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Noel Sharkey on the inexorable rise of robots

From Silicon.com:

In this video interview, Noel Sharkey, professor of robotics and AI at the University of Sheffield, discusses developments in robotics – from the proliferation of robots in Japan’s automotive industry to the stair-climbing dexterity of Honda’s Asimo robot and beyond.

He also discusses ethical issues, and in which countries we can find the most robots … and some implications.

Read the original article…

Getting smart about books

As a follow-up to last week’s posts by Ai Takeuchi with Japanese perspectives on global education, I wanted to comment on Steve Jobs’ claim that nobody reads books anymore –and counter his claim by pointing out that books are alive and well in Japan because the Japanese are embracing the distribution possibilities provided by new media and new technologies.

Mike Elgan beat me to the punch, though, and posted this article at Computer World. An excerpt:

Half of Japan’s top 10 best-selling books last year — half! — started out as cell phone-based books, according to the New York Times.

The books-on-phones genre started when a home-page-making Web site company realized that people in Japan were writing serialized novels on their blogs, and figured out how to autocreate cell phone-based novels from the blog entries.

The popularity of these blog novels on cell phones sparked huge interest among readers in writing such novels. Last month, the site passed the 1 million novel mark.

Some of these amateur writers become so famous on the cell phone medium that the big publishing houses seek them out and offer lucrative deals for print versions. The No. 5 best-selling print book in Japan last year, according to the Times, was written first on a cell phone by a girl during her senior year in high school.

In this brave new world of literature where anybody can become a best-selling author using mobile technologies, we need to rethink what a “book” really is. Instead of blocking mobile technologies in schools, what if schools allowed them so that kids could produce their own books?

Japan's new education model: India

Martin Fackler writes for the IHT that parents in the “fad-obsessed nation” of Japan increasingly are sending their kids to Indian schools:

While China has stirred more concern as a political and economic challenger, India has emerged as the country to beat in a more benign rivalry over education. In part, this reflects the image in Japan of China as a cheap manufacturer and technological imitator. But Indian success in software development, Internet businesses and knowledge-intensive industries where Japan has failed to make inroads has sparked more than a tinge of envy.

This leads to three key questions that I do not have answers for: Is Indian success in knowledge industries due to their education system or something else? Will Indian forms of rote education instill Japanese youth with the creativity needed to compete in a knowledge and innovation economy? If the purpose of training kids in an Indian education system is to improve their chances of scoring well on a college entrance exam, what will happen to them once they enter college?

Leapfrog Asia!

I’m still in China, so this is just a quick note that CNN.com published a special report labeled “Just Imagine,” a vision of what life would be like in 2020. The learning section is quite good, and contains an interview with Yasuaki Sakyo, who founded Shibuya University Network — and implemented a lifelong learning approach that is infused into the community it serves. In effect, the entire city of Shibuya becomes a classroom.

More thoughts on this next week, along with a potentially BIG announcement on Leapfrog in China.