The Death of Birth — Our Dismal Fertility Rates

Through Collapsed Fertility Rates, We Are Self-Exterminating

ASIMO the Magnificent: A Japanese Solution to Dismal Fertility Rates?

When it comes to the developed world’s descent into demographic winter, Japan has, for years, been a leader. Already the world’s oldest society, and continuing to age, the nation recently tipped over the numbers-cliff. The population started to contract three years ago.

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Japanese men and women have drawn apart and, despite efforts by the government to bring them together for procreation, show no signs of reversing the vogue. According to the Washington Post, “With a surfeit of the old and a shortage of the young, Japan is on course for a population collapse unlike any in human history.”

The article goes on to state:

Population shrinkage began here three years ago and is gathering pace. Within 50 years, the population, now 127 million, will fall by a third, the government projects. Within a century, two-thirds of the population will be gone. That would leave Japan, now the world’s second-largest economy, with about 42 million people.The workforce would shrink even faster, thanks to the dearth of children under 15, whose numbers have been falling for 26 consecutive years and now reflect a record-low 13.6 percent of the population.

Within 20 years, the workforce will fall by 10 percent, according to Goldman Sachs, the investment firm. It estimates that within 30 years, Japan will have just two workers for each retiree; within 50 years, two retirees for every three workers. Pension and health care systems will be at risk of collapse.

To cope with its bleak demographic prospects, the country is turning, in part, to robotics. Though the populace has a fascination with human-like robots, “engineers say it’s the ‘service robots,’ which can’t dance a lick and don’t look remotely human, that can bail out Japan… (One) can spoon-feed the elderly. Others are being designed to hoist them onto a toilet and phone a nurse when they won’t take their pills.”


Last December, the world’s largest auto manufacturer, Toyota, announced that it plans to make robotics a core business. It is Honda, however, which lays claim to what may be today’s most famous robot, ASIMO (an acronym for Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility). Those in the US who would like watch ASIMO perform can visit the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, on or before Sunday, February 17.

A number of online videos exemplify the level of sophistication that this technology has achieved. This one, for example, shows how ASIMO can wait on us.

The military, of course, has contributed for decades to robotic R&D. In addition, many robotic advances are being exploited by other industries. Honda, for instance, is putting more of ASIMO’s abilities into its automobiles to make them safer. According to Bloomberg, Masashi Yamashta, general manager of Toyota’s Partner Robot development division, states that “We are not focused on making robots that look like people.” Nevertheless, many of the technological developments incorporated into these machines may serve well in androids.

The Bloomberg article goes on to state, “The robot (ASIMO) can walk alongside a guest, hold the guest’s hand, carry a serving tray or push a tea trolley. The robot is equipped with a memory and intelligence system equivalent to a three-year- old child and its strength and physical abilities are equal to a 10-year old, Honda said.”

Services are a major thrust of this technology, but, if adults continue to turn from marriage and children, robots may soon start to replace humans for companionship in much the same way that pets have. And matters may go beyond even that.

Judging by press releases and early reviews, this issue is the subject of a new book by David Levy, “Love and Sex with Robots: The Evolution of Human-Robot Relationships.”

Androids have begun to acquire forms that may someday appeal to a number of people. For example, there’s this model.

And then there’s Repliee Q1Expo.

This report states that humanoids will be used as companions to the elderly and bedridden. It will be interesting to see if societies, or segments thereof, fall into a feedback loop in which low birthrates lead to a greater development of robots, which leads to further estrangement of men and women and, as a result, even lower fertility rates.

According to the Washington Post article linked above, critics say “that robots are a politically expedient palliative that allows politicians and corporate leaders to avoid wrenchingly difficult social issues, such as Japan’s deep-seated aversion to immigration, its chronic shortage of affordable day care and Japanese women’s increasing rejection of motherhood.”

It may well be that Japanese women, but not Japanese men, are currently rejecting parenthood, but if western societies, especially the US, are an indication of the future, men may soon join in.

This blog has already mentioned the marriage strike in the US. The phenomenon is part of a larger social movement known as Men Going Their Own Way (MGTOW).

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International symbol of Men Going Their Own Way

As of this date, Wikipedia states, “A ‘marriage strike’ is the social phenomenon of men seeking to avoid marriage. The ‘marriage strike’ specifically refers to the action of men living within the Western world. Advocates of the marriage strike believe that after a considered cost-benefit analysis, the legal contract that is modern marriage no longer represents an attractive option for men living in the West’s changed legal, economic, sociological, cultural and demographic environment.”

MGTOW is not an organization. It is not even a movement in the sense of the black civil rights movement — an organized series of events aiming for particular goals. It is, rather, a movement in the sense of a social trend. An increasing number of men are individually turning their backs on society. Rightly or wrongly, they have come to believe that their cultures have turned against them, so they choose to decrease their participation in those cultures. This fact is demonstrated not only by the marriage strike but also by males’ high rates of suicide and collapsing percentage of college and university students.

We’re in for a hell of a ride. Please place your seatbacks and trays in their upright and locked positions. And be sure to take your dramamine, especially if you’re sitting next to me.

Comments

  1. March 3rd, 2008 | 12:06 am

    […] of The Death of Birth may have seen <a href = http://thedeathofbirth.net/2008/02/10/asimo-the-magnificent-a-japanese-solution-to-dismal-fertility-…>this post</a> on robotics, in which it was reported that companies in Japan are leading […]

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