Did you know that there are more vending machines in Japan as compared to anywhere else in the world; about 1 for every 23 people? If you look hard enough you could even find a hotel in Japan run by Robots with a dinosaur waiting to greet you at the front desk. Why is Japan so crazy about automation and how could it possibly impact the world?
If you speak with Japanese entrepreneurs and scholars who are pioneers in the field of robotics and automation many of them nostalgically recall the famous manga “Astro Boy” as being a source of inspiration. The Manga depicts Astro Boy – the title character as a robot created by Doctor Tenma to replace his deceased son. The robot has a heart and soul and is very “human-like” in appearance and behavior.
This recurring theme in anime, television and Japanese day to day life could be better explained if we understood how Japanese view robots. In the UK for instance Robots are defined as “mere programmable machines” whereas in Japan, robots are considered “artificial humans” that have an identity of their own – a spirit and a soul. This outlook is deep rooted in Japanese culture.
The first robots could be traced as far back as 1875 ACE. Tanaka Hisashige, a Japanese inventor created extremely complex toys, capable of serving tea, firing arrows and even writing the Japanese alphabet. Today Japan manufactures everything ranging from “industrial worker robots” to “automated sex dolls”. They even have KURATAS, a giant ‘transformer’ like robot with a cockpit for a human pilot and; Humanoids, capable of the subtlest human movements that would amaze you.
The reasons behind such a fervent pursuit of automation goes beyond culture and television.
Japan is a “super-aging society” with a quarter of its population over the age of 65 and that number is rising fast; a problem that is sure to hit western nations such as USA and Canada over the following decade as well. A large portion of Japanese citizens do not date. A government survey found that 69 per cent of Japanese men and 59 per cent of Japanese women do not have a romantic partner. With long working hours, cramped housing and rising costs, the country has one of the lowest birth rates in the world, with just 8.4 children being born per 1,000 inhabitants over the last five years. This has led to large labor shortages and very high labor costs. The capital Tokyo, for example has twice as many job vacancies as applicants. Many analysts believe that immigration could be the solution to Japans labor woes but the country does not view immigration favorably. As a result companies turn to automation as a quick and efficient solution to back fill vacant positions. With Japan’s extremely low crime rate robots and machines can be installed almost anywhere without fear of robbery or damage. Many other nations would think twice before installing say a standalone vending unit on a quiet street.
With all the above factors in play it does make sense for Japan to take the automated route, but how could this impact other nations?
For now, high functionality robots are still very expensive to manufacture and hence are commercially unfeasible. But with huge impetus being provided by the Japanese government towards robotic automation the scenario may soon change. We could see a rise in Robotic exports coupled with “copies/clones” popping up across the globe, slowing replacing a human workforce.
The World Economic Forum has predicted that robotic automation will result in the net loss of more than 5 million jobs across 15 developed nations by 2020. India is already facing the heat with layoffs taking place across the IT industry.
Automation does boost productivity, provides companies with a competitive edge and reduces cost but how far should we take it? Will Japan’s labor shortage eventually lead to a global crisis that the world may not be ready for yet?
What is Brexit and Article 50?
On June 2016, the Prime Minister David Cameron called out to all citizens in the UK to cast their vote. This wasn’t an electoral vote, but rather an opinion poll on whether the UK should continue with, or secede from the EU. He was confident that the citizens would not want to secede, But was let down. The United Kingdom created history that day, with close to 52% of people voting in favor of leaving the EU.
David Cameron resigned as Prime Minister the day after the results were announced. Theresa May took his place and has promised to invoke article 50 before April 2017. Article 50 is a formal notification of the intent to separate from the EU, along with complete guidelines on how to do so.
Once invoked, terms such as future trade relations with the EU will be discussed. The process is supposed to take a maximum of 2 years. This is the first time a member nation will invoke article 50 and hence the road ahead is very unclear. Once invoked, there is no going back.
The government were on the path to trigger article 50, but a recent Supreme Court ruling has stated that they need to get the bill approved by parliament first. The Members of Parliament are under tremendous pressure as they have been given just 5 days to decide on it.
So why did people vote this way?
Firstly, people in Britain felt, that their leaders were having lesser and lesser say when it came to defending national law at the European level. In their eyes, the EU was an agent of change that was dismissive of their way of life and public opinion.
Secondly, they were very concerned about restrictions placed on them due to European immigration laws. The UK government had proposed that people coming in from other parts of the EU must live in the UK and contribute to it for at least 4 years before they get access to social housing and other benefits. This was opposed by the EU, making many wonder why the EU has this much say in Britain’s social welfare?
Thirdly, as laid down by the EU, all member countries are expected to adopt the Euro latest by 2020. Many felt that they were being forced to abandon the Pound and adopt the Euro against their wishes. They have been sceptical about this, as the Pound has always been the stronger currency and they believe the Euro to be unstable as it can be influenced by economically weaker countries such as Greece.
Fourthly, people feel that being a part of the EU is costing the country billions of dollars a year. The free trade agreements it enjoys are not enough to offset this cost. They would rather be an independent nation and have the complete freedom to strike trade agreements with countries outside the EU as well such as China and India.
The vote shows how divided Britain was on the issue and the bill, if passed, would be the start of a new era in European politics.
How Powerfull is the President of United States – Donald Trump’s Executive Order
Creating huge waves his first week in office, Donald Trump has signed an executive order barring individuals of 7 nations from entering the US. Individuals from Muslim majority nations of Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen have been denied entry into the US for a period of 90 days with immediate effect, until stronger laws are put in place. The individuals exempt from the ban are Diplomats, UN officials and in certain cases, those of minority faith, such as persecuted Christians, making many believe this to be a “Muslim ban”. Trump has denied the claims, stating that the order was passed to combat terrorism in order to keep the US safe and is in no way anti-Muslim.
The executive order also puts a stop to the US immigration program for 120 days, and halts Syrian refugees from entering the nation indefinitely. This comes at a time when the world faces its greatest refugee crisis since the Second World War.
The power to issue an “Executive order” is a special right enjoyed by the president of the United States. With the exception of William Henry Harrison, all presidents, including George Washington, have at some time during their tenure, issued executive orders.
One of the most famous executive orders in history was the Emancipation Proclamation, issued by President Abraham Lincoln, in 1863 which changed the status of 3 million human beings from “slave to free.”
A questionable use of the power was seen when President Ford granted a full pardon to President Nixon for any offenses he might have committed during his presidency. Former President Barack Obama issued 276 executive orders on immigration, climate change, gun control, contraception and even gay rights.
But the power to issue these orders does not give the president the right to make law and can be struck down by either Congress or the Supreme Court of America at any time.
By issuing such an order, Trump believes he is putting “America First” but such an approach shows an eerie similarity with the “America first” movement during the Second World War.
America was against getting involved in the war and as a result of this they infamously turned away the St Lewis in 1939. The ship was carrying 937 Jewish refugees who were looking to escape Hitler’s persecution. The ship was turned away from American shores; ultimately leading to 100’s being killed in the holocaust. Since then, the US has come a long way in their refugee program. 85000 refugees were allowed into the country last year, with a majority of them coming from Syria and Iraq.
Numerous protests have spread across the nation since, with people demanding Trump to reconsider his stance.
Will the Trump administration give in to the pressure, or will we witness the rise of a new America, the likes of which we haven’t seen in a long time.
Everything you need to know about the India China Conflict at Doklam
India and China are currently facing off at Doka La close to a disputed tri-junticon between 3 nations – India, China and Bhutan in a border issue that has its roots as far back as 1890. Read further to understand what is going on and the future outcome of the stand-off.
For close to 5 weeks, India and China have been involved in a stand-off along part of their shared border. To better understand what is going let’s take you back in time.
In the early 18th century, the British Empire worked towards improving its trade routes from India into Tibet in order to sell tea, tobacco and other foods produced by Indian colonies. Sikkim, then an independent Kingdom was the ideal connecting point. As a result, the northern part of the kingdom was annexed by Britain in 1888. 2 years later, Britain and China met in Calcutta in order to clearly define the Sikkim-Tibet border to avoid any future conflict.
The treaty of 1890 was signed between the two sides.
Article 1 of this treaty states that the border begins at Mt Gipmochi while at the same time also states that the boundary must follow the watershed. Mt Gipmochi, however, is not the start of the watershed and the treaty does not explain how to interpret this.
In discussions, China quotes the 1890 treaty and chooses the starting point of the border as Mt. Gipmochi while Bhutan and India choose Batang La as the starting point.
Once India gained independence, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had written to his Chinese counterpart Zhou Enlai in 1959. In the letter, Mr Nehru agreed that there is no dispute over the boundary between Sikkim and Tibet, however with regards to the border between Bhutan and Tibet, he states that Chinese maps show sizable areas of Bhutan as part of Tibet and had requested that the same be rectified by Chinese authorities.
However, whether the border starts at Batang LA or Gipmochi would not change Indian territory in any way. So why is India involved in the issue?
Bhutan was not a party to the 1890 agreement and its border with Tibet, has never been officially demarcated. Bhutan asserts that the disputed area is Bhutanese territory. In 1998, China and Bhutan signed a bilateral agreement for maintaining status quo and peace on the border. China agreed to show respect for Bhutan’s sovereignty in the region and build ties peacefully. However, Bhutan claims that China’s building of roads on the disputed land is in violation of the 1998 agreement, and has provoked tensions. China on the other hand claims that the road building exercise is peaceful and should not warrant such a reaction.
India and Bhutan have been closely allied since 1949 and until 2007 India maintained a significant influence over Bhutan’s foreign policy and defense. Prior to 1970, India represented Bhutan in all border talks with China. Recently, China attempted to extend a road in a sector of Doklam triggering the stand-off. Coming to Bhutan’s aid, Indian forces crossed over the border taking up positions at Doka La in order to block any further road construction in the disputed area. Another important concern that may have prompted India to make such a move is the strategically important Chicken’s neck. Merely 130 kilometers south of Doka La lies an area known as the Chicken’s neck or the Siliguri corridor which is of extreme strategic importance to India.
The Chicken’s neck is an outcome of the British decolonization process. The creation of East Pakistan (which became Bangladesh in 1971) led to the birth of this awkward piece of geography which is of extreme strategic importance to India. A Chinese military advance of less than 80 miles south could cut off Bhutan, part of West Bengal and all of North-East India, from the rest of the country. Currently, India and China are using all available diplomatic channels to avoid escalating the issue. An ego clash seems to have ensued with both sides refusing to budge. Hopefully, the two Asian Giants would be able to reach a consensus soon, or as they say “winter is coming, and once it hits, both sides would have no option but to withdraw considering the extreme weather conditions prevalent in the area”.
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