Sunday, 5 March 2017


Image result for robots



That is a headline I never thought to see in my lifetime. It goes on to declare that employees are more likely to respond to commands from humanoid androids.

So, where are these humanoid androids? Answer: Japan, which unlike the US for example, actually has a shortage of workers and as a result, are way ahead of the rest of the world in AI and robotic technology.

Why? Partly because they don’t allow immigration. You can get a 90-day visa to visit but are not allowed to work; the percentage of immigrants in a country with a population of 123 million, is 2% compared for example to the UK [65m] where the percentage of residents not born in Britain is 13%  most of which incidentally, are non-EU. In Japan, the majority of non-Japanese residents are overwhelmingly either Chinese [45%] or South Korean [35%]. You can’t even up sticks and move to another city without a permit.

As everyone knows, the birth-rate is falling and as has recently been reported, they don’t have sex anymore [unless they are underage, where it is getting out of hand and becoming a serious social issue]. As a consequence, the population is in decline and the Japanese government is pouring cash into robotics to keep production-lines running. That has raised the unexpected social difficulty of taking orders from a robot.

And it’s coming down the line. In 2015 [a long time ago] companies spent £11 billion on robotics and as they become increasingly sophisticated, the day really is approaching when a work-based robot gives you instruction. The thing I was reading [in the FT] states that people, workers, will more happily take that instruction from a robot that resembles a human being than one which actually resembles a machine, like the devices we see on motor car production lines or even voices that speak to you from a computer screen, ‘you made an error there. Fix it!’

Of course they’re not there to make the medicine go down . . . already, they have identified other problems with robot bosses; where for example is the social interaction most people need and receive in the workplace?  ‘Listen, robot, you know what my boyfriend and me did last night? Well, first of all, we took off . . . ‘ You can see how employees are going to become just as disenchanted as the Rustbelt redundant are in Ohio and elsewhere and it is a strange twist of the screw that at a time when Trump is trying to safeguard jobs and keep them in the country, Japan is enthusiastically throwing money into labour-saving technologies.

You don’t often get real glimpses of the way society might evolve in the future but this seems very plausible.   




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