Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Thursday, May 20, 2010



(NOTE: Sorry about the tabloid headline. Just trying to boost readership.)

As we all know, Japan boast the highest life expectancy of any nation on earth. It's clear: The fish/rice/sake diet is the healthiest diet on earth. In fact, in the land of the rising sun, the average person lives to be a ripe-old 82.6 years. (On the same list, the USA is #38, right behind #37 CUBA!) Anyhow, this means Japan has a lot of old people. A whopping one quarter of the current population is over the age of sixty-five. And, as we all know, older people need a lot of medical attention. Not surprisingly, Japan's hospitals are having trouble finding enough staff to take care of its growing elderly population.

So where do you go...if you're Japan...to hire a nurse? The first option is the younger generation. There's got to be a lot of people who want a career in medicine! Unfortunately, Japan has a negative population growth rate. There just ain't enough kids. Next idea: OUT-SOURCE! And where do nations in the Far East go for cheap labor? THE PHILIPPINES! True, many Filipinos have come to Tokyo in hopes of landing a great job. Only one problem: In order to work in a Japanese hospital, you must first demonstrate your fluency in Japanese. All applicants must first past a rigorous language exam. According to a BBC report, 98% fail the test. Strike Two!

Not wanting Japan to 'strike out,' a professor from Osaka has come forward with a plan. Meet HIROSHI ISHIGURO. He's a leader in the field of robotics. He is known worldwide for his advancements in the subject. Recently, Ishiguro unveiled an ACTROID, a very lifelike robot that really resembles a person. It's wired it to have facial emotions, like surprise and joy. It can speak perfect Japanese. Ishiguro feels his robots could fill the employment vacuum...not only in hospitals but in other service industries as well.

While this plan may seem outlandish to us, it is gaining an amazing amount of support in Japan. After all, the nation has always been on the cutting edge of technology and this does seem like a logical step. However, it does expose a rather unsettling aspect of Japanese culture: Xenophobia. There's a reason why that language exam is so tough...Japan has never liked immigration. Throughout its long history, the islands have banned foreigners, eschewing the outside world. Simply put, many Japanese would prefer a robot to immigrant labor.

Which brings us back to our tabloid title. Well, perhaps robots aren't INVADING hospitals, but don't be surprised when your local Emergency Room is staffed by ACTIODS!

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