Special Issue on Biological Information
Professor, College of Science and EngineeringAoyama Gakuin University, 6-16-1 Chitosedai, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo, 157 Japan
The issues facing Japan at the present moment may be represented by three key phrases: population aging, information, and internationalization. Among these, the problem of population aging is not such a relaxed research issue involving the question ‘I wish we had such a machine.’, but rather a serious one which might destroy the very fabric of society unless some machines were used to solve the problem. The average age of the population in Japan is rising at an alarming rate, and the fact that the population composition is top-heavy does not need any explanation. An abrupt change causes a transitory phenomenon, and the problem becomes even more serious. Soon after the beginning of the 20th century, the aging of the population became the most serious condition, and it was thought that the situation would improve if that condition could be overcome. Population aging causes not only a lack of capacity in medical treatments, maintenance of health, and nursing for the society as a whole but also a variety of problems, in a wider sense, related to aged workers, the morale of the society, etc. The society would certainly like to see workable, healthy old people work and only slightly handicapped people do what they want to do on their own. There is every likelihood that in the future an increasing number of people will require nursing help, thereby causing a shortage of nursing people. This shortage must be filled by machines. Unless machines come to assistance, the society will not function on its own. There are people who talk of the aged as people having handicapped, dark images, but since a majority of the society will become aged, the society itself must be designed to suit the aged. Who is going to take care of the aged? Your own children or spouse? The answer is No. From now on, one should take care of his needs entirely by himself. However, those who are physically unwell cannot take care of themselves. Then who? It is a ‘robot’. For that, a robot must be developed who is understanding, warm-hearted, resembling a grandchild or a sweetheart. At present, robots are used in every industrial sector. At first, each of them had a single function. Today, robots with multi-functionality, with intelligence, and with learning capability have made their appearance. In addition, robots can now carry out tasks in such extreme environments as deep seas, the outer space, and radioactive situations.