The BBC is having a slow news day and decided to “expose” the painfully obvious to anyone who have lived more than 10 minutes here in stone-age tech Japan….
Revealing Japan’s low-tech belly
BBC News | by Michael Fitzpatrick | July 14, 2010—Police stations without computers, 30-year-old “on hold” tapes grinding out tinny renditions of Greensleeves, ATMs that close when the bank does, suspect car engineering, and kerosene heaters but no central heating.
A dystopian vision of a nation with technology stuck in an Orwellian time warp? Not at all. These are aspects of contemporary, low-tech Japan that most visitors miss…
“Japanese banks, post offices, government offices, all are staffed with three to five times the employees because they must do every process once on paper and then again on computer,” says Taro Hitachi* a technical editor and patent reader at Hitachi….....more…
Damn, this quote is old—I was interviewed last April and I thought the BBC had forgotten the story. Here’s the full text of my BBC interview:
Until the 1960s, Japanese had problems with surplus population needing make-work having three to five guards waving their arms aimlessly directing traffic while four workers repair a 2-inch pothole in the road. To this day, the majority of gas stations are full-service with half dozen guys in jump suits and a couple girls in uniform shorts (winter or summer) to wash your windows and empty our ash trays. Why? Because self-service gas is “dangerous”—actually it was dangerous since sloooowly self-service stations are making a dent in the market (maybe 15%). Likewise, most bank ATMs close by 5pm to 7pm because no bank employees would be on hand if a machine—oh the horror—ate a bank card. During bank hours 9 to 3, larger bank ATMs are staffed with a half dozen part-time employees because the Japanese public is so old and dotty they are afraid of the machines. Japanese banks, post offices, government offices, all are staffed with three to five times the employees because they “must” do every process once on paper and then again on computer. The worst case is the suffering of Japanese nurses who AVERGE 12+ hour days because they have to do update their patient charts on computers after the end of the work day–UNPAID.
Do you see the pattern here? Japanese aren’t all that happy of about spiteful machines and distrust automation.
*According to the strict requirements of Hitachi copyright, I had to use the pen name Taro Hitachi—sort a corporate ‘John Doe’– on all the documents I wrote (but now I’m simply Pu-Taro ).
The author of the BBC report, Michael Fitzpatrick, just wrote me to say that he used my, “robot quotes for the [same story in] The Independent newspaper…[that] should be out this week.” Mr. Fitzpatrick quoted me on the fraudulent claims Japan makes about being No. 1 in robot usage. See the rough draft in the Comments section below–sort of an expose’ on how Japan’s hyped robot workforce is not largest in the world.