Can Japan Solve Its Population Problems with Robots?
Japan’s population is about to tank, and with it, will fall the world’s second largest economy. In roughly 100 years, the country’s population will decrease from 127 million to 44 million. The outlook is bleak, as birth rates are at an all-time low, and the country maintains the highest proportion of senior citizens in the world. By 2050, the Japanese workforce could decrease by as much as 70%. An entertaining segment on Current TV explored both the cause of, and a possible solution to, Japan’s population catastrophe.
Japanese couples are not having babies. As more and more Japanese women and men prioritized their career ambitions over starting families, the national birth rates plummeted. Inadequate child care and employer discrimination of working mothers further discouraged working couples from having children. Swallowed up in the “work hard, play hard” pace of big cities like Tokyo (not to mention all the pretty faces at the local Host/Hostess Clubs), the Japanese 30-somethings claim they’re now too set in their ways to consider having kids.
So if they’re aren’t enough children to run Japan’s future economy, what about letting more people into the country? Could allowing more immigrants to enter Japan boost the country’s future population and workforce? Not likely, if current trends hold true, as less than 2% of Japan’s population was born outside of the country. For those that make it through the immigration process, life is far from charmed. In Japan, immigrants are often viewed as second-class citizens — they lack basic civil rights, cannot vote, and are mostly tasked with menial manual labor jobs.
So what’s left? Children are out — the Japanese aren’t even having sex, let alone children (the average number of sexual encounters per person in Japan is half the number in the US.). Foreign workers don’t seem to be a solution either; in fact, immigration reform in Japan might be a tougher battle than health care reform in the United States! Japan’s best guess: robots. Seriously, robots? Why not just throw jet-packs, flying cars, and tele-porters into the solution while we’re at it? But it turns out, the Japanese may be on the right track. Japanese scientists have created new human-like robots that not only express emotion, but recognize it as well. Visionaries see the vast potential of these robots — from primary caregiver roles where they help out with grandma’s housework, to running the front desk at the DMV.
One Japanese scientist even created a robot in his own likeness. He figures this way, he can exist in multiple places at once. Gone will be the days when his wife complains of him spending too much time in the lab. Now he can send his robot to substitute for him at…err…home, so he can continue his important lab work uninterrupted. Seriously. Watch the video…