‘’Why do people have to be this lonely? What’s the point of it all? Millions of people in this world, all of them yearning, looking to others to satisfy them, yet isolating themselves. Why? Was the earth put here just to nourish human loneliness?"
Haruki Murakami, Sputnik Sweetheart
In some parts of Asia, loneliness has become a cultural phenomenon. This is a place where physical loneliness is considered the norm, human relationships are replaced by technology, most young people gradually start living alone, but at the same time, the role and influence of Asian families remains strong and enduring. Asian economies adapt to social changes and are formed as an ‘’economy of loneliness’’. Filling the emotional void on this continent takes place in a completely different way. Here, technological advances such as robots are the best friends of humans, in many cases perceived even closer than family members or lovers.
Long and tiring working hours have eroded romance in Asian countries. Due to the arduous schedule, people fail to find time to get to know each other well, to go on dates or experiment in relationships. After a long work day the young generation of China, called ‘’Empty nest youths,’’ return to an empty apartment. Their parents, roommates or girlfriend/boyfriend are not waiting for them. Instead, there are robots, ready to provide emotional assistance with their artificial intellect but requiring care and attention themselves.
In some Asian countries today the purpose and duties of humans have, in part, been replaced by robots. For the new generation it is more appropriate to have communication with robots than humans. This is much easier because human relationships require more personal resources, energy and openness.
Have robots replaced humans in Asia? The answer is yes. With the advancement of modern technology, robots have incorporated many of the functions typical of human relationships, meanwhile scientists have voiced new alarming assumptions: For the culture which by its nature is addictive, long-term relationships with technology may have an impact on societal change. According to recent instructions, companies should try not to create human-like robots, in order to not identify and treat them as humans.
Meanwhile, there is a boom in robot production in Japan, China and South Korea, although some young people still seek human relationships, which are irreplaceable and unique for them.
Thousands of parents and grandparents gather in a park in Beijing every week to choose a mate for their unmarried children. The competition is huge, the role of the family is paramount. The decision is made by parents. In case of finding a match, contact numbers are exchanged and a date is arranged. Parents try to find ways to marry their children who are prone to loneliness, although, it is already difficult to live in a place that suits the needs of society:
Restaurants for solo-customers are becoming more and more suitable in Hong Kong. The tables are separated from each other so that guests do not experience discomfort while eating. Overall, in Asia today everything fits the social style, fast-food business or tourism focus on solo customers, because the majority of consumers are them. This may explain the fact why November 11th (famous as Anti-valentine’s day) has become the most popular day in China. This is the shopping day, when Chinese people buy presents for themselves and celebrate being alone. The worldwide sales hit a record high in 2019. We may assume that most Chinese youth are fascinated by the idea of being alone and giving presents to thelseves.
For those young people who don’t feel comfortable with being single, there are other ways against the condition, for instance online dating sites, which are getting increasingly popular in China and Japan. Virtual relationships are a new challenge for Asian youth. Most scientists do not find that virtual relationships have outpaced face-to-face relationships just yet, however they do recommend setting boundaries between the real and virtual.
Those scientific recommendations are supported by stats. The future, it seems, belongs to virtual reality: it is estimated, that by 2040, 40% of the Japanese will live alone. They will wake up alone, make breakfast for one, go to work, and return to an empty apartment. However, different variations of robots, love dolls, or pets with artificial intelligence, will provide special companionship to their owners. Through their design, they will identify and treat negative emotional background and sadness. Japanese scientists assume: in the future, robots will fuel ‘’a national mood of loneliness and alienation’’.