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Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Religion, Robots, & Japan

Japan is on the leading edge of a robotic revolution, according to The Associated Press, and the country's native religion, Shinto, could be a key factor in helping to move the nation toward a greater acceptance of robots—not only in the workforce and health-care field (where there are already robotic receptionists and hospital guides), but also in citizens' homes, living side by side with humans and forming deeper, more meaningful relationships. While living with robots paints an uncomfortable picture for many Americans, who tend to conjure up an image of the invasive Hal from 2001: A Space Odyssey or The Terminator, the Japanese are more likely to think of robots as helpful companions than creepy counterparts. And while there are still scientific and cultural barriers to overcome before robots will be moving into residents' homes, the Shinto religion, which doesn't make hard distinctions between the animate and inanimate, allows for an easier integration of robots into everyday life. —Evan Peck