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November 10th, 2006


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04:26 pm - Robots and Japanese Culture
Here's an absolutely amazing article on social and cultural attitudes towards robots in Japan. It's absolutely filled with quotes like
An important thing to understand about these kinds of robots is the demographic problem in Japan--the population is shrinking. One-third of people (are expected to be) over 60 by 2050, I believe, (in a country) with very low birth rates, very few immigrants, and so the net result is there are no workers coming in to fill the shortage in the work force. Engineering a solution to this in the form of robots is being embraced by not only the population, but the government.

I spoke to a roboticist the other day who said he was traveling in Northern Japan on a train and struck up a conversation with a lady who was over 60, and she asked him, "So what do you do?" and he said "I'm a roboticist." And she said, "Oh, I'm really looking forward to the time when robots are going to take care of me." That was just a random encounter on a train, and it shows you that the people are looking forward to it--some people are, anyway. Meanwhile, the government is making concrete plans to prepare for adding robot (caregivers) to the work force, in a nongovernmental consortium involving Tokyo University and seven companies. They have concrete plans to develop robots that by the year 2008, will be capable of straightening up rooms; by 2013, they will be able to make beds; and by 2016, they will be able to lift and carry elderly patients.
I'm very pleased that technophilia and a wholehearted embracing of progress still exists in at least one first world nation, and I'm also absolutely fascinated to know what Japan will look when the estimates of 39 million household robots there by the end of the decade come true. I'm awed, amused, and overjoyed by this article and if reading it doesn't spawn ideas for at least a handful of SF games, movies, or stories then you definitely need to work on your imagination. Wow...
Current Mood: amusedamused

(9 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:eyebeams
Date:November 11th, 2006 12:53 am (UTC)
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Well yes, it all seems gee-whiz until you factor in that Japan's robot enthusiasm is the flipside of its hatred of immigrants. In essence, Japan is more willing to fund a Herculean automation effort than abandon its racism.
s
http://economist.com/world/asia/displaystory.cfm?story_id=5323427&no_na_tran=1

http://isteve.blogspot.com/2005/03/robots-vs-immigrants-in-japan.html

So in that sense, fuck Japan.
[User Picture]
From:zdashamber
Date:November 11th, 2006 01:08 am (UTC)
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Exactly what I was going to say. Nice that Japan's testing robots we can then have; but there's a fuckton of African/Southeast Asian/Pacific Islanders who will be leading shittier lives because of it.
[User Picture]
From:heron61
Date:November 11th, 2006 01:32 am (UTC)
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See my response above for more details, but the short form is that I do not see that Japan is under any obligation whatsoever to let in immigrants. I think that treating the few immigrants they allow as 2nd class citizens is disgraceful, but not allowing significant immigration is a perfectly reasonable choice. Besides, I'm fascinated to see what sort of bizarre culture they will develop in 30-50 years.
[User Picture]
From:heron61
Date:November 11th, 2006 01:30 am (UTC)
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What right does anyone have to say that Japan should open its nation to outsiders? I'm not happy with the general Japanese xenophobia and racism, but I also have absolutely no trouble with them maintaining very strict quotas on immigrants. Of course, I also have no trouble with immigration restrictions in general - I greatly prefer the idea of the first world providing high-quality foreign aid (as opposed to disguised neocolonial oppression via the IMF and World Bank) and large scale population control funding and aid than I am with allowing third world residents to move to first world nations.

That said, I am also very strongly opposed to allowing in immigrants and then treating them like 2nd class citizens, which is common in both Japan and much of Western Europe.
[User Picture]
From:tlttlotd
Date:November 11th, 2006 02:26 am (UTC)
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So.. how long will it be before those robots start recieving firmware updates and new systemware from the Net?

I think you see where this is going...
[User Picture]
From:silvaerina_tael
Date:November 11th, 2006 04:34 am (UTC)
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The first thing I thought of, with the quote from the little old lady, was the Tachicoma from Ghost in the Shell who was imployed with the geriatrics home.
[User Picture]
From:oneirophrenia
Date:November 11th, 2006 05:24 am (UTC)
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The Acceleration (much better term than "Singularity", I find) will be kicked off in Japan, without a doubt. But, oddly enough, everything I read about good ol' domestic DARPA's current on-the-burner projects in human enhancement and quantum cryptography suggest it still likely that we Yanks'll still have a hand in the takeoff as well....
[User Picture]
From:heron61
Date:November 11th, 2006 06:29 am (UTC)
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Agreed on both counts (and I also prefer that term). I am curious about this statement:

ARPA's current on-the-burner projects in human enhancement and quantum cryptography suggest it still likely that we Yanks'll still have a hand in the takeoff as well

I know about the quantum cryptography, but haven't heard about the human enhancement projects, unless you mean the various concentration and alertness enhancing drugs that are being considered for pilots. Is there something that I haven't heard about?
[User Picture]
From:oneirophrenia
Date:November 11th, 2006 07:40 pm (UTC)
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The book Radical Evolution by Joel Garreau details a great many of the current human-enhancement projects on the table at DARPA and the DSO. It is currently a bit out-of-date, as the interviews were conducted in 2004 and the book originally released last year--which, in Accelerated DARPA-time, is tantamount to fifty years ago. Nonetheless, many of the procedures and technologies that Garreau talks about in their planning stages at DARPA have been released to to the FDA and the general research public now.

I particularly want to get my hands on the drug that lets you stay awake for three days straight with no side-effects whatsoever.

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