Childless Japan turns to robot babies

From Marcus Roberts at MercatorNet:

Currently the number of children that the average Japanese woman can expect to have over her life is around 1.4. This is well below the replacement fertility rate for developed countries of about 2.1 (Japan hasn’t had a fertility rate that high since the 1970s; hence its current population decline). The absolute number of babies being born in the country each year has halved in the last 40 years to around one million while the proportion of the population that is made up of children (those aged 14 and under) is now down to 13%.

Aside from there being fewer people of child-bearing years than in previous generations, one in ten Japanese women will never marry, and there is even a “celibacy syndrome”, meaning that many Japanese will never have children. We have blogged previously about one, slightly bizarre, attempt at ameliorating a lack of children in one small Japanese village. Today, I wanted to bring you a more mainstream solution to the problem of childlessness.

Toyota’s non-automotive department has developed a “baby robot” called the Kirobo Mini (see the photo above). The robot is designed to “invoke an emotional connection” with its owners, has artificial intelligence and a camera so that it can “recognise” the person speaking to it and can respond. Presumably without the trouble and expense and mess of having a dog. More.

Reality check: Who will inherit Japan if not Japanese? Any thoughts on that?

What’s fascinating is that the Japanese have been noted for thinking themselves culturally superior to, say, Chinese and Westerners. But they are nonetheless willing to allow themselves to become extinct and their culture to be wiped out. Thoughts?

See also: Other instances of trying to get robots to care, some pioneered in Japan:

Robotic caregivers are a bad idea (but not just for the obvious reasons) If we look at it from an economic perspective, the pension money a senior spends on assisted living is not wasted. It is recycled back into the economy as someone else’s salary.

Robotic surgery: Paging Dr. Carebot? At first glance, it sounds impersonal, sterile. But there are pros and cons.

Serious argument: The right to marry a robot This is an argument for the right to marry something that is not human and not a self. Forcing others to recognize one’s machine as a spouse would be a social triumph, of sorts.

People seem to be turning against the i[can’t]Carebots—robot caregivers for the elderly

Would you marry an intelligent robot or just stay single? Such scenarios depend on the assumption that a machine can be conscious.

Just what the doctor did not order: The doctorbot The art of medicine is to persuade the patient at risk to help himself heal.

  • Mannie

    A reproduction rate of 1.4 is said to be impossible to recover from. The Japanese may breed themselves out of existence. That will make the Japanese-Chinese tension moot.

    We have a reproduction rate of about 1.8. 2.3 is said to be break even. We have Mexicans to save us.

    Moslems reproduce at a rate of 4 to 6. At that rate, they may well dominate the World, unless there is a genocidal war. I’m glad I’ll probably not live to see either.

    • In any event, a marked preference for boys over girls will send many other cultures down the path to extinction, now that prenatal testing is available.

      • dance…dancetotheradio

        You have identified their Achilles’ Heel.

    • dance…dancetotheradio

      Japan is a special case, in a way.
      If you look at their land mass and resources based on their population they are simply adapting to the limits of their environment.
      That’s what successful cultures do.

  • BillyHW

    At least the Japanese aren’t stupid enough to have immigration.

    • Clausewitz

      Immigration is not bad, it’s where the immigration is from that can make it bad.

      • dance…dancetotheradio

        Reproduction strategies have different effects.
        Insects are successful but they don’t rule the world.

  • Brett_McS

    Very few trends in the real world are linear – they don’t account for feedback – so extrapolation is almost always wrong.

    I expect the population will continue to decline – while Darwinising those who don’t want/like children – to a lower level. But that lower level will then contain a greater proportion of people who want larger families. So then the decline will stop.

    • Sure, but it’s not quite that simple. For example, societies can enter demographic freefall. New groups come in and take over and those who do with to marry and produce children must marry into the new group. Their genes still exist, sure, but their culture doesn’t.

      • canminuteman

        As long as Japan continues on with their current immigration policy this isn’t a problem.

      • Brett_McS

        True, but that’s the situation/problem with the open borders west, not the closed borders Japan. And besides, they could lose a few million and not notice.

      • dance…dancetotheradio

        Don’t let new groups in.
        Gee, I wonder where I heard that?

  • shasta

    Japan’s GDP is increasing while its population is falling somewhat. This means that the standard of living is increasing. It has about 2 million non Japanese living in a population of about 127 million, and has very little immigration or emigration. One would think that other developed countries would be trying to emulate them. They are certainly doing better than the Western nations, and their culture is not in any danger of being obliterated by uncontrolled immigration.

  • PaulW

    And progressives who have 1 or 0 babies and in various ways are extinguishing themselves and our societies, also tend to think themselves superior to more fecund groups and cultures. Is survival a trait that is necessarily a positive trait? One could argue this, and yes, it seems pretty fundamental, a truism really, to say that a society ought to have this trait. But is it entirely a positive trait? Who admires countries like Somalia simply because birthrate is 4.2 or whatever it is? I believe it was Victor Frankl – a Holocaust survivor – who said something like (I’m paraphrasing because I’m too lazy to look it up!):

    “it took a particular type of personality and behaviour to survive a concentration camp – the best of us did not survive.”

    • Progressives survive as an eite that forces others to replicate their values. Cf transgender bathrooms and locker rooms forced on schools.

      • Clausewitz

        Progressives are the Borg, plain and simple.

      • Brett_McS

        The hysteria when their plans are blocked is telling. They can’t “live and let live” because then they will just die out due to demographics.

        • dance…dancetotheradio

          The mainstreaming of gay culture is having the same effect.

    • dance…dancetotheradio

      My sister is a social justice warrior and she’s a childless post menopausal hector who I had to slap down after she went after my daughter’s political views.
      Who wins when we die?