Midway through dinner at a West Hollywood restaurant, Arman Roshannai, the 21-year old CTO of 222 brings up 19th century French polymath Pierre-Simon Laplace’s demon. Or, rather, the Frenchman’s theory of destiny. As Roshannai explains, LaPlace thought that if someone (the demon) knows the precise location and momentum of every atom in the universe, their past and future values for any given time can be calculated from the laws of mechanics. Freewill, Laplace would say, is an illusion.
How did we get to Laplace? Roshannai made a joke about 222 being his demon after I suggested he’s Dr. Frankenstein.
“Don’t mention that in the article,” Roshannai says. He’s mostly joking.
But how could I not? 222 is a demon caste from human brain mimicry. But unlike the other demons — consumer predictability, metaverse, surveillance — 222 is offering salvation.
The idea for 222 began with a simple theory: “Meeting people through chance encounters, being at a bar, seeing someone wearing a shirt of a band you like and striking up a conversation just felt much better than getting a follow request on Instagram,” says Danial Hashemi, the 21-year-old COO.
To test it, Roshannai and Hashemi began to host events at Keyan Kazemian’s house—the 23-year-old CEO of 222.
“We would beg our friends who didn't know each other to come to Keyan's backyard where he lives in Orange County,” says Hashemi. “We cooked pasta and served wine.” They also had their friends fill out a personality survey that they then used to determine who should sit at which table at subsequent dinners.
People kept coming back. Some people became best friends. Others started dating. And what began as a college research project bloomed into an AI company. “No swiping, no profiles, no dms, just say yes and find the people and places that best match your personality,” says Hashemi.
Sound cool? The table next to ours thinks so. They’re one of a smattering of four-to-eight person cliques at the West Hollywood restaurant who have been synthesized to have a good time. And by the looks on their faces, bright-eyed and full of expression, 222 is working.
To sign up, you have to be between 18 and 27. For now, 222, is targeting Gen Z. The app, I’m told, is coming soon but until then you enter your phone number on 222’s website before being directed to 30-some odd questions that include:
“Would you rather watch an arthouse or mainstream blockbuster?”
“Would you rather go clubbing or have a daytime picnic?”
“Would you rather listen to Tchaikovsky or Megan Thee Stallion?”
Potential members also have to rate how strongly they agree or disagree with statements like:
“I would go to space if there’s a chance I wouldn’t come back.”
“Humans should make an active effort to curb the emission of greenhouse gasses.”
“Humans are born with an innate purpose.”
The survey also includes a self-assessment of your drug habits and at one point you have to rate your own attractiveness on a scale between one and 10. The goal is to provide the AI with enough data points for it to determine which of the 16 categories your personality falls into.
“Once you get your personality type, you wait until we have an experience,” Hashemi says.
For now, 222 experiences are held every other week. Members who are selected by the AI engine to attend the dinner portion of the evening pay $2.22. Those who aren't selected for the dinner portion of the experience can still, if they choose, attend the post-dinner venue.
The way the AI determines compatibility is a bit of a mystery.
“The AI picks up on these social trends itself,” says Roshannai. “It may notice that similarity is a great indicator of compatibility, or find other underlying patterns that we didn’t even know existed.”
Based on feedback from real-life interactions, he continues, “we certainly can and will do some tinkering with what we feed the model.” But ultimately, the model itself will start learning what prompts have weight and which questions are best used to predict meaningful connections.
According to Kazemian, “Do you think comedy is becoming too politically correct?” Has been particularly successful in determining compatibility. Political leanings less so.
Back at the restaurant, Kazemian pulls out his laptop, scans the room like a spy, taps a few keys on the keyboard and runs a script. The program sends participating 222 members a text message with info for the post-dining venue.
Tonight, the venue is a rooftop lounge within walking distance of the restaurant and with a 180-degree view overlooking the city. Hashemi confirms there’s a section designated for 222 members. While we’re standing around the tables, Kazemian’s girlfriend dares Roshannai to go talk to a girl. He does. Pays her a compliment on her dress “and it worked,” Roshannai exclaims. The look on his face is a familiar one, it’s the look of excitement spawning from serendipity. It may seem like typical human behavior but increasingly, it’s not.
Every trend report suggests young people just don’t care about being in the physical world anymore. Tech companies are obsessed with trying to create increasingly immersive online spaces to hang out in. The average young person spends half their waking life staring into a screen. The office is dead. Third spaces are increasingly scarce. The loneliest generation in the history of the world keeps getting lonelier.
“Have you read Robert Putnam’s book “Bowling Alone?” Hashemi asks me. “One of the slides on our pitch deck literally says we're anti-Metaverse.”
Not long after our arrival, the trio begins to notice familiar faces from the restaurant pour in. Hashemi says that as their member base has grown steadily at a rate of 30% per month since 222’s inception, it’s increasingly difficult to differentiate who’s been sent by 222 and who hasn’t. Based on the RSVPs, of the nearly 40 people who attended the dinner portion of the evening, only four or five replied that they wouldn’t attend the post-dinner venue. Which is to say, 222’s success rate, at least for this evening is roughly 90%.
The use cases for this technology, Kazemian says, are myriad: choosing seats on airplanes, selecting roommates, providing venues with information about their patrons' likes/dislikes to best curate an unforgettable evening. But the goal, the same one that inspired those backyard dinners, remains the same: Veer people back towards the physical world. Incite meaningful connections IRL. Use the demon to fight the demons.
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