The Grand Signal

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A digital magazine covering the intersection of technology, human rights and social change.

Is Japan’s sex problem rooted in technology?

October 27, 2013 | Written by The Grand Signal
Photo courtesy of Jim Elper on Flickr |

The Guardian recently published an article covering Japan’s ‘sex’ problem. Regimented corporate life and technology driven communication are the two potential culprits, although the exact causation remains unknown. The results are clear however – more and more Japanese are choosing to be single. A survey from the National Institute of Population and Social Research conducted in 2010 revealed that 61% of men and 49% of women aren’t in a relationship (see page 12 from link above). Of that group, 27% of men and 22% of women cited that they weren’t even interested in dating.

The author of the article argued that career oriented women who get married, and are therefore likely to become pregnant at some point in the near future, end up being forced to resign due to an inability to balance the hectic work-life and expected motherly role at home. Corporate Japan, still grounded in outdated traditions, continues to be a place with a great extent gender inequality. Moreover, many Japanese aren’t bounded by any type of religious morals that encourage marriage. From an economic and moral standpoint, ambitious women have little incentive to enter into a relationship and get married.

What role does technology play in Japan’s sex debacle? It seems to be perpetuating it through virtual games, social networks, and online porn. Technology has made instant gratification pervasive – as easy as a few mouse clicks and types on the keyboard. Many of the arguments voiced from North American counterparts about the dangers of technology drifting people away from real, physical communication, seems to be already taking place at a large scale in Japan.

With a downward trending population, Japan has limited time increase the number of newborns. Forecasts predict that the country will lose 1/3 of its population by 2060 if it continues at its current trend. Government subsidized programs that award women compensation for in-vitro fertilization is an option that Japan may consider in the near future. Interestingly, technology may provide another alternative. Japanese corporations and academic institutions have already invested heavily in robots to compensate for a smaller population and labor workforce. Robots that can accurately mimic humans walking have already been developed, and even ones that look awfully close to actual humans (see video below).

The ‘sex’ problem in Japan is rooted in the country’s unique blend of ancient traditionalism and technology. Youth no longer see any practical utility in relationships when technology can easily provide those needs. This has consequences, and it’s the decisions that Japan will make that will ultimately determine if the country becomes reminiscent of a Huxley-type dystopia or something better.

What do you think? Is technology responsible for Japan’s sex problem? Share you thoughts in the comments section below.

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