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By: Zero Hedge

In a country where over 70% of unmarried men between 18 and 34, and 60% of women, have no relationship with a member of the opposite sex, and where birthrates are among the lowest in the world after Japanese women gave birth to fewer than one million babies in 2016 for the first time since the government began tracking birth rates, Bloomberg reports on an industry that’s profiting off the reluctance of young Japanese men and women to find a human partner.

What Bloomberg calls the “virtual love industry” in Japan has blossomed into a multi-million-dollar concern as unmarried men and women increasingly turn to simulated digital offerings for companionship.  Inventors create applications that essentially allow users to build a ‘virtual wife’ or ‘virtual husband’. While we imagine virtual companions bring badly needed comfort to millions of lonely Japanese, as Bloomberg notes, the industry does have a dark side: Some virtual-reality offerings promote unrealistic and even damaging portrayals of women as submissive. And men as domineering and menacing.

“Starting today, you live here now, with me,” he snarls. “I expect you to keep me entertained.” Wait, isn’t that his job?

A real young man on the streets of Akihabara, a district of Tokyo known for its anime and manga culture, is impressed by a demo of the game but declares, cringing, “Getting hit on by a man—it was pretty embarrassing.”

Simple companionship isn’t Takechi’s only vision. His virtual world of husband and dutiful wife, he says, “could develop into love, if we keep investigating further.”

One inventor who build a virtual-reality platform said he aims to create a virtual partner who brings greater satisfaction to Japanese men and women than a human companion would. That’s bad news for the Japanese economy, which, thanks to the looming demographic crunch as the population rapidly ages, will need to increasingly rely on the Bank of Japan’s “stimulus” to avoid a deflationary spiral.

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