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Japan and Its Population ‘Crisis’


Coping with the fact of Japan’s aging (and ultimately shrinking) population will not be without its difficulties (exacerbated in Japan’s case by its massive debt overhang), but ultimately it’s an opportunity, not a crisis, and the Japanese have done well to recognize that mass immigration, a “solution” that causes more problems than it solves, is not a sensible alternative. Managing this demographic transition will instead have to be a matter of longer working lives and increased productivity. So far as the latter is concerned, step forward Saya.   The Daily Telegraph’s Hunter Skipworth explains:

In an attempt to make it easier to deal with Tokyo’s masses of shoppers, department store Takashimaya decided to enroll the services of a speech-recognising robot for a week…Saya was developed by Hiroshi Kobayashi of the Tokyo University of Science in 2004 and had up until recently been involved in a trial at a Tokyo primary school. The robot supply teacher was capable of catching students passing notes and copying homework as well as giving them a rather stern telling off. Saya then began “working” at Takashimaya in Ginza where she sits at the store’s information desk. For a week in October shoppers were treated to a very different kind of store assistant. Saya is capable of responding to shoppers’ questions and complaints in more than 700 different ways, directing them to the relevant floors and making small talk in between. It may just be my Japanese accent but Saya seemed rather confused by my simple questions, often directing me to the toilet regardless of where I had asked to go.
Either that Hunter — or she was telling the gaijin to p*** off . . .   Fans of the greatest sci-fi movie ever made (Blade Runner, in case there can be any doubt over the matter) will relish this:
The scary thing about Saya is her virtual past. Programmers have installed responses that allow her to tell passers by a little about her history. Saya can respond to questions about previous jobs…


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