Robots Won't Save Japan addresses the Japanese government's efforts to develop care robots in response to the challenges of an aging population, rising demand for eldercare, and a critical shortage of care workers. Drawing on ethnographic research at key sites of Japanese robot development and implementation, James Wright reveals how such devices are likely to transform the practices, organization, meanings, and ethics of caregiving if implemented at scale.
This new form of techno-welfare state that Japan is prototyping involves a reconfiguration of care that deskills and devalues care work and reduces opportunities for human social interaction and relationship building. Moreover, contrary to expectations that care robots will save labor and reduce health care expenditures, robots cost more money and require additional human labor to tend to the machines. As Wright shows, robots alone will not rescue Japan from its care crisis. The attempts to implement robot care instead point to the importance of looking beyond such techno-fixes to consider how to support rather than undermine the human times, spaces, and relationships necessary for sustainably cultivating good care.
1. Crisis and Care Robots
2. Developing Robots and Designing Algorithmic Care
3. Portrait of a Care Home
4. Hug: Reconfiguring Lifting
5. Paro: Reconfiguring Communication
6. Pepper: Reconfiguring Recreation
7. Beyond Care Robots
James Wright is a Research Associate at the Alan Turing Institute. Follow him on Twitter @jms_wright.
The title says it all, really, Robots Won't Save Japan, but do read the book if you want to be convinced, because you will be. The author, anthropologist and science and technology studies (STS) scholar James Wright, has adopted this title in reaction to a Japanese book from a generation ago, Robots Will Save Japan (Nakayama 2006).
~Anthropology & Aging
Robots Won't Save Japan is a vivid example for how ethnographic research can enrich and deepen our understanding of complex social and political problems