Saturday, May 30, 2015

The monster in the mirror

Cyborg She, a love story about a female android and a shy young man (credit: Gaga Communications, for use in critical commentary)


Can humans and robots get along together? Actually, they already do in a wide range of applications from surgery to assembly lines. The question is more vexing when the robots are androids—human-like creatures that can recognize faces, understand questions, and behave as social, emotional, and affective beings. It is this aspect that troubles us the most, partly because it creates a power to manipulate and partly because it transgresses the boundary between human and nonhuman.

A manipulative female android appears in the recent British film Ex Machina. Ava exploits Caleb's sexual desire and sense of compassion, convincing him to help her escape from the research facility. She succeeds but leaves him behind, trapped in the building. This kind of negative portrayal runs through many sci-fi movies of the past four decades. In some, particularly the Terminator series (1984, 1991, 2003, 2009, 2015), androids are evil and seek to destroy mankind. In The Stepford Wives (1975), they are simply tools of wicked people: in a small town, the men conspire to murder their wives and replace them with lookalike android homemakers. In Westworld (1973), a Wild West theme park becomes a killing field when a gunslinger robot begins to take his role too seriously.

In other movies, the portrayal is more nuanced but still negative. Blade Runner (1982) assigns the human Rick Deckard the role of a bad good-guy who seeks out and kills android "replicants." Deckard hunts them down mercilessly, the only exception being Rachael, whom he rapes. Conversely, the replicants emerge as good bad-guys who show human mercy, particularly in the final scene when the last surviving one saves Deckard from death. This theme is further developed in AI (2001), where a couple adopt an android boy, named David, after their son falls victim to a rare virus and is placed in suspended animation. When their biological son is unexpectedly cured, and refuses to accept his new sibling, they decide to abandon David in a forest, much as some people get rid of unwanted pets. He meets another android, Gigolo Joe, who explains why David's love for his adoptive mother can never be reciprocated:

She loves what you do for her, as my customers love what it is I do for them. But she does not love you, David. She cannot love you. You are neither flesh nor blood. You are not a dog or a cat or a canary. You were designed and built specific, like the rest of us, and you are alone now only because they are tired of you, or they replaced you with a younger model or were displeased by something you said or broke.

In short, androids can love humans, but this love has a corrupting effect, making humans more callous and self-centered than ever. 

Some American and British movies have featured androids in unambiguously positive roles, like some of the droids in Star Wars (1977), Lisa in Weird Science (1985), Bishop in Aliens (1986), and Data in the TV series Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-1994). Usually, however, androids are either villains or tragic heroes. One might conclude, therefore, that this dominant view is the logical one that emerges when thoughtful people weigh all the pros and cons.

And yet, we have the example of another cinematographic tradition where androids are viewed quite differently.

The Japanese exception?

Japan has diverged from Western countries in the way it depicts androids on screen. This is especially so in three productions that have appeared since the turn of the century:

This TV series begins in the near future with Hideki, a young man who lives on a remote farm. He has never had a girlfriend and decides to go to a prep school in Tokyo, where he can meet other people his age. On arriving in the big city, he is surprised to see so many androids, called “persocoms.” The life-sized ones are expensive, but many of his college friends have mini-persocoms—small fairy-like creatures, a bit larger than Tinkerbell, who can take email messages, help with schoolwork, provide GPS directions, or simply sing and dance to keep your spirits up.

One night, walking home, he sees a girl's body in the trash piled alongside the curb. He takes a closer look, realizes it's a persocom, and takes it home, where he manages to turn it on. But the persocom—a strangely beautiful girl with large eyes and floor-length hair—can speak only one word and knows nothing about the world. Hideki tries to teach her how to live in society, but he too is socially inept, so other people have to step in to provide help and advice.

From time to time, we see the girl with a children's book that Hideki bought to teach her how to read. It is about a place called Empty Town where people remain secluded in their homes and refuse to venture outside. At the end of each episode, we see this town and a female figure wandering through its deserted streets.

Chobits seems to have been made principally for a mature male audience, while containing elements that normally appear in magazines for teen and pre-teen girls. This is not surprising, given that it was created overwhelmingly by female storyboarders and animators.

Most of this movie is set in the present. There are obvious similarities with The Terminator (1984): an android arrives from the future in an electrical discharge; it has superhuman strength and, initially, no emotions; and near the end it must crawl around on its arms because it has lost the lower half of its body. But the similarities end there. The android is female and has come to befriend a shy young man, Kiro, who is spending his 20th birthday alone. She is, in fact, a creation of an older Kiro who wishes to change the course of his life. In this role, she saves him from a gunman who would otherwise leave him a cripple and, later, from a devastating earthquake. She also breaks his vicious circle of shyness/withdrawal, thus transforming him from a boy into a man.

The changes to Kiro are paralleled by changes to her. She develops feelings of jealousy and becomes conscious of her appearance; after being mutilated by a collapsing wall, she begs Kiro to leave, so that he will no longer see what she has become. In these final moments of her life, she tells Kiro that she can "feel his heart." The rest of the building then collapses on her, and when he later retrieves her remains from the rubble, he clings to them, overwhelmed by grief.

This TV series features a timid boy called Heita who attends a private high school. He feels a chasm between himself and the world of love, preferring to be alone in places like the school's science lab. One day, however, he enters the lab and finds the inanimate body of an android girl. When he touches her teeth, she comes to life and asks him to give her a name. He chooses “Kyuuto” because her serial number is Q10 … and because she’s cute.

She follows Heita everywhere, and the principal tries to head off a potential scandal by enrolling her at the school and making the boy her caretaker. Heita tells his science teacher that he doesn't want the job and asks her to turn the android off, but she simply smiles and says there is no going back. The rest of the series recounts the weird love that develops between Heita and Kyuuto.

A common theme

You may have noticed a common theme: male shyness. It's nothing new in Japanese society. Indeed, it seems to prevail in all societies where the father invests much time and energy in providing for his wife and children. In exchange, he wants to be sure that the children are his own. So monogamy is the rule, and something is needed to keep the same man and woman together.

In such a context, male shyness deters men from sexual adventurism, i.e., wandering from one woman to another. Of course, the shyness must not be so strong that it leaves a man with no mate at all. This is not a problem in traditional societies, where intermediaries can step in and help the process along. It becomes a major problem, however, in modern societies where each man is expected to be a sexual entrepreneur.

Male shyness is becoming pathological in today’s Japan. The pathology even has a name: hikikomori—acute withdrawal from all social relationships outside the family. Numbers are hard to come by, but such people may exceed over a million in Japan alone, with 70-80% of them being men (Furlong, 2008). These figures are really the tip of the iceberg, since many men can lead seemingly normal lives while having no intimate relationships.

A form of therapy?

When the Japanese talk about future uses of androids, they invariably talk about elder care or home maintenance. It is really only in movies and manga comics that the subject of loving relationships is explored, and this is where we see the greatest difference between Japanese and Westerners. The latter seem pessimistic, seeing such love as manipulative or corrupting. In contrast, the Japanese see it as beneficial, even therapeutic.

Who is right? Some insight may be gleaned from research on love dolls, which occupy an early stage of the trajectory that leads to affective androids. In a study of 61 love doll owners, Valverde (2012) found them to be no different from the general population in terms of psychosexual functioning and life satisfaction. In contrast, the rate of depression was much higher among individuals who did not own a love doll but were planning to buy one. It seems likely, then, that the dolls are enabling these men to achieve a healthier psychological state. We will probably see a similar therapeutic effect with affective androids. 

But will this psychological improvement help such men move on to real human relationships? After all, many of them will simply be too unattractive, too socially marginal, or too lacking in personality to make the transition. Others may prefer androids to real women. This point comes up in Chobits when a woman tells Hideki that she feels jealous of his android and its perfect beauty.

One thing is sure. No android, no matter how lifelike, can procreate. When Hideki is walking with a friend by a lake, he is warned that an android can never be as good as a real human. We then see a woman in a boat, with two young children. This fact also explains the convoluted ending of Cyborg She. There can be no happy ending until Kiro's life path is fully rectified, and this can happen only when he becomes a husband and father. Through a series of unusual events, the android's memory is transferred to a similar-looking woman who then travels back in time to meet Kiro after the earthquake. 

Although we will soon have androids that can recognize individual humans and respond to them affectively, there are no procreative models on the drawing board. This limitation will have to be recognized before we begin to use them for therapeutic purposes.

Two different paths

Why does Japan have a more positive attitude toward androids in particular and robots in general? Most observers put it down to the animist roots of the country’s religion, Shinto, which teaches that everything has a spirit, be it the sun, the moon, mountains, trees, or even man-made objects (Mims, 2010). In contrast, Christianity teaches that only humans have souls, so there is no moral difference between swatting a fly and killing an android. When Deckard rapes Rachael, he is merely masturbating. She loves him, but her love can only have a corrupting effect because humans of Christian heritage feel no need to reciprocate. 

This cultural explanation isn’t perfect. For one thing, the divergence between Japan and the West is less obvious the farther back in time you go (Anon, 2013). Before the 1970s, robots were generally likeable characters on the American big screen or small screen, from the Tin Man of The Wizard of Oz (1939) to the robot of Lost in Space (1965-1968). There was even a romance genre: in the seventh episode of The Twilight Zone (1959), a female android saves a man from the loneliness of solitary confinement.

The change of attitude among cineastes seems to have happened during the 1970s. Perhaps not coincidentally, the same decade saw a parallel change of attitude in the business community. Previously, with the West moving toward an increasingly high-wage economy, automation and robotization were considered inevitable, since there would be nobody available to do low-paying jobs. This attitude changed during the 1970s with the growing possibilities for outsourcing of high-wage manufacturing jobs to low-wage countries and, conversely, insourcing of low-wage workers into industries that could not outsource abroad (construction, services, etc.). This easier access to cheap labor made the business community less interested in robots, so much so that robotics research has largely retreated to military applications. There is very little research into use of robots as caregivers or helpmates. 

This new economic reality has spawned a strange form of Japan-bashing in the press, as in this Washington Post story:

There are critics who describe the robot cure for an aging society as little more than high-tech quackery. They say that robots are a politically expedient palliative that allows politicians and corporate leaders to avoid wrenchingly difficult social issues, such as Japan's deep-seated aversion to immigration, its chronic shortage of affordable day care and Japanese women's increasing rejection of motherhood.

"Robots can be useful, but they cannot come close to overcoming the problem of population decline," said Hidenori Sakanaka, former head of the Tokyo Immigration Bureau and now director of the Japan Immigration Policy Institute, a research group in Tokyo. "The government would do much better spending its money to recruit, educate and nurture immigrants," he said. (Harden, 2008)

Of course, this kind of argument could be stood on its head. Aren’t we using immigration as a means to evade the challenges of caring for an aging population and robotizing low-paying jobs out of existence? 


It is no longer fashionable to believe that economics can influence culture and ideology. Yet there seems to be some linkage between the growing indifference toward robots in our business community and the growing hostility toward them in our popular culture. In Japan, major corporations like Honda strive to rally popular opinion in favor of robotics. In the West, big business plays no such role and, if anything, has to justify its relative indifference. There is thus no organized faction that can push back against anti-robotic views when and if they arise.

So we will fail in robotics because we’re not trying very hard to succeed. This is one of those basic rules of life: if you don’t try, not much is going to happen.

But will the Japanese succeed? I cannot say for sure. I can only say there is a lot of pent-up demand for personal robots, especially androids with affective capabilities. Modern society is creating loneliness on a massive scale with its war on “irrational” and “repressive” forms of sociality—like the family and the ethny. I remember doing fieldwork among elderly people on Île aux Coudres and expecting no end of trouble with my stupid questions about attitudes toward skin colour in a traditional mono-ethnic environment. I needn’t have worried. The interviewees showed an unusual degree of interest in my questions and would talk for hours on end. Then I discovered these people typically went for days—sometimes weeks—with no human contact at all. And then others would tell me that so-and-so next door had committed suicide, not because of terminal illness but because of terminal loneliness.

Mark my words. When cyber-Tinkerbells start appearing in stores, people will come in droves to snatch them up like there’s no tomorrow. And many will also be snatching up the life-sized equivalents—even if they cost as much as a Lamborghini.


Anon. (2013). Debunked: Japan's "Special Relationship with Robots", Home Japan 

Chobits (2002). Japanese TV series, directed by Morio Asaka, 26 episodes 

Cyborg She (2008). Japanese drama, directed and written by Kwak Jae-yong 

Furlong, A. (2008). The Japanese hikikomori phenomenon: acute social withdrawal among young people, The Sociological Review, 56, 309-325 

Harden, B. (2008). Demographic crisis, robotic cure? Washington Post, January 7 

Mims, C. (2010). Why Japanese Love Robots (And Americans Fear Them), MIT Technology Review, October 12 

Q10 (2010). Japanese TV series, directed by Kariyama Shunsuke and Sakuma Noriyoshi, 9 episodes  

Valverde, S.H. (2012). The modern sex doll-owner: a descriptive analysis, master's thesis, Department of Psychology, California State Polytechnic University.


FredR said...

The only serious movie about androids is A.I.

Anonymous said...

The way Japan is treated by the west because it does not buy into the immigration propaganda is truly nauseating. However, I'd neither want to be treated by a robot nor a NAM. Instead, I'll simply use the charchoal-burning suicide method or buy nitrogen and inhale that using a diving mask. There is no reason to live 100 years, or live at all if you're too weak to even read and write. Life is not worth it then, life is only worth it as long as you can work and are able to care for yourself. This is where I side with Sister Y from the View from Hell: suicide needs to get better promoted and seen as a valuable and worthy goal once you have enough or are getting too old.

JayMan said...

Ummm, spoiler alerts, Peter? :) I haven't yet seen Ex Machina and a few other of these films but would like to.

In any case, on the Japanese:

Robear is a robot bear that can care for the elderly

"In a study of 61 love doll owners, Valverde (2012) found them to be no different from the general population in terms of psychosexual functioning and life satisfaction."

No difference, huh? Other than owning a love doll. :)

"But will the Japanese succeed? I cannot say for sure. I can only say there is a lot of pent-up demand for personal robots, especially androids with affective capabilities"


Very clever post. I'll have more to say over at Unz's.

(As an aside, the "I'm not a robot" box in the commenting panel seems to have a real special import for this post.)

Anonymous said...

Perhaps related:

"Mascots, known locally as yuru-kyara ("loose" or "relaxed" characters), are ubiquitous in Japan, and are used to promote everything from soap, food and train lines, to regions of Japan and even prisons. They come in every conceivable shape and size, including some downright bizarre creations, and are often conceived of and designed by amateurs, a fact that is often all too apparent.

But despite the oftentimes amateur nature of some of these beloved characters, it's safe to say that Japan is truly enamored -- or obsessed, to quote one editorial -- with these guys.

Noriko Nakano of the Japan Local Character Association told CNN by email that the Japanese have a long-lasting, deep emotional bond to "non-human" characters, with roots buried deep in an ancient polytheism. "

Reader said...

A low sex drive is related to low testosterone. Some of its other markers, also applicable to Asian men, are little to no body hair, as well as very good scalp hair growth. Now, there are races with high levels of testosterone. In Turkey, young men are very aggressive sexually, and interviews with local women show that's what they actually like.

Which leads me to my thesis: The levels of testosterone in a given ethnicity are sexually selected for by the local women. Peter, it's not necessarily a "problem" that Asian men are "shy." In the current low-testosterone Asian man we see the result of the actual mating preferences of Asian females. In contrast, Middle-Eastern women like to see their men aggressive, masculine, and lustful, selecting for the dominance of those genes.

Malcolm Smith said...

In the '60s there was a movie called, if I remember properly, The Genesis of the Androids, in which a scientist discovers a way to download a human's memory and intellect into a robot, providing it is done right after a person dies. One of the protagonists discovers that this has been done to him, and he exclaims:"This is terrible! I'm just a soulless robot!"
At this point, the scientist asks, "If your leg was replaced by an artificial leg, would your soul be any smaller?" He then goes on: two legs, two arms, etc, and ends up: "You've been given a body transplant."
In point of fact, androids which can exactly mimic human behaviour and emotions are impossible, because it is impossible to accurately program them this way. I have explained this in one of my own blogs:

Anonymous said...

This attitude changed during the 1970s with the growing possibilities for outsourcing of high-wage manufacturing jobs to low-wage countries and, conversely, insourcing of low-wage workers into industries that could not outsource abroad (construction, services, etc.).

Incidentally, recently just over the past couple of years, there's been a flurry of articles and stories in the US media about robots and the economy, specifically about how robots are going to take all these jobs away from people real soon now, including white collar professional jobs that had been relatively safe from outsourcing and insourcing.

But unlike the pre-1970s depictions of robots and automation making ordinary middle class people incredibly wealthy and having great leisure, the depictions in the US media today portray these robots as putting even upper-middle class people out of work soon and making only a very small class of people wealthier. Moreover, these same articles and pundits are often pro-immigration despite claiming that robots will take away all these jobs soon. Which makes you wonder if they actually believe that such levels of automation will actually take place as soon as they say it will, or if they see it as a good excuse for the wage and job declines that presumably will continue due to the outsourcing and insourcing they're in favor of.

Peter Frost said...


There was a case in Toronto recently of an elderly woman being taken off life support because her hospital room was needed for another patient. There had apparently been an argument between the doctor and the woman's son, the doctor saying that she had led a full life and that her life was no longer worth living.


Sorry, I should have thought about that :( I wanted to use Ex Machina as a lead into my post, since a lot of people are now interested in the subject.

I used to be a fan of the Terminator series, but I was already losing interest when the Sarah Connor Chronicles began to air. It's creating an apocalyptic vision of robotization that is doing more harm than good.


Yes, I should have worked that point into my post (the Japanese love of mascots). In Chobits, the mini-persocoms seem to have evolved out of this need for little fairies and other characters that can be carried around.


I remember reading an international survey of male shyness. The Middle East seemed to have the lowest incidence, but I don't have the survey in front of me.


I understand your point, but no human understands language perfectly. That's why spoken language has so much redundancy. If we simply say the minimum necessary, there would be much more misunderstanding and confusion.

What does it mean to be human? I find it hard to imagine a definition that would include 100% of all humans and exclude 100% of everything else.


I don't believe that robots will hurt us employment-wise. The next robotic revolution will be the creation of personal robots that can interact with humans not only in terms of recognizing faces and understanding language, but also in terms of showing care and empathy. Most of those uses are too high-priced to be done now by people, so there will be no increase in unemployment. In the area of elder care, robots (or rather affective androids) will be taking jobs where the need for workers is rising steeply. Again, job losses will be minimal. As I see it, robotization will be a win-win for most people. For instance, many couples will no longer be sandwiched between caring for their kids and caring for their aging parents.

I've learned to be skeptical about what I read in the media. People tend to look at the future through the lens of current hang-ups. They cannot, or don't wish to, understand the future on its own terms.

Anonymous said...

The 2001: A Space Odyssey film, which featured a malevolent robot computer, came out in 1968. Perhaps that kicked off the negative portrayal of robots.

There was a recent American film titled Her which I haven't seen but apparently gave a positive portrayal of a romantic relationship between a man and a female robot computer, not an android but a robot voice/intelligence.

Anonymous said...

"Me and my sex doll: The men who are in love with astonishingly realistic mannequins"

"With their long glossy hair, heavy make-up and perfect skin, at first glance these glamourous women appear to make the perfect companions.

But look a little closer and their vacant stares give away the fact that they are in fact astonishingly realistic silicone love dolls, which sell for upwards of £1,000.

Their owners, who enjoy long-term relationships with the dolls, were captured on camera by Copenhagen-based photojournalist Benita Marcussen, who approached the men via online forums - one of the only places where many of them can be open about their dolls - and spent nearly a year gaining their trust before photographing them for her series Men & Dolls.

For some of the owners, the life-sized dolls are their sole companion, others are married with children, and in a few cases the dolls have filled the space left by lost loved ones following death or divorce."

"Emotional pictures show lonely man’s trips out with “love doll” daughter"

"Two years ago, Song Bo was diagnosed with a serious illness which gave him constant headaches and brought upon depression. Convinced he would never marry or have children, Song was browsing the internet one day when he stumbled upon a listing on China’s online shopping site Taobao that was to give him new hope.

Song bought a child-sized love doll, just 145cm tall (4’10”), and now takes her everywhere with him. The doll may be pint-sized, but as this tender photo series shows, she seems to have changed his life.

The photo series shows the two enjoying days out together at the cinema or in cafes. Song takes her on the subway around Tianjin and carries her tenderly across busy roads. He enjoys taking photos with her, such as these shots that were uploaded to Chinese social networking site Weibo.

Song lives with his mother, who apparently did not object to her son bringing the US$2,200 doll into their lives. He treats the doll as a daughter, and has named her Xiao Die (小蝶 “little butterfly”). Wherever he goes, Little Butterfly goes too."

Sean said...

Reader"The levels of testosterone in a given ethnicity are sexually selected for by the local women. ... it's not necessarily a "problem" that Asian men are "shy." In the current low-testosterone Asian man we see the result of the actual mating preferences of Asian females. In contrast, Middle-Eastern women like to see their men aggressive, masculine, and lustful, selecting for the dominance of those genes."

No, it is more a case of testosterone not having been an important factor for reproductive fitness in the past because of the reasons Peter gave. A testosterone boost would probably be quite useful for a Japanese man in the modern social environment. Toxoplasma gondii infection has been found to give a testosterone boost in rats, and make rats (and men) more fearless and attractive to females of their species. Toxo, which is common in France, rare in Japan, goes for the brain and the testes, and vertical transmission of Toxo has been confirmed, as has lower digit ratio (more masculine) in infected human males. (A while ago I suggested that vertical transmission of a bug that made women sexier could be the cause of male homosxuality. See here Toxoplasma gondii would be a good candidate for a bug causing Lesbianism).

Reader said...

Some years ago on this blog there was a discussion of high sex ratios in today's Western societies leaving many young men single and lonely due to shortages of single women. Is this one of the outcomes of modern shortages of available women, mentioned around 2009? But keep in mind: here we're talking about older, mature men. In the articles posted by Anonymous above, 50- and 60-year-old men say they haven't been able to find anyone to date, despite trying and making an effort! Just like young men, older men are suddenly without opportunities. If this is the situation with older men as well, then things are really dire, or is it their own preference to be alone?

Anonymous said...

Yes, Peter had some interesting posts a few years ago on sex ratios in the postwar period, which would have affected men now in their 50s and 60s.

Anonymous said...

The idea that local women who choice men in the sexual market, specially in the japanese context, seems wrong because Japan, as well most of human societies, has been patriarcal, where men choice women, because is the men who have create and dominate societies and not the otherwise.

Japan is a country with little percentage of 'alpha' males, a nerdy nation. Is expected that a nation with a lot of nerdysh men will have a very introvert types too.


Reader said...

I was referring to the articles about British men, ages 50-60, that Anonymous posted above (from the Daily Mail).

But these men are part of the cohort who came of age in the 1970s when, according to this blog, there was an abundance of single women. The shortages of women started affecting later generations of men. So, this doesn't explain the lack of choices these middle-aged British men experience.

Anonymous said...

"No Sex in the City: What It’s Like to Be Female and Foreign in Japan"

"Cute baristas at Starbucks wouldn’t look at me, business men on bicycles ran over me and college students hurriedly backed away from me with mumbled apologies whenever I tried to strike up a conversation about the weather or ask for directions. They wouldn’t even give me the time of day. Literally.

“You’ve got to be assertive,” my Japanese girlfriends advised. “Japanese guys are shy so you have to make the first move.” So I smiled invitingly at men in bars and on busses. I asked for help reading restaurant menus and subway signs.

“Do you have any book / drink reccomendatioins?” was my usual line as I stood near them in bookstores or sat next to them on barstools. But the ‘come hither’ stare or conversation starter doesn’t work if the other person refuses to look at you. If they met my gaze at me at all, it was just to shoot me this panicked look, like I’d just asked them to father my unborn children. My boss had been right. It was hard to be a single, western woman in Japan. But why?

I turned to the Internet for advice and was surprised to learn that the Dateless Western Woman was a familiar character in the expat world, at least judging from the score of postings on expat forums by lonely, single females.

But as wide-spread as the problem seemed to be, it was one that many women avoided talking about. Understandably it was a tough subject to discuss without grossly overgeneralizing fifty percent of a country’s population or worse, sounding like a racist or a man-hating, snob.

The pervading theory though, among expats and Japanese alike, was that Japanese men were in fact attracted to western women but were just too intimidated to do anything about it. Western women in Asia were like the Jennifer Anistons of the expat world. Strong, independent, assertive and outspoken, they were interesting to admire from afar, but no man would ever dream of striking up a conversation with one. Western women were so different, so foreign, they were virtually un-datable.

Not true for their Y-chromosome-carrying expat buddies though. While the female expats spent Saturday nights alone, crying into their Ramen bowls, their male counterparts drank freely from the dating pool like they owned it. Which in a way, they did.

If you’ve ever visited Asia, you’ve likely seen the pale, rail-thin, greasy-haired white boy walking hand-in hand with a perfectly made-up, mini-skirt wearing Asian chick. This would never happen anywhere else in the world. Because everywhere else, Barbie ends up with Ken, not his underemployed, socially-awkward, samurai-sword-collecting neighbor, Kevin. But in Asia, dating rules defy all logic or evolutionary law. In Asia, the nerd is king."

Peter Frost said...

"Some years ago on this blog there was a discussion of high sex ratios in today's Western societies leaving many young men single and lonely"

This is a topic I hope to revisit this year, specifically the following points:

- beginning in the mid-1980s, many babyboomers began to divorce and remarry with younger women. This had the effect of making the marriage market much more competitive for younger men. Today, this phenomenon is almost a spent force. Most babyboomer men are simply too old to be players in the 20-40 year old marriage market.

- in the past, boys outnumbered girls only in very young age groups. Today, the male-biased sex ratio of birth is lasting right through to the fifth decade of life.

- polygamy (also called polyamory) is becoming more socially acceptable

- there is evidence that male exogamy by some groups, mainly Hispanics but also African Americans, is starting to have an observable impact on the ratio of single women to single men in the White American population

In short, we are moving into a mate market where single women between the ages of 20 and 40 will be in chronic undersupply, particularly in the White American population. For various reasons (high levels of male incarceration, low sex ratio at birth, high male mortality, etc.), the African American population is unaffected.

This is a long-term problem that won't go away. Eventually, there will be collective solutions, but "eventually" will be too far off in the future for anyone reading this. Over the short term, the excess demand will be met by increasingly intelligent love dolls. In fact, the two trajectories of technological development will converge. We will have affective androids.

Whenever I discuss this point, especially with social conservatives, I encounter a lot of hostility, so let me be clear. I'm no more in favor of love dolls than I am in favor of famine or war. But if people -- out of shortsightedness or plain stupidity - do nothing to prevent the preventable, other solutions will have to be found.

Anonymous said...

Some men look soo repulsive to many women that doll sex could be a good and humanistic solution to this guy who never had a real women (even men) to have sex.


Anonymous said...

"Heartache for Japan's real-life 40-year-old virgins"

"Takashi Sakai is a healthy 41-year-old heterosexual man with a good job and a charming smile. But he's never had sex, one of a growing number of middle-aged Japanese men who are still virgins.

Sakai has never even had any kind of relationship with a woman, and says he has no idea how he might get to know one.

"I've never had a girlfriend. It's never happened," he said. "It's not like I'm not interested. I admire women. But I just cannot get on the right track."

It might sound like the subject for a Hollywood comedy, but far from being the social misfit portrayed by Steve Carell in 2005's "The 40-Year-Old Virgin", Sakai is one of a crowd.

A 2010 survey by the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research found that around a quarter of unmarried Japanese men in their 30s were still virgins -- even leading to the coining of a specific term, "yaramiso", to describe them.

The figure was up around three percentage points from a similar survey in 1992.

The period corresponds with Japan's prolonged economic slowdown, after a stock and asset bubble burst and the one-time financial powerhouse suffered years of lacklustre growth.

Matchmaking expert Yoko Itamoto says the economic emasculation has taken its toll on Japan's men, as more of them struggle to find secure, full-time jobs.

"Many men seem to have lost confidence as they've lost their economic muscle," she said.

"In the past two decades, the situation for Japanese men has been very tough and competitive."

The pain caused by an inability to form emotional and physical relationships with women is something that one 49-year-old architect, who did not wish to be named, knows too well.

Only twice in his life has he had romantic and sexual feelings for a woman -- the first time in his mid-twenties and then again two decades later.

Both rebuffed him.

"It was devastating," he told AFP. "It seemed to invalidate my life and take away my reason to live."

On both occasions he suffered rapid weight-loss, and now fears he might live life as a singleton and a virgin.

- 'Virgin Academia' -

Directly comparable international statistics are difficult to come by, but Japanese people across the board appear to have less sex than those in other developed countries.

In the 2010 survey quoted above, 68 percent of 18-19 year olds in Japan said they were virgins; a study carried out that year in Europe by condom maker Durex found virginity rates among those aged 15-20 were much lower.

For example, fewer than 20 percent of young Germans had not had sex by the time they hit 20, while even in socially conservative Turkey, the figure was only 37 percent."

Reader said...

Anonymous, something isn't right about that article you posted: it claims that Japanese men worry that "they've lost their economic muscle" due to an ecomomic downturn, but the man they're describing has "a good job" (first sentence). In general, all economic references are complete BS. Contrary to what evolutionary psychologists say, women don't decide to have sex with men based on the men's economic prospects, sorry.

Anonymous said...


They're not mutually exclusive, especially since "good job" in contemporary Western discourse isn't defined in terms of male economic and social status, as that would be regarded as sexist. A man can have a "good job" today while his social and economic status declines in general, and more importantly, relative to women.

Also, individual cases wouldn't invalidate the general trend of a decline in male economic prospects damaging romantic prospects as well.

Evolutionary psychologists say a lot of things. I don't think they assert that all women everywhere at every time behave in one exact way for one exact reason.

There certainly are some women who decide to have sex with men based on their economic prospects.