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• Japan: Robot Nation

In 2008, Current Vanguard produced a short but thorough documentary about Japan’s aging population and how the government is planning to deal with it.  It begins by introducing some of the trends that contribute to the problem; mainly women who choose to focus on their careers and the attractive single life instead of starting families.  They frequent host clubs to party with men selected from a catalog, which along with sex toys substitute for real relationships.  And though the government has begun to take women’s rights more seriously with new legislation, there is still a great deal of inequality in the country.

Shockingly, Japan requires all non-Japanese – even those who were born in the country – to carry foreign ID cards. And while the government is happy to tax them the same as their Japanese neighbors, the so-called foreigners are not allowed to vote unless they give up their family names for traditional Japanese ones.  Migrant workers from China and other parts of Asia are (in some cases) forced to work 14 hours a day in horrible conditions for less than minimum wage, and they’re not given compensation if they are injured on the job.

On the other side, conservatives argue that immigrants will cause more problems for society than they are worth. This attitude towards foreigners is presented as one of the reasons why Japan is focusing on building humanoid robots rather than increasing immigration.  It’s too bad that this doc isn’t longer, or dedicated to this specific problem, because it appears to be an issue that warrants a much closer look.

The last 10 minutes are where the robots come into the picture, with disappointingly short interviews with Masato Hirose, the Chief Engineer of Honda’s ASIMO, and Waseda University’s Prof. Shigeki Sugano to name just two.  The host (Adam Yamaguchi) is served breakfast by Waseda University’s TWENDY-ONE, repeating an earlier press demonstration.  In a short but revealing outtake, a pair of students cool off TWENDY-ONE’s shoulder joints with a pair of fans.

Despite its 25 minute length it covers a lot of ground, taking a closer look at Japan’s population crisis than I’ve seen in the other robot documentaries (which tend to only mention statistics in passing).  And yes, it’s available to watch online at Current’s YouTube channel here.

[source: Japan: Robot Nation @ Current Tv]

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