Robotic sex dolls could spark a birth rate catastrophe, as lonely Japanese men eschew traditional relationships in favour of AI girlfriends, one expert has warned.
The Asian country’s population is declining dramatically as fewer babies are being born, as fears mount that Japanese people face becoming an "endangered species".
In 2018, around 921,000 babies were born in Japan – 25,000 fewer than 2017.
It was the lowest figure since records began in 1899, Japanese officials have said.
Around 1.3million people died in the same year, meaning the population plummeted by almost half a million people.
Dr Kate Devlin, senior lecturer in social and cultural artificial intelligence at King’s College London and a leading expert in the field, has warned that sex robots could exacerbate the crisis.
Dr Devlin told the Daily Star : “There are fears that in countries such as Japan, where loneliness is a big social problem, robots could make things worse.
“Already there are AI ‘girlfriends’ .
“For the men who are interested in buying female versions of sex robots , they are often looking for the companionship aspect too.”
The growing trend of sex robots was revealed in a documentary aired on RT last year, called Substitutes .
It focused on the ways in which the life-size love dolls are fuelling "a national mood of loneliness and alienation".
Sex dolls aren’t exclusively a Japanese phenomenon, and sales of the sex-bots are ballooning globally.
Doll firm Dutch Wives revealed that 2,000 smutty sex machines – which can retail at £4,600 each – were sold in 2017 in Japan alone.
Sex doll salesman Noburu Tanaka said: "It’s an amazing feeling.
"It looks like a doll, but you feel as though it’s really alive.
"When you make love to your wife, there can be some problems. With a doll, none of that matters."
Kanako Amano, demography expert at Tokyo’s NLI Research Institute, said: "The biggest problem in Japan is the decline in birthrate and population.
"It’s being called a national disaster.
"The Japanese are at a crossroads, facing the threat of extinction.
"We’re an endangered species."
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