Yuuji Ohta’s robot wolf bars her white canines with flashing red eyes and a swinging head and gives off a variety of flashing groanings. The body is covered by a matted brown synthetic fur coat.
As the population of the country declines, boars, bears, horses, apes and other species of wild animals are increasing, and they are intruding in areas where people live and work. The robot wolf version is stationary, but the next one is in a position to chase away the animals.
Ohta’s false wolf shows Japan’s demographic retreat silver lining–or potential for a big missed chance. The country needs to invest desperately in robots and other technology to cater to the aging and declining population. The big question is, can Japan take advantage of the circumstances?
By 2050, nearly 40% of the Japanese population would be over 65, and in the next five decades, the population is predicted to decline by around one third. In the camps–including places such as Naie, where Ohta set up a shop–the situation is even worse. In just 12 years, the rural population of the country is forecast to decrease by almost 20 percent.
This shortage of labor is likely to transform the economy of Japan for the better by opening a new era of technological progress. Just check out the CEO of Cyberdyne Inc., Yoshiyuki Sankai. His company makes a bionic suit, called HAL, to help people with problems and handicaps through stroke or accidents. These robot exoskeletons read and help the patient move bio-electric signals. Cyberdyne also produces strap-on lumbar support devices that extend the life of farmworkers and builders and robot cleaners he says work on the midnight shift of airports Tokyo’s Narita and Haneda.
The leaders of Japan’s economy must also be open-minded. Regional banks, particularly with countryside emptying, need more and not less help. It should not be a brainer to fund more automation, which can help daily lives. Human beings and machines will interact in the same space soon, says Sankai Cyberdyne, if they aren’t already. “Science fiction is not this.”