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Robotics Japan

Japan's Elderly Nix Robot Helpers 200

SteeldrivingJon writes with this quote from a story at the BBC: "In Japan, robots are friendly helpers, not Terminators. So when they join the workforce, as they do often in factories, they are sometimes welcomed on their first day with Shinto religious ceremonies. But whether the sick and elderly will be as welcoming to robot-like tech in their homes is a question that now vexes a Japanese care industry that is struggling with a massive manpower shortage. Automated help in the home and hospitals, believe some, could be the answer. A rapidly aging first world is also paying close attention to Japan's dalliance with automated care. ... The country's biggest robot maker, Tmsuk, created a life-like one-meter tall robot six years ago, but has struggled to find interested clients. Costing a cool $100,000 a piece, a rental program was scrapped recently because of 'failing to meet demands of consumers' and putting off patients at hospitals. 'We want humans caring for us, not machines,' was one response."
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Japan's Elderly Nix Robot Helpers

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  • Xenophobia... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by babymac ( 312364 ) <.ten.retrahc. .ta. .d33hp.> on Friday February 04, 2011 @02:22PM (#35105494) Homepage
    Well, if you want humans to care for you, Japan, you just might have to accept people who don't speak or look Japanese. Get over your completely homogeneous society already!
  • the elderly hoarde the power in corporations and in society's rules such that the young can't get a foothold. young workers are underpaid and overworked in companies purposefully to support the perks for older dead wood in the company.

    Sounds similar enough to the United States. Here, the unemployment rate for age group 20-24 is more than twice that of the 50-54 year old crowd.(http://www.bls.gov/web/empsit/cpseea13.htm) Even after they find jobs, they'll make far less money (adjusted for inflation) than their older counterparts made at the same age. Almost nobody in the younger group will ever have a job that offers a pension.

    Things are chugging along well enough for most people here, but as the trend continues this will be a become a big problem and the legitimacy of the people who are pulling the levers will continue to decline.

  • by Aqualung812 ( 959532 ) on Friday February 04, 2011 @02:55PM (#35105796)

    Use the robots to free up staff, let the human staff take care of the elderly. Have more automation in test results, checking on patients that are unconscious, filling meds, etc.

    I'm sure their is a list of things the people in the hospitals hate to do that are boring, repeatable, and don't involve a patient directly. Put the robots there.

  • Re:Xenophobia... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DrgnDancer ( 137700 ) on Friday February 04, 2011 @02:56PM (#35105806) Homepage

    Their problem is quickly becoming one of choosing a poison. The elderly vs middle aged vs young adults vs children gap in Japan is approaching critical. Most of the industrialized world is experiencing problems with an aging populace: the problem is less pronounced but existent in the US, noticeable in a lot of Europe, getting serious in other parts of Europe, and nearing critical in Japan. If the Japanese elderly don't want to cared for by robots, and they don't want to be cared for by non-Japanese (or non-Japanese speakers, let's face it Japanese is neither a commonly learned nor easy to learn second language) their remaining choices are getting thin.

    It's simple math. If there aren't enough young people to care for the old people you either need to import more young people or find another solution. What that solution is I don't know, but robots were at least a legit attempt.

  • Re:Xenophobia... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CRCulver ( 715279 ) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Friday February 04, 2011 @03:15PM (#35105974) Homepage

    It's important for workers to speak the local language not just to make things easier for their employers, but also so that they are aware of their rights.

    When I moved to Finland a few years back, I initially despaired that even lowly jobs required a decent knowledge of Finnish, but when I reached relative proficiency in the language and started working in blue-collar part-time work to put myself through grad school, I was happy that I could understand the rights gained for me and my colleagues in collective bargaining between the union and my employer (every worker has these rights, even if they aren't a union member).

    But an immigrant who doesn't speak the local language can be exploited mercilessly by his employers.

  • by BZ ( 40346 ) on Friday February 04, 2011 @03:18PM (#35105996)

    > In the US, the lever pullers are elected.

    No, they're not. Figureheads are elected. The lever pullers are for the most part the career bureaucrats and the lobbyists.

    The last time we had an elected official seriously trying to change how the bureaucracy worked his name was Joe McCarthy. No one particularly enjoyed that, so no one has tried since.

  • Re:Joe McCarthy?! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by BZ ( 40346 ) on Friday February 04, 2011 @03:59PM (#35106392)

    > the smearmongering communist witch hunter?

    Yep. That guy.

    > a very dangerous demagogue

    Yes, indeed. Though at this point you rather have to be to get elected. I mean... Our current president sure did the whole "arousing the emotions and passions" thing that my dictionary uses as the definition of a demagogue, mostly about Change. Our previous president, same thing about an Axis of Evil.

    > joe mccarthy is an example of anything except an asshole

    Being an asshole is not mutually incompatible with being other things (for example, the guy was also a Senator; this is a common juxtaposition, actually). In this case, he was a crusading asshole, which is why he had the guts to try to do something as daft as taking on the bureaucracy to start with.

    In case it wasn't clear, I think McCarthy's methods were unaccetable (even if some of his suspicions were correct). But the point is, there are no acceptable methods that elected officials have today for controlling the bureaucracy. They're in the position of a manager who can't hire and fire employees and who has a small clique of employees who were there before he arrived and will be there after he leaves reporting to him... and controlling all of his access to information, as well as getting to interpret any directions he gives. If they don't do what he tells them to, he has no recourse. That's assuming he even finds out about it, which is doubtful.

    Now the problem is that before we had our current setup, the bureaucracy _was_ accountable to elected figures. We called it the spoils system. It was, unfortunately, even worse than what we have now.

That does not compute.