Thursday, May 15, 2008

What Japan Thinks -- Can I achieve people's goals?

The blog "What Japan Thinks," which carries translated opinion polls from Japan on a number of interesting topics. Recently, they ran a poll about what 20 things people would like to see achieved in the future. Many of these goals are technologically achievable. I will print the list with my predictions as to the possibility of achieving each item.

> Global warming averted

I covered this. Can be done.

> A world without war

War has been reduced recently, but I do not think it can be completely eliminated. Some people do seem to prefer violence to solve their problems with other groups.

> Medical advances (cancer-defeating medicines, etc)

Medicine will advance in the future, although I do not have enough experience in the field to determine in what way it will change. Researchers are trying hard right now for specific advances, such as anticancer medicines, but progress in unpredictable.

> Decent pensions for old folk

This is a matter of determining how it will be paid for. Should it be paid for by the government (taxes would rise), by the retiring people themselves (money taken from paychecks), or inflation (bad idea)?

> Elimination of bullying and discrimination

Possible. Psychological and sociological studies would be required.

> Barrier-free environment for disabled and old folk

I do not understand what this entry refers to. Physical access is certainly possible, and in the United States, where I live, it is mandatory. Institutions MUST provide accessibility options, or be fined.

> Higher moral conduct by politicians and public servants

Possible. The relevant laws might need to be changed. Remove, prosecute, or retire dishonest, crooked, or corrupt public figures.

> Society that doesn't resist child-birth

I think this entry is referring to Japan's incredibly low birth rate. The CIA factbook claims that Japan has 7.87 births per 1000 population, and a death rate of 9.26 per 1000 population, translating into a growth rate of -0.139. If this trend continues, there will be no Japanese people by the year 3000. For reference, the US has a birthrate of 14.18 and a death rate of 8.27. Japan is averaging slightly less than 1 baby per couple.

I attribute Japan's low birth rate to exhaustion, based off of what I have heard. In a stereotypical couple, husband works 18 hour days, wife has similarly ridiculous workload. They meet up only for evening meal and sleep, and are too tired to have sex, much less actually make a baby. Other, less formal, articles report wives complaining that if they did have a baby, their husband would do nothing to contribute to its welfare. My recommendation is to reduce the workload of both sexes, perhaps through robotics.

> Society without a rich-poor divide

This is unlikely to be solved. Even communism has not removed hierarchies of wealth.

> A law-abiding, crime-free, safe and secure world

This is continuously improving, but will never be 100% solved without some kind of preemptive test for sociopathy.

> Earthquake prediction

Supercomputers and geology combine reasonably well, and I believe this will be available within 50 years.

> Better moral standards and factual information from television and newspapers

Improvable, by social and legal methods that I do not understand.

> A society where Japanese hold the "wa" dear in their hearts

"Wa" translates to something on the order of "social harmony," and is one of Japan's bigger social values. Looking in from the outside, it would seem that this is accomplished already. (Watch me receive several tons of hate-mail telling me how stupid I am for believing this.)

> Ubiquitous Internet


> Resolution of Japan's territorial problems

Japan has a few overlapping land claims with some of its neighbors. The "Southern Kuril Islands" are run by Russia, but claimed by Japan as well. Japan and South Korea claim the Liancourt Rocks. Japan, China, and Taiwan all claim "Senkaku-Shoto," (which are apparently some small islands near Taiwan, called "Diaoyutai" by the Chinese sources. I was unable to find a neutral name.) and incessant quarreling with Korea and China occurs in the East China Sea.

Somebody has to give up their claim, and all parties are stubborn for nationalist reasons. Namely, giving in would make their own nation "look bad."

> Voting for Prime Minister

A constitutional amendment should handle this.

> Privatization of public facilities including NHK

Privatization is a hairy problem, in that you must sell off public works, and everyone and their brother inevitably finds something crooked about the way it was sold, especially those that lost the auction.

An economist would probably have some useful advice.

> Ubiquitous electronic cash

While credit cards are quite common in the United States, a very large portion of Japanese commerce involves street vendors, who are literally incapable of accepting anything other than cash.

Whatever the solution is, it must be mobile, cheap, and both vendor and customer easily trained for it.

> Maintenance of current levels of freedom of speech

I need a sociologist to explain what is meant here. Maintain by preventing decay of existing levels, or prevention of increase? I favor more, free speech is one of my culture's biggest values.

> Japan becoming a permanent member of the UN Security Council

This is going to be quite an uphill diplomatic battle. The opposition of China and Korea, which are still angry over things that happened during World War II, are going to oppose this. China is a permanent member, and is likely the biggest source of vetoes involved. Achieving this goal will likely involve appeasing China in some form or other.

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