What's all this about robots?
Heard this one yet?
"While Westerners harbor cultural fears toward robots, Japanese culture fosters a special relationship with robots, welcoming them into society as equal partners."
Oy vey. It's time to send this goofy myth to the scrapyard, once and for all.
I've got a whole laundry list of culturology (that's "culture-ology") myths to slap down. Among those, you'd think that a myth as trivial as "special cultural view of robots" would have to wait a while to reach its turn in the list, but I'm moving it to the front of the line – both because it pops up so frequently, and because it's so blatantly wrong.
Here's the general form of this particular wackiness:
- Japan has a "love affair" with robots going back to 18th century wind-up dolls.
- Japan's Shinto religion fosters acceptance of "spirits" in objects, including robots; "Western" religion discourages or even prohibits viewing of objects as animate.
- Japanese popular culture has long portrayed robots as friendly helpers; "Western" popular culture portrays them as rebellious or violent machines.
- In Japan, people welcome robots; in "the West", people feel threatened by them and even fear robots "taking over".
- Proof of Japan's love of robots is the popular Tetsuwan Atom (a.k.a. Astro Boy), a friendly robotic hero. Proof of "the West's" fear of robots is Hollywood movies with robot villains, like The Terminator.
(I'm not joking about that last one; it's almost always the centerpiece of panegyrics over the "special relationship"!)
Here's the latest in a long, long, long line of offenders, which sparked me to finally sit down and write. Take a read if you're not up on the topic: Read more about Debunked: Japan's "Special Relationship with Robots"