Asia Minute: Japanese Government Hopes Artificial Intelligence Helps Romance in 2021

Jan 4, 2021

At the start of a new year, thoughts can turn to the promise of new beginnings. Sometimes that takes the form of resolutions, or aspirations that haven't yet been met. In Japan, that includes hopes to increase the national birthrate with a new strategy.

The statistics aren’t in yet for 2020, but in 2019, the number of births in Japan tumbled nearly 6% to a record low of about 865,000.

The numbers are also dropping for marriages. In the past twenty years, they’ve fallen by 200,000.

For years, Japan’s government has tried various approaches to reverse both trends, and in the New Year it has some new proposals to better connect couples — using artificial intelligence.

Several Japanese prefectural governments have tried rudimentary AI systems as match-makers — pairing couples on simple levels like age and income. But a new program will go deeper, including a consideration of hobbies and values.

The Yomiuri Shimbun reports the national government is willing to pick up most of the tab for that — up to nearly 20-million dollars overall.

Critics say the money could be better spent elsewhere to achieve the goals of increasing couple hood in Japan. The BBC quotes an anthropologist who says a more direct route might be to steer artificial intelligence research toward tasks involving childcare — or housework.

Still, those with a romantic predilection note that “AI” can be pronounced as “aye” — the Japanese word for love.