December 7, 2007
Elaine Meinel Supkis
Today is the anniversary of Pearl Harbor. It is common for the US military to ignore danger at the behest of the political/economic powers that need wars. No one would dare invade or attack us unless we first fall into a spell that puts our military to sleep. Today is a good day to focus on Japan and our queer relationship with that amazing island people and their despairing view of the future and how it is intertwined with robots and the loss of human contact. A nihilism that is quite unnatural even as the Japanese have a culture that enjoys contemplation of nature. A big paradox here, one that is explored by Japanese animators.
Tightening credit markets and rising asset volatility from the U.S. subprime mortgage crisis may drive aggressive dumping of carry trades in 2008, with investors instead favoring safe-haven yen.
Most investors expect the credit crisis to keep a lid on risk appetite next year, suggesting carry trades will be dethroned as the dominant strategy in the $2-trillion-a-day foreign exchange market for the first time in more than a decade.
"When you have carry trade liquidation it is very often triggered by asset volatility and what we are seeing in the financial markets does speak against carry trades," said Hans Redeker, head of currency strategy at BNP Paribas in London.
Yet another confirmation of what I said last July: the money flow in the world has changed. It no longer is moving from Japan outwards. Few articles mention that 'carry trade' is really DEBT CREATION. It is a huge component of the ballooning M3 numbers for the US, the British empire and its Common Wealth and Europe. The liquidity crisis stems from this change in flow. As the central banks in Europe, the US and UK frantically drop interest rates, this kills the status quo of the carry trade money flow more and more. Note how liquidity isn't appearing, the more they do this. It is part of the trap, the Horns of Dilemma in our present economic system.
Investors were not investing anything they saved, they were investing DEBTS. And buying US debts thanks to high interest rates of those awful Alt-A loans, for example. Or risky REITs. Anything attached to an interest rate that was higher than a US government bond. Now these riskier bonds are bad and even miserable rates of return with secure bonds are better than losing even the principal balance of a bond.
This profoundly changes the balance of finances with Japan which is why Japan is now announcing, they are dropping the pretense of being poor and are going to start using Sovereign Wealth Funds just like China, Russia and the Arab oil nations.
Japan indicated its intention to ease import curbs on American beef during a two-day bilateral economic dialogue in Tokyo, a senior U.S. official said Friday.
Japan currently only allows imported U.S. beef from cattle aged 20 months or younger, due to concerns over mad cow disease, and the United States is urging Japan to abolish the age limit
This is classic: we wrangle with them constantly over the pettiest of imports. Forget automobiles, we can't even bring in hamburgers! And this is deliberate. And complex. The US let China flood us with all sorts of things while our government gave up even testing anything for obvious poisons, etc. The budget for inspections has been ruthlessly cut by Bush and the GOP even a they claim they are negotiating with our trade partners and are being 'tough.' But anyone reading the news in Japan can see that they run rings around us and we get nearly nothing out of this. We are at the point now that both Japan and China are reducing the value of their currencies against the dollar while they shove us aside at every opportunity.
In this case, Japan has no intention of letting us bring in cheap food of any sort. They don't care if the Japanese consumer has no money if they are lower class. It seems to me that this group is slated for elimination, bit by ruthless bit, anyhow. Replaced by robots in the bitter end. But if the US wants to negotiate, we have to be much more serious about this. And concentrate on making the yen much stronger, while we are at it. But of course, none of this will happen. Our own negotiators are chickens with no heads. Maybe, if we replace them with well-programmed robots, we might make some headway.
"We have limited market access now . . . our hope is that (Japan) will listen to the international scientific body, which has determined that our products are in fact safe," Keenum said at a news conference at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo after attending sub-Cabinet level talks that ended Friday.
The World Organization for Animal Health voted in May to give the U.S. its "controlled-risk" rating for mad cow disease. The rating means controls are effective and meat from U.S. cattle is safe regardless of its age.
"The reaction by our Japanese counterparts was that they're looking to 30 months of age restrictions on U.S. beef," Keenum said, adding it is his impression that Japan is trying to ease restrictions in a step-by-step approach.
Meanwhile, a Foreign Ministry official declined to elaborate on the talks between the two sides, but said the proposal for 30 months "is not correct."
Tokyo will not seek to substantially cut its burden-sharing of labor and other operational costs for U.S. bases in Japan from next April, reaching a tentative agreement with Washington to keep it at the fiscal 2007 level of about ¥140.9 billion, government sources from both sides said Friday.
The two sides, negotiating on revisions to the Special Measures Agreement on cost-sharing for a three-year renewal, are expected to reach a formal accord next week. Japan had hoped to curtail its "host-nation support" for U.S. bases amid a massive national debt and to reach such an accord with the United States before compiling the fiscal 2008 budget later this month.
This, like so many other important things, has nearly zero coverage in US press. Bloggers in the US are not talking about this. The push to war with Iran, the ongoing war in Iraq, the Middle East negotiations to push the Palestinians into the sea, the US scandals like the erasing of the torture tapes, etc. All this is very important but also, we are a global empire and we patrol the Seven Seas and our biggest trade partners and 'allies' are for the most part, desperate to have a free ride. They try to weasel out of even small support of the huge expenses of our naval protection.
In the case of Japan, this is particularly aggravating. The US is going rapidly bankrupt, patrolling the Seven Seas. Just yesterday, China decided they had embarrassed us enough over the issue of docking rights in Hong Kong and our navy will be allowed in again for the time being. But the US also finally forced Japan to cease trying to refuse to pay for all this free protection and to give at least a small token sum. The anniversary of their naval/air sneak attacks reminds us that the world isn't a friendly place. It aslo reminds is that we have a navy that is supposed to protect America, not the reset of the planet. Especially trade partners who are flooding us with either easy credit or manufactured goods that undermine our own economy.
These negotiations have dragged on for many months as I have detailed here. The loss of face due to this intransigence is considerable just like our inability to reign in the Jews in the Middle East is causing all and sundry to disrespect us. Our military obligations and expenses in both areas are also reducing our economic clout, not extending it. A double whammy. We left the Philippines. We can leave Japan. And we should leave, as soon as possible.
Japan had initially proposed to the U.S. to cut ¥30 billion in labor costs and ¥25 billion in utility costs over five years from fiscal 2008, which begins in April, the sources said.
However, Japan decided to give up on the request due to recent developments — strained relations with Washington since the withdrawal of Japan's refueling mission in the Indian Ocean when the legislation expired on Nov. 1, and Japan's hopes that the United States will not take North Korea off the list of states sponsoring terrorism.
Note how Japan wanted to use us as their cat's paw. They are slowly being forced, due to the increasing weakness of the US, to do their own diplomacy. Their ability to negotiate has atrophied under US protection. They only know how to say no in a a million ways. And get away with it. This closely resembles Israel's influence and dependencies.
Japan is undergoing a revolutionary change. The population is going through an amazing self-destruct phase. The fabled Japanese family is breaking apart faster than the US or even Europe. It isn't that people are getting divorced, they aren't getting married and having children anywhere near at the rate of replacing their population. On top of the crushing and cruel depression being imposed on millions of working Japanese, aside from the cramped circumstances of domestic life of the lower half of the population, there is this loss of faith in the future. A peculiar form of fatalism is taking over. One way this is expressed is in the development and use of robots.
The one person who saw the earliest and clearest, the dangers and allurement of robots is of course, the man who wrote, 'I, Robot' and the Empire series, Issac Asimov. He explored all the possible combinations of human/robot relations. Some of the stories ended up with robots attaining god-like powers. In the most despairing futuristic looks was the planet where nearly everything was done by robots and humans didn't interact virtually at all. On this planet, they barely had infrequent sex and farmed out the babies to the robots and each generation was less able to interact with humans and relied more and more on the services and mentality of the robot/human interface. Of course, they went extinct.
Robots, being machines, are not human so they are not willful. This gives humans the illusion of godly powers as we can order our affairs to please ourselves if we have robot slaves. Of course, the necessity of providing an environment and architecture that suits robots so they can move around and function means making things more and more alien to the animal side of human psychology and over time, the robotic needs will trump any natural human needs. The master becomes enmeshed in the world more suitable for the robot. The biggest change could be the entire breakdown of the human mind and emotions. A topic Japanese animators have explored quite intimately and often, brutally.
Here is just one episode in the amazing series, 'Hinotori'. It revolves around a divine phoenix bird and its magical feathers. In this episode, the human has been damaged by an explosion and no longer sees humans as a fellow species. When he interacts with his doctor, the character with the big nose, and he collegue, a criminal who tried to assassinate him earlier, he sees 'ugly monsters' who look like swiss cheese or blobs. But when he looks at a robot, he sees a woman that he falls in love with.
When she is destroyed by the assassin and saves her lover's life, he asks the doctor to turn him into a robot and the show ends with him going to Mars and living in a space colony there, as a robot, taking care of a human child who enjoys the company of his robot rather than that of other humans. A dark fantasy, any way one looks at it. And it must be examined.
The first true human/robot merging story was the great 'Metropolis' by Fritz Lang made in Germany 75 years ago. It set the stage for all future robot movies as well as launching the debate over what a robot is. The painful deterioration of the mentality and physical condition of our pop stars, when seen in light of this movie, provokes some cold thoughts that maybe our gyrating, sexually orchestrated divas and male icons should be robots like the one in Metropolis.
Toyota Motor Corp. showed off a violin-playing robot and a "mobility robot" Thursday, saying it will try to develop practical uses for human-helping partner robots in the early 2010s.
The automaker, which celebrated its 70th anniversary last month, is aiming to turn robots into one of its core businesses by 2020.
It is quite interesting that Toyota, instead of focusing on cars, is enraptured by the idea that the future is all about expanding the robot population. I tend to view robots as an extension of humans. They express all our virtues such as generosity, sacrifice, tender care, devotion and service. But being things created by humans, they will also strongly express our vicious side. We will have killer robots ruthlessly eliminating traditionalists, peasants who are in the way of the ruling class, restricting humans from doing things the robot's owners want forbidden, etc. The tendency will be for robots to replace humans once they are easy to reproduce without human intervention. Factories cranking out robots with minimal human supervision is of course, a total nightmare. They will rapidly displace humans and end up shoving us into increasingly depressing conditions rather than opening the door to the Garden of Eden.
Will the robot revolution begin in nursery school?
Researchers introduced a state-of-the-art social robot into a classroom of 18- to 24-month-olds for five months as a way of studying human-robot interactions.
The children not only came to accept the robot but treated it as they would a human buddy—hugging it and helping it—a new study says.
"The results imply that current robot technology is surprisingly close to achieving autonomous bonding and socialization with human toddlers," said Fumihide Tanaka, a researcher at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD)
They found that children are attracted to robots in the same way the character in the first anime in this story here, responds: the children's minds animate the robot who is relatively 'neutral.' A child's brain is frantically trying to decode human facial expressions, this being a survival force. Children who can't do this would be destroyed in non-modern conditions. In ape communities, misreading or ignoring facial expressions can lead to death. But with a robot, a child can superimpose desired reactions upon the robot's unsophisticated face. So a child can imagine a robot is pleased even if a child acts irresponsibly. On the other hand, the robot won't respond to temper tantrums which oddly, reassures a child who tend to calm down when no one pays attention to demands. For example, if a robot asks a child to go to bed and then all the lights and entertainment systems suddenly shut down in tandem with the robot's request, the child might scream and cry but will, seeing no response, follow the machine and go to bed.
This is why robots will take over. Humans get in fights with children living in modern environments where there are machines and things to interface with that are distractions and command the attention and loyalty of growing humans. Many parents give up, trying to control their chidren in these environments. When we moved into our tent complex in 1990 and had zero electricity, our son was outraged. But he quickly adapted to going to bed when I blew out the kerosene lamps. What used to cause tempers ended up pleasant and quiet. I seriously recommend raising children with no electricity the first 10 years.
Instead, we move steadily towards the robot solution.
The new receptionist at the Aeon Yono Shopping Center provides a glimpse into the future. For work, for play, for shopping and in all sorts of other settings, robots are just now beginning to become a part of daily life of Japan.
The receptionist at the entrance of the store in Saitama Prefecture is not a hired employee -- it is a machine. And more specifically, it is a model of the Enon service robot developed by the Fujitsu Ltd. (6702) group. The Enon stands 1.3 meters tall and weighs 50kg.
Since May, the robot has tickled the fancy and helped with the queries of shoppers of all ages at the store
This robot attracts children because it has games and lots of patience. Children are increasingly seen as obstructions, difficulties and unpleasant encounters. And they can feel the hostility in return. But robots have no emotions so there is no fear of provoking emotions in them. The Japanese have this conformist society so it doesn't surprise me to see them conforming with robots.
I suspect part of the reason why industrialists are working hard on the robot projects is due to them expecting Japan to depopulate. Hiring is expensive and robots, even when expensive, create no social obligations and this emotional detachment is easier to live with than dealing with humans who present many difficulties including changing jobs, not showing up for work, transit delays, etc.
A team of researchers at Waseda University has developed a humanoid robot to help those less able, such as the elderly, with household chores. The team aims to put the robot into use by around 2015.
The robot, called Twendy-One, is 1.5 meters tall, has a shoulder width of 0.7 meters, weighs 111 kilograms and can perform various tasks. In a demonstration, the robot helped a person move from a bed to a wheelchair, took out a bottle of ketchup from a refrigerator and handed it to a person, and took bread from a toaster and put it on a plate.
The robot can also make simple verbal exchanges, responding "To the table?" when asked "Please carry the tray" during the demonstration.
The popular TV cartoon show in my youth, 'The Jetsons' had a normal nuclear family that had interactions all TV cartoon families from 'The Flintstones' to 'The Simpsons'. 2 parents, 2 children and a dog. And in the case of the Jetsons, a robot maid. Just as it is ultimately distasteful, taking care of small children who are very demanding and vocal about their wishes as well as very messy, the same is true at the other end of the scale. For every elderly person who is able to think and fend for themselves and are not a burden, there are three who are. The temptation to simply hand this over to robots will be overwhelming.
If a robot is programmed to tell someone over and over again, information they want to hear due to loss of mental power due to Alzheimers, a robot can do this with infinite patience. A robot can repeat cautions or reminders of doctor visits over and over again until it is time to go. They can repeat children's games or requests an infinite number of times and not weary of it. They can change diapers or turn over the bedridden.
Of course, the danger is, people will consider this a waste of time and money. Emotional detachment means not caring in the end. There is a dark corridor here that should not be ignored. The utility of robots carry within their complex cyberworks, the seeds of loss of humanity.