Online Dating Pioneer: Algorithmic Insights Can Help Us Become Better People


In an interview at Singularity University’s Global Summit in San Francisco, J. Galen Buckwalter said the quantitative study of personality is finding new tech applications.

Buckwalter developed the matching algorithm at eHarmony and is now chief technology officer at psyML. His work focuses on the quantitative analysis of personality traits and how a better understanding of human behavior can lead to more human technology.

“Psychometrics, literally, is the process of applying numbers to human behavior,” Buckwalter said. “The process of psychometrics, applying it online has, to me, always seemed like a gift to psychologists. Because online, we’re able to, for the first time, apply psychometrics at scale.”

The study of psychometrics is of interest academically, but psyML is pursuing practical applications. The idea, according to Buckwalter, is to give people more insight about themselves so they can change their behavior. He suggested, for example, that people struggling with credit can learn to spot detrimental behaviors and triggers to improve.

Buckwalter said he also hopes the algorithmic tools providing this behavioral mirror will lead to more empathetic, understanding machines in the future.

Watch the interview in full for more on psychometrics, current and future applications in technology, and where the pioneer of online dating met his wife.