viernes, 1 de septiembre de 2017

Japan: fewer people, less human interaction | MercatorNet | September 1, 2017 |

Japan: fewer people, less human interaction

MercatorNet | September 1, 2017 | 

Japan: fewer people, less human interaction

More robot monks.
Marcus Roberts | Sep 1 2017 | comment 

We have constantly blogged about the stark figures of Japan’s ageing, declining, low fertility population. It is often described by us as the “canary in the coal mine”. Where Japan leads on the demographic front, many Western and East Asian nations may be destined to follow. But beneath these figures are stories of how society is changing due to the demographic facts. There are the (slightly creepy) attempts to repopulate a village with dolls. There are the reports about the falling Japanese sex drive. And today I would like to share with you a couple of other stories about Japan’s changing society in response to its demographic decline.
The first comes from Asia News. It reports that consumers increasingly want services where interaction with other human beings is limited. Things to do on one’s own are becoming more popular. Thus, in Fukuoka there is a Ramen noodle chain of stores set up which have dining booths separated by wooden panels, so that a diner does not see his or her neighbours on either side. Customers buy tickets from a vending machine where they select their food. They are not escorted to their booth by a waiter, instead customers seat themselves and then press a call button at their table. A shutter is then opened through which the ticket is passed to a (human!) server. The shutter is then lowered and then only reopened to allow the food to be passed through. The whole experience is designed to limit human interaction to a minimum.
Elsewhere, singing alone or “1 kara” has become fashionable among young Japanese women. Customers are given headphone and microphones and sing in a soundproof room. Alone. 
According to Tomoki Inoue, an associate analyst at the think tank NLI Research Institute, lone customers are becoming more and more common.
Service industry insiders believe the trend reflects an effort to address diversifying
“‘Because people are marrying late and other factors, there has been an increase in single people even among the middle aged and elderly, and this market is growing,’ said Inoue.”
He thought that “this trend of welcoming the lone customer will continue”. This is so desperately sad. It is not good for man to be alone. We are a social animal. It also seems odd to me – if I was single without children and other family, I would want to go out to interact with others and to talk, even if it were to a waiter. I wouldn’t want to go out to eat as if I were at home and alone.
But if some Japanese are desperate for as little human interaction as possible, then they will be pleased to know that this desire can continue to be satisfied, even after death. According to Japan Times, humanoid robots (SoftBank Group Corporation’s “Pepper” robot) will soon be available to chant Buddhist sutras (scripture) at funerals. This will be in place of human monks, who are too expensive. And too human.
The Pepper has been programmed to recite sutras from four major Japanese Buddhist sects and will only cost around ¥50,000 (450USD), much less than the cash offerings usually made to Buddhist monks (human ones). The company offering the robotic funeral service will also be attractive to more secular minded customers “looking for alternatives to the traditional rituals associated with death”. (Wouldn’t they just ditch the sutras altogether?) Other aspects of the funeral industry in Japan are having to change with the shifting demographics. The traditional “danka” system (where families support family temples through donations) is declining in areas amid rural depopulation and migration to the big cities. Even as Japan empties, Tokyo is increasing in population. This has lead to very expensive burial plots and a demand for more convenient and cheaper burial/funeral options. Some burial plots have therefore built IT-powered facilities that store thousands of urns. Visitors can retrieve the urns and mount them on altars using touch-screen panels. There is little doubt that the Japanese have the technological know-how to get around many issues that a declining population brings. I’m not so sure that they’ll be able to so easily cure a society that is demanding more service industries to cater for them alone and without human interaction.


September 1, 2017

As our lives become increasingly intertwined with technology, it's probably a good idea to keep monitoring who is the master and who is the slave. Smartphones, drugs, machines, the internet, and so on open us up to new experiences, but they also create dependence and allow us to live in isolation. This is the theme of three of today's articles.

Marcus Roberts observes that in Japan, more and more people are seeking to live alone, with the most minimal human contact. And clever Japanese engineers are finding ways to accommodate this bizarre trend. And everywhere smartphones are invading family life and social life so that we spend long hours in a self-imposed cone of silence. "How will we Millennials be able to write great works of literature, philosophy, science, and theology when we’ve been conditioned to do everything with one mere flick of the finger?" asks Daniel Ross Goodman.

And finally, in our lead article Karl D. Stephan brings to bear his characteristic blend of wisdom and tech know-how on the development of driverless cars. They promise greater safety and convenience, but will these offset the impending loss of many jobs? 

Michael Cook
When cars have no drivers, the drivers may have no jobs
By Karl D. Stephan
But are they the road to the future?
Read the full article
Education minister should do his homework
By Andrew Mullins
Politicians can't ignore the impact that same-sex marriage will have on kids' education
Read the full article
The iPhone and us: this banal, bookless age
By Daniel Ross Goodman
Our future stars are perishing in a vacuous audiovisual wasteland.
Read the full article
Should Catholics throw in the towel over gay marriage?
By Michael Cook
Some prominent figures in Australia say it's all too hard
Read the full article
Waiting women
By Andrea Mrozek
If a woman has to wait for an abortion, there is an outcry. Think how that affects women waiting for a child.
Read the full article
Twenty years after Diana’s death, the state of Britain and its monarchy
By Laura Perrins
The public mourning for the 'People's Princess' manifested the collapse of traditional institutions.
Read the full article
The benefits of being an only child
By Marcus Roberts
But are we missing some obvious downsides?
Read the full article
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Japan: fewer people, less human interaction

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