WATCH: Why Japan already embraces our android future

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Not sure whether to call this orientalist claptrap or the usual nonsense of the japan sugoi weeaboo doctrine.

First off its telling that the interesting video clips here are of Boston Dynamics machines, not any of Japanese manufacture. Japan can make some gimmick devices in robotics and some great factory robots but frankly the research shown here here is mostly toys.

As for the assertion by Naho Kitano from Hibot there is a link with Shinto beliefs and automata, I’d call that some 第一馬ウンコ right there. Far from anything like a common understanding, more in the realm of crackpot. If I were to be generous, I’d say she’s simply taking the idea of the soul of the object too far.

The “Aibo funeral”? Sure people get sad when a favorite toy or gadget breaks down beyond repair. I remember some time ago talking to the head of one of the Buddhist temples in my wife’s home town when I first heard of an Aibo funeral. In his opinion any temple that would do that is very much in the wrong, most likely interested in the fees involved.

Hiroshi Ishiguro’s gemenoids are good for attracting media attention and he is certainly good at feeding at the government trough, but they can’t actually do anything more than being a stationary rubber doll with an Eliza backend program. No one I know who has interacted with one of his demos comes away with any illusion of having dealt with anything but a device. Some gents I know who work with automata have less than favorable words about Ishiguro’s work but that might be professional jealousy at not having been so successful at milking the tax tit. OTOH watching his discussion with the gemenoid about her stockings being wrong, maybe its not professional jealousy… But let me not attack the creator, I’ll be clear, his creations are toys.

What I find particularly funny is the idea that devices like Pepper and similar products are to be used in Japanese households. I’m entirely unclear as to what demographic they have in mind for these things as damn few residences I’ve ever seen are clutter free enough for these larger devices to navigate.

As for the narrators statement “for the Japanese robot ethics are entirely different”, or the assertion that “japanese are not afraid of technology” again I must disagree with both these blanket statements. There is plenty of evidence of a general Japanese mindset that sometimes, technology indeed does go too far and backfires on its creators. Robots are built here for much the same reasons as anywhere else, mostly for automation, some for entertainment and some for entirely foolish reasons. Ishigoro’s question of “why humans need to be something special? I don’t know” is hardly the common understanding here. Were one to propose to him that since he by his own reasoning is just as disposable as his creations, I doubt if he would sing the same song.

Side note: I hate to break it to the creators of this video but the Gundam statue used to depict “to the Japanese the robot is a hero” is not in fact supposed to be a robot at all. Those things are oversized battle suits piloted by a plain old human. Hardly an idea unique to Japan.


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