Japanese authorities are hoping that they can use artificial intelligence algorithms to help the nation’s legion of singles finally find love – and most crucially, boost the country’s infamously low birth rate.
The move to resort to AI tech to play matchmaker for millions of bachelors and bachelorettes may not sound romantic, but one cabinet official expressed confidence in its ability to accurately match a wide range of potential suitors, reports Yomiuri Shimbun.
“We are especially planning to offer subsidies to local governments operating or starting up matchmaking projects that use AI,” an official in the cabinet of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga told AFP.
While singles often have certain preferred characteristics in mind when thinking of their possible soul mate, the machine learning technology would ignore the stated preferences of users in terms of income level, looks, and age, and use an emotional quotient to match couples based on shared values, hobbies, personalities, and emotional intelligence.
The Japanese government plans to allocate two billion yen (USD $19 million) in the coming fiscal year toward various schemes that will help residents find love, the official added.
The question isn’t so much a matter of love and roses, but of the nation’s very survival.
“We hope this support will help reverse the decline in the nation’s birthrate,” the cabinet official added.
Japan has one of the largest populations over the age of 65 out of any country, comprising about 26 percent of the total population, per 2015 census data. Japan has both the world’s highest life expectancy and the lowest birthrate, with only 865,000 babies being born last year – a record low since records began in 1899.
However, the plummeting birth rate also means the erosion of Japan’s work-force. Successive governments have sought to grapple with these labor shortages and the increased public spending on the senior citizen population by raising the retirement age from 60 to anywhere between 65 and 71.
Numerous studies have also shown that young Japanese men and women are increasingly disinterested in matters of the heart, and are generally dating and having sex far less than in the past. Instead, women are increasingly committed to pursuing a career path and being independent, while men are also focusing on school, work, or pursuing their own interests.
The shrinking population is also a result of young people showing little interest in romantic relationships while they are earning low wages, according to Dr. Sachiko Horiguchi, an anthropologist at Japan’s Temple University.
In the absence of real changes to the material reality confronting young single people in Japan, she doesn’t see the matchmaking service working as effectively as authorities hope.
“If they’re not interested in dating, the matchmaking would likely be ineffective,” Horiguchi said.
“If we are to rely on technologies, affordable AI robots taking over household or childcare tasks may be more effective.”
Working mothers reportedly enjoy little support in Japan, where they are expected to fulfill their traditional roles of doing all housework while also raising their children.
However, even young people who have completed higher education and have high salaries are averse to new financial burdens and emotional crises, which also factors into downward trends in marriage and birth rates.