Friday, March 05, 2004

Japan Seeks Robotic Help in Caring for the Aged:: Good article about a new tub in Japan that can wash a human automatically. Sounds like fun.

This is the 10th time this month I've read about Japan's problem with an aging population combined with xenophobia. I personally love their distaste for immigrants because it yields better robots.

Either way, eventually the world will become a fairly even place, and "cheap" labor won’t exist. This combined with a increasing life expectancy means that robots will need to help with everything. It just makes sense economically when you think about the worker/retiree ratio. Look at Korea: 25 years ago, Korea was a lot like the Philippines or Thailand is today, 25 years from now, those countries might be the most wired in the world. 25 years after that, standards will increase so much that I’m certain it will be hard to find labor. It isn’t just that poorer countries will become richer. It is that as countries become richer, the demand for services goes up. Think about it like a threshold: after a given level of income, it makes sense for me to hire an accountant, lawyer, and broker. Today, because I’m a poor graduate student, I make do…

Also, the article mentions that the cost of the tub could pay for two Filipino nurses for one year. What they neglect to mention is that aside from maintenance costs, this machine could probably run for many years without addition costs. You need to factor in the continuous cost of labor.

Put it another way: a robotic butler might cost as much as a Mercedes, for which you could just hire a regular butler. BUT the robot can be made to last as long as the car! If that good book and horrible movie “Bicentennial Man” taught us anything, it’s that mechanical parts are easier to maintain that biological parts because, while not self-healing (yet) they can more easily be replaced.

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