In some respects, for the masses of grownups seeking mates, either for a night or for life, dating is an attempt to approximate the collegiate condition—that surfeit both of supply and demand, of information and authentication.A college campus is a habitat of abundance and access, with a fluid and fairly ruthless vetting apparatus.Ross had hoped that The process of selecting and securing a partner, whether for conceiving and rearing children, or for enhancing one’s socioeconomic standing, or for attempting motel-room acrobatics, or merely for finding companionship in a cold and lonely universe, is as consequential as it can be inefficient or irresolute.

Civilization, in its various guises, had it pretty much worked out.

Society—family, tribe, caste, church, village, probate court—established and enforced its connubial protocols for the presumed good of everyone, except maybe for the couples themselves.

In a fractured and bewildered landscape of fern bars, ladies’ nights, Plato’s Retreat, “The Bachelor,” sexting, and the concept of the “cougar,” the Internet promised reconnection, profusion, and processing power.

The obvious advantage of online dating is that it provides a wider pool of possibility and choice.

the fall of 1964, on a visit to the World’s Fair, in Queens, Lewis Altfest, a twenty-five-year-old accountant, came upon an open-air display called the Parker Pen Pavilion, where a giant computer clicked and whirred at the job of selecting foreign pen pals for curious pavilion visitors. Within a year, more than five thousand subscribers had signed on. It would invite dozens of matched couples to singles parties, knowing that people might be more comfortable in a group setting. They wound up in the pages of the New York subscriber.

You filled out a questionnaire, fed it into the machine, and almost instantly received a card with the name and address of a like-minded participant in some far-flung locale—your ideal match. He called up his friend Robert Ross, a programmer at I. M., and they began considering ways to adapt this approach to find matches closer to home. “This loser happens to be a talented fashion illustrator for one of New York’s largest advertising agencies.As for romantic love, it was an almost mutually exclusive category of human experience.As much as it may have evolved, in the human animal, as a motivation system for mate-finding, it was rarely given great consideration in the final reckoning of conjugal choice.You can get to thinking that the single ones are single for a reason.If your herd is larger, your top choice is likely to be better, in theory, anyway. When there is something better out there, you can’t help trying to find it.A city also has abundance and access, especially for the young, but as people pair off, and as they corral themselves, through profession, geography, and taste, into cliques and castes, the range of available mates shrinks.