Friday, 23 May 2008

MangoBot: a biweekly column about Asian futurism

If you've noticed an unusually large number of utilitarian humanoids hailing from Japan in the last few years, then you probably won't be surprised to hear about the country's official robot initiative. Right now, Japan is in the midst of executing a grand plan to make robots an integrated part of everyday life. To compensate for the shortage of young workers willing to do menial tasks, the Japan Robot Association, the government, and several technology institutions drafted a formal plan to create a society in which robots live side by side with humans by the year 2010.
Please notice though that the following article fails to contextualise the idea of the "robot workforce" in relation to restructuring of the Japanese economy (i.e. recommodification of industry following a long recession), letalone the stringent Immigration Laws (i.e. it might be argued in some quarters that the posthuman turn is occasionally, at least partly, rooted in the kind of xenophobia where, for example, an elderly citizen would prefer to be nursed by a robot than, say, a Filipino guest worker- this hypothesis would need to be rigorously investigated and qualified though). There are additional cultural factors that may play a constitutive role in this trend, some of which are addressed in the other 2 articles I've included here.

'Rinri': An Incitement towards the Existence of Robots in Japanese Society
by Naho Kitano
Language: English
abstract: Known as the "Robot Kingdom", Japan has launched, with granting outstanding governmental budgets, a new strategic plan in order to create new markets for the RT (Robot-Technology) Industry. Now that the social structure is greatly modernized and a high social functionality has been achieved, robots in the society are taking a popular role for Japanese people. The motivation for such great high-tech developments has to be researched in how human relations work, as well as in the customs and psychology of the Japanese. With examining the background of the Japanese affirmativeness toward Robots, this paper reveals the Animism and the Japanese ethics, "Rinri", that benefit the Japanese Robotics. First the introduction describes the Japanese social context which serves in order to illustrate the term "Rinri". The meaning of Japanese Animism is explained in order to understand why Rinri is to be considered as an incitement for Japanese social robotics.
pdf-fulltext (83 KB)

On the Anticipation of Ethical Conflicts between Humans and Robots in Japanese Mangas
by Stefan Krebs
Language: English
abstract: The following contribution examines the influence of mangas and animes on the social perception and cultural understanding of robots in Japan. Part of it is the narrow interaction between pop culture and Japanese robotics: Some examples shall serve to illustrate spill-over effects between popular robot stories and the recent development of robot technologies in Japan. The example of the famous Astro boy comics will be used to help investigate the ethical conflicts between humans and robots thematised in Japanese mangas. With a view to ethical problems the stories shall be subsumed under different categorical aspects.
pdf-fulltext (74 KB)

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