But what about other cultures?

We’ve been discussing now for quite some time about how our senior citizens react to new technologies here in the west, and have come to some interesting ideas. But what about the rest of the world? Is the acceptance to technology in every culture the same, or is there difference between cultures? In the past few days I’ve tried to find some answers or notions concerning this topic. And found out that the stance elderly take towards new technologies is broadly speaking comparable to those we experience with our beloved old-of-aged. Let us take for instance Japan. Japan is a nation who loves robots. Where in the west robots means terminator and the loss of work, in japan robots are seen as a good thing. When a robot is set to work in japan, they are “sometimes welcomed on their first day with Shinto religious ceremonies.”[1] And as Japan is struggling with an aging population whilst having too few people to care for them, instead of using cheap immigrant labour as do many other countries, japan turns to robots. Thus some major money was pumped into making humanoid robots who could take care of their elderly, resulting in some nice products like a forklift robot to cary a person around or a higly sophisticated robot arm that can “feed” an elderly who isn’t capable to such an action for him/herself.

Forklift to move people around

But as in the west, the elderly weren’t that happy with those robots. As one patient said: “we want humans, no robots” Hospitals and care-centers started abandoning the robots as “the patients where put off by them”[2], and the humanoid robot sales dwindled. This has had for effect that japan is now focusing on simpler, more practical robots.

This example learns us that even in technophile Japan, elderly are hesitant towards technologies that change their life too substantially

[1] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-12347219

[2] http://www.popsci.com/technology/article/2011-02/some-japanese-patients-shun-robot-helpers-throwing-future-elder-care-doubt



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4 Responses to But what about other cultures?

  1. Ingmar Van Eylen says:

    I think this is quite right, in the west there is still a little aversion towards “caring” robots. Because, as you said, we normally use robots to help in the industry, not to help people. It’s just a part of our culture. So the elderly, who have lived nearly their entire life without robots and when they encountered robots it was mainly in a cold, industry like environnement. So I completely understand that the elderly of this age are no fans of robotcare. But in the futere I think this will change. Young people now have another view on robots because they are more familiar with them so when, for example, I get old, I will not hesitate to get a robot if it will help me in my daily life. And I’m convinced that a lot of others of my age will do the same.

    • I don’t know for sure if I would want a robot to care for me when I get old. Firstly I would prefer a human hand helping me (so it’s up to us to make lots of children so that they can take care of us) because the elderly needs, appart from help with actions that he can no longer perform, social interaction with real people around him. And secondly, I don’t know, it would just be ‘strange’, to have a machine performing tasks that we normally only expect from humans. I guess I would be as techno-loving as the elderly of today.

    • karelvanderelst says:

      As Jeroen stated, there’s an aversion in the west as well as in the east, which makes the effect even more profound.
      While robots might seem like a great idea to help assisting elderly, the social aspect of it all can’t be forgotten. Cleaning duties and the like can be outsourced to robots without issues, but patient contact should in my opinion cherish its emotional founding. That’s not to say robots can’t offer assistance (like lifting patients from their bed), but I don’t see them replacing human care anytime soon.

  2. jokewellens says:

    I agree with Ingmar that because robot technology for medical application is quite new , maybe we would find it less strange when we are old than the elderly now. But it’s hard to say how this will evaluate true the years, and influence our lives. But personally I agree with Jeroen. If I see since fiction movies of how our world will be in a couple of years (I know they aren’t always realistic 🙂 ), where technology controls a lot of things it gives me the creeps. So I also prefer real social contacts with people, above machines. For some medical applications they are handy, for example in surgery they already use it but it’s still coordinated by a doctor. But for daily tasks I prefer family or a carer.

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