Julie Mirata

“Julie Mirata. It’s a sexy name, right?” Chess said to Brian.

Of course it was a sexy name. After all, Julie was the top ranked performer on the MatchMe platform.

“What is she? Like, is she Spanish?” Brian looked eagerly over his shoulder at his monitor.

Chess looked at her photo. He could not quite tell. She could be Spanish, maybe Indian, perhaps Turkish. That was probably part of her appeal. Julie’s skin was tan and her long brown hair cascaded in easy waves down her back. Her facial features sat at the perfect line between cute and hot.

“So how much money did she make you guys?” Brian asked.

“Let’s see,” Chess read through the analytics on her profile. It was hard for him to concentrate on the code because her photo was off to the side. Out of the corner of his eye he could see that while her eyes at first looked brown, they were in fact speckled with green.

“159,000 dollars.”

Brian whistled, “Goddamn. So this woman essentially bought your Coup.”

“When you put it like that….well, yes.”

“159,000 in a year,” Brian whistled again, “Goddamn the power of a pretty woman to rob us men blind.”

“I mean, it might not have been a year. She might have been on for like two years.”

Curious, he poured over the code. While he was doing so, Brian scavenged his office.

“Looking for something?”

“You surely hide booze in here?”

“Bottom drawer,” he pointed, “There’s also some edibles in there too if you want those.”

Brian poured them both drinks.

“Nah, I can’t be high around your mom. I still get nightmares about when your she yelled at me when you got a B+ on your report card.”

He found it.

“Seven years.”

Chess stilled, his hands slack over the keyboard.

Brian whistled again, even harder. “So for seven years, this woman has used your app and you haven’t found her love. Your AI sucks.”

“No, it doesn’t. It must just mean she isn’t ready for love. See, our personality quizzes can understand not just who you should be paired with but whether you’re open to a relationship at all. A lot of people think they’re ready for a relationship, but they actually aren’t. So we feed them bots until they’re ready and in the meantime sell their data to gyms and therapy companies and things like that. Broadens our revenue streams.”

Chess pulled up the script that factored in several dozen factors into the AI of whether or not Julie Mirata would be shown a match with a high percentage chance of a relationship that would move her off-platform.

Her “relationship openness score” sat at a 7.8 out of 10. Only those with a score below a 3.2 would be fed strictly bots, so that was not the problem. He scanned through the code for other factors that would keep her on the platform for so long.

The average time a person spent on MatchMe was a year and four months before they never came back because they were in a committed, long term relationship. They promoted the hell out of that average. In a world of technology designed to help people constantly meet someone new, MatchMe was an outlier. They helped people meet their person. There were millions of relationships to show for his work.

Then he remembered why Julie had such terrible luck in love, remembered with the force of a train that forgot the next station was gone, and in its place a cement wall that was hurtling towards him.

He opened the file that held the Incentivizer Score code. The idea was that some users were “Incentivizers,” whose appearance on the app incentivized others to pay a Premium price to message. Those with high Incentivizer scores would see only users with low match scores.

The team had burned through their Seed round of funding and had a hard time getting any bridge funding. Investors told them dating tech was a crowded market with big players. They would have to live off of profit alone.

Chess had promised he would change the code back as soon as they had enough revenue. But then prices on servers increased with a chip shortage. Then, they needed to hire a cyber security developer and good ones were expensive. The Series A came and suddenly he was not yet thirty but in charge of an entire department that counted on him.

By that time he was hardly sleeping at night. Somewhere the constant thread of anxiety within him had changed. Anxiety used to be his tool, that had pushed him to get a 4.9 GPA in high school, pushed him on to summa cum laude at MIT in their computer science department and a Masters in machine learning at Carnegie Mellon. Now the anxiety chained him. The emails kept piling up. New people seemed to appear in the office and said they worked for his team and he could not remember when he had ever hired them. He had gone from getting high at night to all day. He carried eye drops with him, and he still made it to every meeting.

Then Chess’s father had died. For two weeks he did not show up to the office. When he finally did, his friends told him later that he was so drunk he had passed out spread eagle on his office carpet.

His two co-founders had sat him down and told him that they could see he was struggling. He was not fired. But he would need to get help before he could come back. They would say that he was abroad starting their London office.

They probably thought he would be gone a month or two. Instead he was gone for almost four years.

He looked at the matches Julie would have seen this week. From the outside it looked as if she was matched with well rounded, handsome men that would seem to work well with her. But on the back-end he could see most were bots. A handful were men that had under a 30% match score with her.

His AI was not simply not working. No, it was actively keeping her away from compatible matches to keep her on the platform.

Brian noticed his shift in mood. “What’s up?”

“I did this. I…essentially made it harder for attractive, nice, well-rounded people to find love.”

He had only been back for two weeks, and all he could think about was the cabin he left on Nihue. But his mother was now sick, and he promised himself that this time he would not run away. He just did not realize how hard it would be to come back.

“Give me five minutes?” He asked Brian.

He knew he would likely get a lot of heat for this, but it was time to make it right. He deleted the Incentivizer Score code, approved, and deployed the new version of the code base.

He sat back in his chair. A wave of relief rolled over him. It was the first time he had felt actively good in a long time. Julie, and the other women like her, would finally see real matches that would fit well with her.

“Ready to head out?”

Brian nodded. “It’s been too long since I’ve had Mama Li’s pork soup. It’s half the reason I’m friends with you.”

Two miles away, in an old brownstone walk up Julie Mirata had just gotten home and unloaded her groceries. She fed her goldfish, Juniper, and her dog, Biscuit. She made herself a big salad, full with avocado and roasted sweet potatoes, and curled up in her corner window to read while she ate. There she poured over the history of the yam in America. Julie read until the moon hung full over her head, its silver light washing over a room tastefully crafted but ultimately designed for comfort.

She showered, stretched, and went to bed. There was a farmers market to get to in the morning. Absentmindedly Julie saw that her MatchMe app had lots of notifications, but she had long ago silenced it. She did not bother looking at it now.

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