The future of robots in an aging Japan


As a highly relevant follow up on my earlier post on emotion-focused robots, there’s a great article in the current issue of The Economist on Japan’s peculiarly propitious environment for robots. With the news just out that Japan’s population has peaked and is starting to decline, it is a particularly pointed issue where workers will come from to drive the Japanese economy. Having lived and worked in Japan for over three years in the early 1990s, I long ago came to the conclusion that Japan would never accept high levels of immigration in the way Western Europe has, and that as a result the long-term future for Japan’s economy looked rather gloomy. The Economist article also affirms that immigration is not seen as an option by Japanese to address labor shortages. However Japan’s significant technological lead in robotics is supported by a lack of “robophobia”; in fact there is a strong enthusiasm for robots in contemporary culture, comfort in dealing with them, and hope for them to help Japan to become self-sufficient in labour. Japan’s very pointed demand to develop robots to replace human labor, and their technological skills combined with plenty of capital, could dramatically accelerate the long-mooted—yet inevitable—arrival of the household robot. [Update]: For example.