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Japan’s Birth-Rate Plummets

January 5, 2014

Over the years, I’ve often talked about how technology is displacing workers and reshaping the way we interact with one another.  I mentioned a new movie which comes on January 10th, Her, where people are all immersed in conversations with their computers and no longer interact with each other.  While our technological advances are bringing a lot of benefits, they’re also leaving a trail of destruction in their wake.

The Guardian recently featured an article on Japan’s plummeting birth rate.   I found it fascinating.  In the modern world, conventional families and relationships are being phased out.  People are glued to these glowing screens, replacing real physical relationships with social media and other ways of communicating online.  As MIT psychologist Sherry Turkle put it, we’re spending our time alone together.

The online world is a unique place.  Isaac Asimov envisioned the internet as a world where every child or adult could investigate his or her passions, connecting with people with similar interests, and growing in knowledge.  To some extent, people can do that online, but they typically don’t.  In Japan and all around the world, there are rapidly growing numbers of young men and women who are unable to secure a career for themselves.  With no job prospects, these people instead use the online world as  form of escape and immerse themselves in vivid fantasies and become shut-ins or geeks.  Not all are this way, but it is really common.

How people use their free time online is just interesting.  My university recently published a study about how students use their time online, and they mostly just watch random Youtube videos in an entirely unproductive manner.  They spend hours staring blankly at a glowing screen where cats fly through the sky pooping out rainbows to loud techno music.  It’s totally bizarre.  I wonder what Isaac Asimov would’ve thought?

When people are given lots of free time online, nobody could’ve predicted what people would actually use the internet for.  In reality, people spend countless hours viewing and making silly gif animations of people falling over on the ice and busting their head while a big text message “FAIL” appears.  They take pictures of cute cats alongside a messages “I CAN HAZ CHEEZBURGER?”  Or they take a picture of a voluptuous woman and simply write BOOBS in a large font.

Recently I read an article on Arts and Letters Daily lamenting how Wikipedia has extensive articles on each and every Pokemon character, pornstar, and niche television show, but so many important scientific and philosophic issues have nothing.  I was surprised the author didn’t understand why that is.

What type of person is going to spend countless hours compiling a massive Pokemon database for free?  The same exact person who would pride themselves in knowing miscellaneous trivia about Star Trek or pornstars — the shut-in geeks.  That’s their way of leaving something to the world.  I think we can all be a little geeky, but they’re…unique.

I used to think I was strange, but I’m fairly normal.  As the article I linked to points out, the true nerds shirk any and all physical contact.  You touch them and they flinch while gritting their teeth.  The counselor who was interviewed actually deals with them and tries to help.  For example, they have strange sexual preferences.  Some of them can’t get aroused unless women dress up in these robotic power-ranger like outfits and do kinky things.

Poor women.  Is this the future of love?  You get the short end of the stick, for sure.  As the world economy spirals, the only way to attract a man is to cosplay as a skimpily dressed robot-demon-vampire woman with tenatacle arms holding large swords, which you use to tickle his anus as you whisper all the naughty things you’re going to do to him later.   Otherwise he’s not interested.

They must’ve spent years masturbating to some strange content.  I don’t think we fully understand all the effects of the hyper-stimulation of internet pornography.  People watch videos of cumshot compilations where the most extreme moments of intercourse flash in rapid succession, featuring the most beautiful women, from the best visual angles, all during climax.  No normal woman could ever stimulate a man in that way.

There are weird things going through people’s heads when it comes to sex, especially in women.  Forces I don’t understand are at work, and I don’t think it’s just porn.  Greg and I have had conversations about this, but we’ve never identified the source.  Huge numbers of men and women all over the world are becoming disgusted by sex.  I have no idea why.

For example, a 2011 survey by the Japan Family Planning Association found that 45% of women aged 16-24 “were not interested in or despised sexual contact.”  That’s almost half of all young women.  That blew me away.  If you go to Japanese schools and universities all over their country, one out of every two women find sex repulsive.  One out of four men feel the same way.  What in the world!?  That’s not normal.  There must be something broken in their culture, and I think similar forces are at work all over the world, but I’m not sure.

Besides economic considerations, I find myself wondering if is related to all this garbage in music videos, advertising, and reality TV, where women are treated as sex objects who can only succeed if they’re an airheaded bimbo with a nice body and big hair.  There’s all this body shaming.  I speculate that it’s finally reaching a  tipping point in women and men who are just rejecting all of it outright.  Combine that with all the science coming out, treating us as evolutionary animals, portraying men as shallow sex machines who always want to cheat, and women who are just as bad, and none of us want anything to do with one another anymore.  There’s no trust.  And now that things are getting hard, who wants people like that at your side?  You don’t need real people.  Social media and the online world offers a constant connection with all your friends.  You’re never alone.

This isn’t just the youngest generation though.  It applies to most everyone in their mid-30s or below.  There’s increasing numbers of men and women in that age group who have never dated at all, and show no interest in ever dating.  In Japan, one-third of people under 30 have never dated at all.   In the 18-34 age bracket, 61% percent of unmarried men and 49% of unmarried women were not pursuing a romantic relationship of any kind.  It’s like they don’t believe love exists, or maybe they’ve never seen it?

I should discuss the economic considerations before ending this.  The modern world is especially tough on women.  We’ve all constructed a society in which both the husband and the wife have to work to make ends meet.  The problem is, many women have trouble advancing in their career if they’re married because employers worry that they’ll eventually end up pregnant.  Once a woman’s pregnant, nobody wants to deal with the inflexible hours that may entail.  Children are treated as a huge burden, and so married women have a really hard time getting promoted.  They’re better off being single.

Fearing these sorts of things, people are moving away from typical relationships and going toward hook-ups and other forms of easy gratification.  Online porn is booming.  Others are finding themselves in unusual relationship circumstances, such as having online or virtual-reality girlfriends. 

It’s interesting that all over the modern world, our culture has created a mine-field that people struggle to navigate.  For example, in Japan, there’s this stereotype that married working women are “devil wives.”  So, 70% of them quit their jobs after getting married.  That’s fine and good, but then their husbands can’t earn enough money to be the sole bread-winner for the family.  No matter what they do, they just can’t win.  Then they go to the cinema and see films portraying corrupt working women, with the implied message, “Do you want to end up like them?”

So what do you end up with?  Women choose to pursue a successful career and never marry or have kids.  They hang out with their girlfriends, go shopping, eat out, and travel.  As for sex, they have casual hookups and one night stands.  They have affairs with people in their office.  That sort of thing.  Men are similar.  But as I said, good jobs are getting harder to come by, and we’re ending up with a large class of dead-beats.  Those guys have even less success in love.  Some of them aren’t lazy — they’ll work, but these corporations don’t pay a living wage, even though they earn record profits.

People crave human warmth, but a combination of social and economic circumstances make typical relationships extremely difficult.  Hence we have a falling birthrate and a weird sort of digital love replacing the old style intimacy which we’ve always had.

Everyone is glued to their smartphones and social media websites.  Some may think they’re a replacement for the old-style friendships and relationships, but I’d disagree.  That whole digital world has so many problems, and I don’t even know where to get started.  I probably shouldn’t because I’d get too far off topic.  In short, people obsess over how they appear to others, so there’s no real intimacy.  It’s not about getting to know each other.  Most people actually fear you getting close to them.  They’re scared to show weakness, the real details of their lives, or their real opinions .  Why?  The online world is unforgiving.  People are nasty.  Do you ever go to websites and read the comments?  We’re all compared to impossibly high standards, and we have to constantly appear to be this super-kind, wonderful, charming, funny, never depressed, happy person, and it makes everyone neurotic.  Social media is a mess.

Real friendship and love is a private affair.  That’s where you share your deepest thoughts on things without fear of being judged by the mob.  Privacy is important.

All of this has left Japan’s leaders worried.  Their population just keeps plummeting. I have a strong feeling that this is going to happen all over the world.  A combination of a messed up cultural values toward love and relationships, a corrupt economy, technology displacing people’s ability to earn a living wage, and many other factors are leading to madness.   This is all so complicated to research though.  It’d take years to get to the bottom of it, and I’m mostly spending my time studying physics these days.

Are half the young women I meet that way as well?  Do they find sex and men in general disgusting?  Why?  How did they get that weird picture in their heads?  The only way  to know is to get out there and ask lots of people, with carefully conducted surveys, probing their minds.  I’ll never know just sitting here from my study thinking about it.

What I do know is we live in a strange time. 

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