At our core, we are torn.
We are raised to believe we are unique and valuable. We want to believe this is true. For that to be false would mean that we are all part of a blob of humanity, no different from the billions who came before us or who will come after us, meant to make no distinct mark on this earth before the sun explodes and thus negates all existence for all time, making every thing we have ever done, thought or accomplished meaningless.
Which sounds a bit bleak.
As the same time, our desire to find somebody who fundamentally understands us is a core concept of modern romance, not to mention a major boon to rom-com ticket sales, fancy coffee-houses and the word “swipe,” which has seen a MAJOR resurgence in recent years.
8^8, a new online interactive tool, does not resolve that paradox. While the site leans towards the hopefully-romantic-with-a-side-of-depressing-realism (“We typically get acquainted with less than 1,000 people before we die,” according to the website. “Very few of us are lucky enough to come across our soulmate within our lifetimes…. Statistically, it is extremely unlikely that we will come across our soulmate.”) it’s still a helpful resource if you’re a nihilist trying to confirm that your existence isn’t particularly special.
The concept is simple: on the website are eight questions, each of which has eight answers. The odds of someone else answering in the exact same way as you are exactly one in 16,777,216. Answer them to the best of your ability, leave your address, and should your doppelganger somewhere in the world answer in the exact same way, the website will hook you two up.
A few questions arise: Firstly, why 8^8 and not 9^9 or 10^10? I spoke by email with Sven Hansen, 8^8’s lead developer, to find out.
“We did consider those,” he said. “9^9 works out to 387,420,489 — so while the quality of the matches would be higher, there would be too few matches to make it a viable project.”
While 1 in 16 million seems like pretty big odds, with over 7 billion people in the world, it’s pretty much a statistical certainty that there will be many people with the same mindset as you. So does Hansen really believe that you are the same as another person just because you answered a question like “You save an old lady’s life. In gratitude she gives you $100,000. What do you do with most of it?” the same way?
“What I am firmly convinced of at this juncture is that the person people are matched with will beyond any shadow of doubt be more similar to themselves than anyone they know,” he said. “I’ve had someone whom I’ve diligently brainwashed for a good number of years take the test, and his answers were off mine by a factor of three. And this guy has my DNA. At least, that’s what I’ve been led to believe by my wife.”
Clearly, if Hansen is matched up with somebody, that person will have a warped sense of wit. As for why he thinks somebody would even want to find their exact double, “I think… the concept resonates with people, perhaps on a primeval level. Personally, I’ve always envied twins, how they interact seamlessly, how they understand each other so well, how they support each other naturally and effortlessly. I’ve also wished I could understand the girls I’ve dated better. Someone mentioned that 8^8 is like Tinder for people who are intellectual or spiritual as opposed to superficial. The app wasn’t intended that way, but I can understand it functioning like that.”
Maybe you will find that person who thinks just like you, and you’ll whisk each other off your feet, thus giving meaning to both your lives. Or you’ll just kill another few minutes before your inevitable death brings about the end of what has been at its center an entirely useless existence, no different than a prehistoric amoeba in its significance.
Either one is good.
Are You Just Eight Simple Questions Away From Finding A Soulmate?