is well understood but not yet implemented.

Utility Function Valuation

This is the ugly philosophically ugly part where we literally put values to things that ordinarily don’t have numbers associated with them: like compatibility and happiness.

Using personality test results for who you are, who you want, and who your partner is we can estimate how happy you’ll be in any given relationship. We can also use your personality and romantic history to gauge how happy you’ll be in time as you’re single.

To simulate a random match you meet through the course of your life, we run a Monte Carlo simulation based on the groups you interact with. Some groups will have their own types of traits that lead to specific archetypes or segments (in demographic-speak) – we want to respect what’s observed in reality so we use these archetypes in seeding the randomness of the Monte Carlo.

Reporting the Results

With all of the above done, all that’s left is showing the numbers in a way that’s easy to digest!

If you sign up and take our personality tests, we’ll be inviting you to join our Beta program when it’s ready! So be sure to take your personality test and start today!