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Japan to Use Artificial Intelligence Matchmaking to Boost Plummeting Birth Rate

Japanese authorities are hoping that they can use artificial intelligence algorithms to help boost the country’s infamously low birth rate.

Elias Marat

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Japanese authorities are hoping that they can use artificial intelligence algorithms to help the nation’s legion of singles finally find love – and most crucially, boost the country’s infamously low birth rate.

The move to resort to AI tech to play matchmaker for millions of bachelors and bachelorettes may not sound romantic, but one cabinet official expressed confidence in its ability to accurately match a wide range of potential suitors, reports Yomiuri Shimbun.  

“We are especially planning to offer subsidies to local governments operating or starting up matchmaking projects that use AI,” an official in the cabinet of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga told AFP.

While singles often have certain preferred characteristics in mind when thinking of their possible soul mate, the machine learning technology would ignore the stated preferences of users in terms of income level, looks and age, and use an emotional quotient to match couples based on shared values, hobbies, personalities and emotional intelligence.

The Japanese government plans to allocate two billion yen (USD $19 million) in the coming fiscal year toward various schemes that will help residents find love, the official added.

The question isn’t so much a matter of love and roses, but of the nation’s very survival.

“We hope this support will help reverse the decline in the nation’s birthrate,” the cabinet official added.

Japan has one of the largest populations over the age of 65 out of any country, comprising about 26 percent of the total population, per 2015 census data. Japan has both the world’s highest life expectancy and the lowest birthrate, with only 865,000 babies being born last year – a record low since records began in 1899.

However, the plummeting birth rate also means the erosion of Japan’s work-force. Successive governments have sought to grapple with these labor shortages and the increased public spending on the senior citizen population by raising the retirement age from 60 to anywhere between 65 and 71.

Numerous studies have also shown that young Japanese men and women are increasingly disinterested in matters of the heart, and are generally dating and having sex far less than in the past. Instead, women are increasingly committed to pursuing a career path and being independent, while men are also focusing on school, work, or pursuing their own interests.

The shrinking population is also a result of young people showing little interest in romantic relationships while they are earning low wages, according to Dr. Sachiko Horiguchi, an anthropologist at Japan’s Temple University.

In the absence of real changes to the material reality confronting young single people in Japan, she doesn’t see the matchmaking service working as effectively as authorities hope.

“If they’re not interested in dating, the matchmaking would likely be ineffective,” Horiguchi said.

“If we are to rely on technologies, affordable AI robots taking over household or childcare tasks may be more effective.”

Working mothers reportedly enjoy little support in Japan, where they are expected to fulfill their traditional roles of doing all housework while also raising their children.

However, even young people who have completed higher education and have high salaries are averse to new financial burdens and emotional crises, which also factors into downward trends in marriage and birth rates.

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Exotic “Blue Jet” Lightning Shooting From Electrical Storm Captured by Space Station

Elias Marat

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State-of-the-art equipment on the International Space Station (ISS) has captured a brilliant view of a thunderstorm from above, including a clear view of a strange type of lightning known as a blue jet.

The footage could help us better understand how lighting originates and even how storms distribute greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere, offering important pointers on weather systems in general.

However, the footage also offers a damned cool perspective of electrical storms that we’ve never enjoyed until now.

In video released by the European Space Agency that was captured in February 2019, blue-colored lightning bolts can be seen shooting upwards from storm clouds over the Pacific island of Nauru into the highest reaches of the stratosphere.

Blue jets are types of lightning that shoot upwards from thunderclouds into the stratosphere, striking altitudes exceeding 30 miles (50 km) in under a second. While our typical lightning interacts with a mixture of gases in the lower atmosphere to create glowing white bolts, blue jets excite stratospheric nitrogen to create a luminous blue hue.

While the phenomenon has long been observed from aircraft and ground-level vantage points, the European Space Agency’s Atmosphere-Space Interactions Monitor (ASIM) at the ISS, which is about 250 miles (400 km) above the Earth, have enabled researchers to get the best glimpse yet of a blue jet arising from a sudden burst of electricity emanating from the top of a thundercloud, according to research published Wednesday in the scientific journal Nature.

“Elves,” or rapidly-expanding rings of optical and UV emissions, were also generated by the flash. The emissions, which took place at the bottom of the ionosphere, were a result of the interaction between electrons, radio waves, and the atmosphere.

Blue jets and elves, like other upper-atmospheric phenomena such as mythological-sounding sprites, are important to our understanding of how radio waves travel through the air, with potential ramifications on our communications technologies as well as the more fundamental questions of how lightning is initiated in our clouds and how greenhouse gases are concentrated in the atmosphere.

However, spotting these brilliant light shows has been difficult for earthbound observers. Yet the highly sensitive tools installed on the Space Station in 2018 – including photometers, optical cameras, and an X- and gamma-ray detector –were able to capture the elusive phenomena.

The knowledge gleaned from the footage could prove crucial to researchers finally making sense of the processes unfolding in the upper atmosphere.

“This paper is an impressive highlight of the many new phenomena ASIM is observing above thunderstorms and shows that we still have so much to discover and learn about our Universe,” said Astrid Orr, the Physical Sciences Coordinator for human and robotic spaceflight at the European Space Agency.

“Congratulations to all the scientists and university teams that made this happen as well as the engineers that built the observatory and the support teams on ground operating ASIM—a true international collaboration that has led to amazing discoveries,” Orr added.

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Advocates Hail Biden Executive Order on LGBTQ Rights as the Most Far-Reaching in US History

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Civil rights advocates on Wednesday applauded President Joe Biden for signing an executive order on his first day in office bolstering anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people after years of attacks and rollbacks during the Trump administration, and for signaling that he will move to reverse his predecessor’s ban on transgender people serving in the U.S. military.

“Every person should be treated with respect and dignity and should be able to live without fear, no matter who they are or whom they love,” the order begins.

The order continues:

Children should be able to learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, the locker room, or school sports. Adults should be able to earn a living and pursue a vocation knowing that they will not be fired, demoted, or mistreated because of whom they go home to or because how they dress does not conform to sex-based stereotypes. People should be able to access healthcare and secure a roof over their heads without being subjected to sex discrimination. All persons should receive equal treatment under the law, no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation.

“It is the policy of my administration to prevent and combat discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation, and to fully enforce Title VII and other laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation,” the order states. It goes on to direct the heads of each federal agency to ensure adherence to these principles and to develop plans to implement changes where necessary. 

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) hailed Biden’s order as “the most substantive, wide-ranging executive order concerning sexual orientation and gender identity” in U.S. history. 

HRC president Alphonso David issued a statement declaring that “today, millions of Americans can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that their president and their government believe discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is not only intolerable but illegal.” 

Biden’s order gives teeth to Bostock v. Clayton County, the June 2020 U.S. Supreme Court ruling which declared that sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination are prohibited under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The executive order also stands in stark contrast to the past four years, a period during which LGBTQ people saw their rights repeatedly eroded and, in the case of transgender people, their very existence as human beings challenged

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said in a statement that “on his very first day in office, President Biden is stating clearly that there is no place for discrimination in the federal government.”

Bostock v. Clayton County was a major victory for LGBTQ Americans,” added Keisling. “Today’s executive order moves us another step toward a day when transgender people can openly live as who they are without being targeted for discrimination.”

In one particularly egregious rights rollback, the Trump administration banned transgender people from serving in the U.S. military. On Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that Biden will soon turn the page on this dark chapter in civil rights history. Ending the trans ban, said Psaki, will be among the “additional executive actions” the president will take “in the coming days and weeks.”

Blake Dremann, a transgender rights advocate and active-duty Navy lieutenant commander, told NBC News that trans people are “excited for the ban to be lifted” and the day when “we never have to tell another service member that being their authentic selves is a barrier to serving their nation.”

“The resilience and success of trans service members has shown we are committed to the success of the nation,” said Dremann. 

Republished from CommonDreams.org under Creative Commons

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The Moon, Mars and Uranus Will “Meet” in an Ultra-Rare Conjunction Tonight

Elias Marat

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Last month, stargazers were treated to a rare “Christmas star” that saw Jupiter and Saturn aligned so closely that they appeared to be on a collision course with one another.

And this week, we will be treated to another rare and spectacular space event.

According to astronomers, over the next few nights Mars, Uranus and the Moon will come in remarkably close proximity in our skies, with Mars passing 1.75 degrees to the north of Uranus while also sharing the scene with the Moon, reports EarthSky.

The infrequent occasion will look best on Thursday evening, just after dusk through just after midnight in the eastern United States, when the Moon and the two planets will appear very close along the southwest horizon.

For those in the U.K., the meeting will happen at roughly 4:43 p.m. but when the sky turns dark, the planets will reach their highest point at roughly 6:06 p.m. before remaining visible until about 12:36 a.m.

Mars, which is the fourth planet from the Sun, will be especially luminous as it stands out from the stars and will lie just above the Moon.

Uranus, however, may appear as a somewhat faint dot. However, the vertical alignment of the three planets should allow us to see all three of the planets with Uranus shining somewhat dimly between the Moon and Mars.

“Uranus will be about 1.5 degrees down and to the left of Mars but will not be visible to the naked eye,” Dean Regas, the astronomer for the Cincinnati Observatory, told local12. “You will need binoculars or a telescope to see it since it is almost 2 billion miles away.”

As EarthSky reported, Mars has been increasingly dimmed over the course of the last several months while the Earth has rushed ahead of it in our much more rapid and smaller orbit around the sun.

However, Mars is still shining brilliantly like some of the brightest stars in our skies. If the skies are clear, Mars will be easily visible as a bright, shining celestial object in the vicinity of the Moon.

Uranus, which is the seventh planet from the sun lying at a distance of roughly 1.8 billion miles (2.9 billion km) away, will be extremely faint – more than 150 times fainter than the Red Planet.

The planet, which is about four times wider than our home planet – making it the size of a basketball if the Earth were an apple, according to NASA – is the outermost of the planets in our solar system that still remains visible with the naked eye.

However, given that seeing it with the eye requires extremely dark skies, the fact that the moon will be shining – in close proximity, no less – means that stargazers will definitely need binoculars or even a telescope to catch a full glimpse of the rare “meeting.”

“The interesting news is that Mars and Uranus are close together on the sky’s dome, so that – theoretically – you could see Mars and Uranus in a single binocular field of view for the next week or so, if the moon weren’t in the way,” EarthSky added.

So get your binoculars ready, and enjoy!

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