Engineering the Aging Society: Robotics, Vital Futures, and Imaginations of Life in Japan and Europe


LAC Burkhardt


East Asian Studies


For residence at the Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies at Harvard University during academic year 2017-2018


“Engineering the Aging Society” examines, on the one hand, how Japanese roboticists construct Japan’s aging population as a future problem only their technologies can solve and, on the other, how users at home and abroad respond to the robots they create. Through ethnographic fieldwork among roboticists, caregivers, and individual users in Japan, Denmark, and Germany, the project interrogates the problematization of population aging, and offers a way to conceptualize the social impact of so-called care robots for the aged. In doing so, “Engineering the Aging Society” traces the logics by which imaginations of the future influence the lives of people and pathways of technological innovation in the present.