Japan continues to limn the frontiers of the human experience: “Tokyo police will try to rein in a wave of shoplifting by lonely elderly people by involving them in community service, a police spokesman said on Thursday.” Apparently twenty-five percent of apprehended shoplifters cite “loneliness” as the motive for their crime. Japan is also working on a new line of bear-shaped robot nurses (yes!) to cope with the dual problems of labor shortage and growing need for people to nurse the elderly.
Yesterday a friend and I were discussing the case for subsidizing friendship precisely to help people avoid the problem of loneliness. In many developed societies, after all, this form of deprivation is arguably about as severe a problem as any deprivation of material goods. For the elderly, however, the answer may be that they need to learn to use the internet. I also have the idiosyncratic view that the answer to a lot of questions you hear about the future of certain kinds of journalistic activities is going to be “bored old people will do it for free once they all have broadband.” Who will write up the city council meeting? Bored old people! It beats shoplifting.