Japan is suffering from a birth rate problem, and their government thinks that matching young couples through Aritificial Intelligence might provide the solution. While many of us might believe that this world is radically overpopulated, the Japanese are facing the practical reality of a rapidly aging population, with an ever shrinking number of young people to contribute to the tax base, as well as to care for their elderly relatives. Currently, Japan has one of the world’s lowest birth rates. At 1.38, it’s far below the level needed for a society to maintain its population levels. It’s currently predicted that, by 2045, the country’s population of 127 million will dwindle to 106 million, and to as little as 85 million by 2060. This has been a long term trend, and various solutions have been vainly tried in the past, including financial incentives for couples to have children. Now Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s government intends to spend two billion yen ($19 million) in the next year to support local authorities that run schemes to help their residents find love, with over half that sum reportedly going towards AI dating.
Around half of the nation’s 47 prefectures already offer matchmaking services, and according to one government official, AI tech can help to match a wider and smarter range of potential suitors. As Futurism website points out, nearly all dating apps and sites nowadays make use of algorithms to find suitable matches. The interesting thing here is that it is a government using technology to influence dating habits and choices. The new AI methods also apparently go further than existing simple algorithms that crudely match couples on the basis of simple things such as hobbies and ages – methods which have already been tried by local authorities in many parts of Japan.
Of course, it is usually Japanese single men that get most of the blame for the birth rate problems in their country. Long before the term digisexual was coined, or for that matter even ‘Men Going There Own Way’, the phenomenon of Japanese ‘herbivores’ – men who would prefer to sit at home and watch anime or porn rather than chase women – was widely reported on and often blamed in Japan for the collapse in birth and marriage rates. According to Wikipedia :
From 2008 to 2009, the term herbivore men became a widely used and trendy term in Japan. It even was voted into the top ten of Buzzwords of the Year in December 2009 by U-CAN. This term has become increasingly more popular as of late as herbivore men in Japan have become commonplace. Sōshoku-kei danshi (Herbivore Men) was a movie released in 2010 in which one of the main characters displays herbivore tendencies. Throughout the movie, he struggles to understand sexual situations, such as a woman inviting him to sleep with her. In the same year, singer-songwriter Gackt held a male-only rock concert in an attempt to bolster “men’s spirit … and sexuality” against the herbivore men masculinity in Japan’s society.
Not only is Japan home to anime and manga culture, which is essentially the virtual idealization of the opposite sex (mostly females for male readers, viewers, or game players), as well as the home of the largest and kinkiest porn industry, but it has for a long time had a huge male sex toy industry. While until quite recently in the West, use of male sex toys was stigmatized and the choice was limited to either the Fleshlight or cheap rubbish, Japan has had a male masturbator market (led by companies such as Tenga) that rivals or even exceeds the vibrator and dildo industry for women. And today, virtual reality porn is booming in Japan, with dozens of new releases by the major studios every day, while the industry struggles to gain momentum in the West. They are even pioneering the development of ‘holographic girlfriends‘, as well as recently creating a ‘robotic girlfriend arm’ in order that lonely men can feel the illusion of walking hand in hand with a girlfriend.
I suppose it’s a welcome thing that at least in Japan, clever ways are being thought of to use technology to solve the ‘problem’ of declining marriage and birth rates, instead of simply taking a legislative sledgehammer to technology as in the West (such as banning sex robots and the like).