In the USA picking strawberries is hard low paid work for migrant, often illegal alien, workers. Japan’s robot strawberry picker comes from a different mindset.
Most post-industrialized nations complain about cheap foreign labor taking their jobs. Similarly people living in high income nations complain that automation is eliminating jobs, even jobs no one really wants to do. Standing in the hot sun bending over picking strawberries for 12 hours per day is not desirable work for any person.
Japan values their national cultural identity much more than other post-industrialized nations. Being a small island nation they are very concerned about depending on foreigners for materials. Japan understands and values self-sufficiency. Additionally, Japan is an aging society. The ratio of young people who are able to do manual labor is declining. If Japan is going to remain self-sufficient it must find ways to do more with less human labor.
Japan’s obsession with automation stems from their need to do more with less. Proper design and automation is how Japanese companies increase productivity and quality while reducing costs.
Even though Japan is a small nation it produces a great deal of food, particularly for local use. Rather than using the mass production approach of the nations with large amounts of land such as the USA, Canada, and Russia, Japan produces food in super efficient small scale farms. These types of farms are particularly well suited to automation. A small family owned farm using automation can produce much more food per acre and at much higher quality than the large scale industrial farming approach. Rather than viewing automation as stealing jobs, the Japanese are spreading real wealth by allowing more people to directly own and operate the means of production.
Japan is moving forward into Abundance both technologically and socially. Other nations and people could learn a lot from the Japanese.
Do you work, purchase, or consume anything? If so this new understanding of Abundance effects you.
“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” The character Inigo Montoya from the movie “Princess Bride”
In 2000 I began a project to change the world. My partner in this project was The Shad0w, contributor to the BitTorrent protocol and creator of BitTornado program. Napster and other peer-to-peer file sharing systems were in full swing and BitTorrent was just starting to catch on. At that point we realized that it was impossible to stop people from copying information. Music, movies, books, or software programs are all just information. Any information can be digitized. Once digitized copies are basically free. But we also realized that if people weren’t paid to make new information the world would stagnate. The entire legal system of intellectual property was based on restricting copies and now that was impossible.
While Shadow worked on BitTorrent and other technologies I worked on business models for this new world we were entering. I began researching, doing experiments and reexamining everything I knew about information. The result of that were several profound discoveries. One of them was a completely different way of looking at economics.
The big complaint in all the industrialized nations is they’re losing high paying jobs. But where are those jobs going? The quick response is the high paying jobs are going overseas or foreigners are coming in and “stealing” jobs. This is an easy explanation but it’s totally false.
High paying jobs aren’t moving overseas or somehow being stolen. The high paying jobs are gone. No one is getting the old high paying jobs, those jobs don’t exist.
There is a fundamental rule of human nature. We always want More, Better, For Less, with Less Hassle. That continuous drive to get more for less has caused tremendous increases in productivity. 100 years ago it took thousands of people to do what one person does today.
As recently as 50 years ago telephone companies had operators manually connecting calls. This person’s job was to plug wires on a board of connectors to make the connection between telephones. It could take 15 minutes for a call to be connected across the country. Today a device that costs $100 can make thousands of connections a second. Only a few years ago telephone companies charged extra for long distance calls. Today almost every cellular plan offers free long distance.
The job of telephone operator wasn’t stolen, or shipped overseas. That job is gone. If someone did want to do that job today they wouldn’t get paid very much. Plugging and unplugging wires isn’t valuable. No one wants to pay for a manual telephone operator.
The creation of automated switches led to new high paying jobs managing the switches. As the switches became more reliable and easier to manage even those jobs went away. Now one person can manage thousands of switches that connect thousands of calls every second. Today one person can do the work of millions. That one person does have a high paying job. But that will go away as well. It will get easier and easier to do the job and it won’t require special training.
I don’t think anyone wants people to spend all day unplugging and plugging in wires to connect telephone calls. I don’t think anyone wants to go back to paying for long distance either.