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Japanese Find Robots Less Intimidating Than People

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 8 years ago | from the batteries-not-included dept.

Robotics 278

bik1979 writes "The Christmas issue of economist has an interesting article on 'why the Japanese want their robots to act more like humans'. The article says how people in japan are accepting robots into their daily life, more so than accepting other people. From the article: 'What seems to set Japan apart from other countries is that few Japanese are all that worried about the effects that hordes of robots might have on its citizens. Nobody seems prepared to ask awkward questions about how it might turn out. If this bold social experiment produces lots of isolated people, there will of course be an outlet for their loneliness: they can confide in their robot pets and partners. Only in Japan could this be thought less risky than having a compassionate Filipina drop by for a chat.'"

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278 comments

That one droid in KOTOR.. (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14334864)

One of the sidequests in KOTOR involved a runaway household droid whose owner had gotten a little too... attached to it, and the droid thought it unhealthy for its owner to be so attached. Will Japan turn into an entire country like in that instance?

Re:That one droid in KOTOR.. (5, Funny)

Dr. Eggman (932300) | more than 8 years ago | (#14334955)

awww, robots showing compassion for meat bags, how nice.

Unhealthy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14335005)

As Japanese men now mostly refuse to marry any human female over the age of 14, and more than three feet tall, then I'd say a regular-sized robot indicated some kind progress.

Of course if the robot in question is basically just some kind of tiny animated doll, then forget I even spoke.

Damn you batman!!!1! (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14335050)

Batman touched my junk liberally. He strapped me in to his batmobile and he couldnt keep his offensive hands off of me. he was performing many red flag touches. I couldnt believe what the fuck was going on. I told batman the city would not approve of a millionaire touching an underage kid for free.

Can you believe it? Batman did all this. He picked me up off the street, strapped my arms and legs down in the batmobile's passenger seat, and just wouldn't stop fondling my cock'n'balls.

They definately were red flag touches. The goddamn referee he had in the back seat kept on raising up this red flag every time he touched my junk but did batman care? NO WAY! He just kept on doing it. I couldn't believe what the fuck was going on, indeed. I pleaded with Mr. Wayne but to no avail. I told him the city would not approve of such a wealthy man touching an underage kid like me (at the time I was 13) without at least compensating me for the trauma and the use of my body as his own personal plaything.

This got to him, worrying about his image. He continued to fondle me, all the while ignoring the referee's red flags. Then he drove the batmobile to my house and *ejected the seat I was in*! It was amazing. But surprisingly, after I woke up the next morning, my bank account had $150k in it! Can you believe it?

Re:Damn you batman!!!1! (1)

The Ilia (933432) | more than 8 years ago | (#14335123)

Hahaha, this is insane enough that I find it hilarious.

Japan (-1, Offtopic)

JDSalinger (911918) | more than 8 years ago | (#14334866)

I don't even know what topic I'm posting about. Maybe respect for overlords is a good response.

In Japan (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14334874)

In Capitalist Japan, People intimidate Robotz. Also, fifth p0st. But oh well, Laetitia still loves me.

Re:In Japan (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14334901)

Dang, I fail it. This was the third psot. Oh well, Laetitia still loves me.

Re:In Japan (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14335066)

As long as she touches your junk liberally..

Oh Noes!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14334877)

Better hope you've bought robot insurance...

http://www.devilducky.com/media/22769/ [devilducky.com]

MP3 players, portable DVD players, now robots. (5, Interesting)

Mr. Freeman (933986) | more than 8 years ago | (#14334879)

It seems every electronic gadget is "going to isolate us from every other human being on the planet".
The japanese in particular seem to have made large strides in the field of robotics, it makes sense that they would be the first to accept them into their lives.

As for why, I think it's two factors.
1. They probably understand what robots are better than the general populace of America. People are less afraid of what they understand.
2. The "anonymous internet effect" as I call it. A robot isn't a human, it doesn't have emotions, it won't get pissed off if you insult it/don't remember its birthday/whatever.

Re:MP3 players, portable DVD players, now robots. (2, Insightful)

Ruff_ilb (769396) | more than 8 years ago | (#14334918)

'It seems every electronic gadget is "going to isolate us from every other human being on the planet".'

And of course, these words are heard over what?

The TV.
The Radio.
Online News Sites.

All three are 'electronic gadgets' (TV's, Radios, Computers), perhaps the biggest and most widespread of them all. And their main purpose is to do what?

Allow people to communicate.

If it becomes: Radio, TV, Internet, Robots, Chronologically speaking, then robots are sure to be accepted into our lives. Robots are quite different from the above three, but I'm just showing that the people who assume new gadgets are "going to isolate us from every other human being on the planet" are short-sighted at best. Also, who knows what robot tech will expand to eventually. Who knows, they might become a prime force in communications, or anything else for that matter.

~Ruff_ilb

P.S. - Parent poster, I know you don't take the above stance "going to isolate us from every other human being on the planet", so I'm not trying to troll! =)

Re:MP3 players, portable DVD players, now robots. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14335145)

Heh. I don't think you get it at all. If you are 21st century Japanese, perhaps you see interacting with a robot preferable to the cultural baggage you have inherited, and must employ, when interacting with your fellow human citizaens. Imagine, for a moment, growing up in a culture where, for example, shame is still an operative concept, but also watching typical Hollywood product... Mind you, I'm a US citizen, so I don't really know the answer. But I'm pretty certain it's about cultural dissonance.

Asimov fans feel free to comment here... (1)

Chordonblue (585047) | more than 8 years ago | (#14335151)

Is it just me or did any of you other Asimov 'Robots' fans look at this article and think: "Planet Solaria"? I certainly did, and I would've thought that kind of mindset was not realistic - until now. With the population of Japan actually on a decline how is this sort of reliance on robots going to help?

It seems as though Japanese would rather communicate with each other in non-direct means. Won't robots just introduce yet another layer of social interferance?

Will Japan become Solaria to Europe's 'Aurora'? Scary. I wonder what Asimov's model was for Solaria to begin with because it seems frighteningly accurate now.

Re:MP3 players, portable DVD players, now robots. (2, Insightful)

kamapuaa (555446) | more than 8 years ago | (#14335194)

1. They probably understand what robots are better than the general populace of America. People are less afraid of what they understand.

And alternatively, Japanese people are scared of minorities and foreigners, to the extent that police will arrest and check for the papers of people just for looking foreign, or speaking in a foreign language. Literally any crime is blamed on foreigners. The real story is, why is Japan more willing to spend billions of dollars for absurd pie-in-the-sky visions of robots becoming your friend, and unwilling to grant citizenship to other ethnicities, to increase the labor force and make up for a shrinking population?

Anyway everybody loves R2D2 & wanted the cool "Rocky 3" robot, I think Slashdot posters exaggerate the fear.

America could learn something from Japan (5, Funny)

20th Century Boy (903797) | more than 8 years ago | (#14334882)

Why are we so afraid of robots when we have perfectly good safeguards [robotcombat.com] against the possible setbacks?

just wait... (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14334884)

wait until the robots are able to give pookake facials... then the robots will really take the country by storm

Ha! (0, Redundant)

rscoggin (845029) | more than 8 years ago | (#14334885)

Just by reading the title, I thought it meant that the Japanese thought that robots were less intimidating than people thought they were - implying that the Japanese aren't people :)

And here's why.... (1)

theheff (894014) | more than 8 years ago | (#14334889)

Robots don't have sex organs. Solves a lot of problems, really. As long as the programmers keep it that way...

Re:And here's why.... (3, Funny)

harryseldon (29164) | more than 8 years ago | (#14334935)

You obviously have a defective robot.

And here's why....Copycat. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14335011)

"Robots don't have sex organs. Solves a lot of problems, really. As long as the programmers keep it that way..."

Like father, like son.

Really? (1)

Ozymand E. Us (931598) | more than 8 years ago | (#14335115)

Robots don't have sex organs.

In Japan they do...

Remember the Scene... (5, Insightful)

Ruff_ilb (769396) | more than 8 years ago | (#14334891)

In "I Robot" (The movie) where the robot's running off with someone's purse? (The cynical detective thinks he's stealing it - he's actually returning it to its owner)

Well EVERY SINGLE DAY we have the equivalent of this happening, only with credit card transactions, paypal, stock exchanges, etc.

If this analogy is off topic: What I mean to say is that the robots that we're capable of producing now are simply code in motion. Sure, very complex code, but still, they're programmed. They're not to a level of intelligence and mass production where we worry about having to welcome our new robot overlords, and I doubt they'll even need anything as complex as Asimov's 'Three Laws' for a VERY long time.

We depend on code in our computers every day to carry out tasks, just as I'm depending on it now to get this comment up on slashdot - the robot equivalent would be a very quick messenger robot. Again, code in motion. The Japanese are wise to accept robots as just this, instead of cross-applying way too many bad science-fiction movies that couldn't be realizable today even if a malevolent force WAS trying to get robots to take over the world.

~Ruff_ilb

(P.S. It's all a lie! THEY made me type it!)

Re:Remember the Scene... (1)

Niten (201835) | more than 8 years ago | (#14334965)

Someone give this man some Karma.

Re:Remember the Scene... (1)

slyguy135 (844866) | more than 8 years ago | (#14335110)

You're technically right, but there's one difference between robots and plain code: robots are physical entities, and can thus interact with us on a physical basis, e.g. by hitting us. A maliciously programmed robot, and we'll wish we could go back to the days when the only technology-related security problems we had were viruses and hacking.

Re:Remember the Scene... (1)

Ruff_ilb (769396) | more than 8 years ago | (#14335166)

This is obviously true, and this is where restraint and common sense come in to play. Code can't smack you in the face if you do a poor job of writing it (Although this might do for some better programmers ;) ), but I'm sure that any sort of robot with the force to kill someone will have INSANE amounts of testing required, especially at first.

America for Americans (and robots) (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14334895)

As soon as robot technology is good enough, we'll build a serious wall on the Mexican border, evict all the illegal immigrants, and save America for Americans.

Re:America for Americans (and robots) (1)

HermanAB (661181) | more than 8 years ago | (#14335072)

You mean, save America for American robots.

Of course (2, Insightful)

Crashmarik (635988) | more than 8 years ago | (#14334898)

Whens the last time you had a robot screw you over ?

Re:Of course (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14334903)

I don't know- my dildo's motor keeps on dying on me.

Re:Of course (0)

SleepyHappyDoc (813919) | more than 8 years ago | (#14334988)

Corporate voice-mail routing systems (if you know the code of the department you wish to contact, please enter it now...).

They're robots that constantly screw me over.

Re:Of course (1)

Inaffect (862616) | more than 8 years ago | (#14335202)

Never been on IRC I take it?

WE NEED ARTICLE MODERATION! (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14334900)

More and more I find that slashdot "articles" are little more than links to badly hyped crap in other journals that are insulting to everyone's intelligence.

The Japanese like robots more than people. Right. Please this is insulting to the Japanese and to slashdotters.

WE NEED ARTICLE MODERATION so that we can stop this spate of crap articles.

I'm posting anonymous because every time I point out the obvious, that slashdot has become super lame, I'm modded "troll".

But damn it, I can remember when slashdot wasn't a pit of stupidity. WE NEED ARTICLE MODERATION!

Trouble is (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14335000)

Raging faggots like Zonk, Scuttlemonkey, spamzutewhatever are all in a competetion to see who can approve more articles. Most of these articles are lame. We suffer, but who cares now. Oh well, LAetitia still loves me.

All Hooked Up (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14334905)

Japan is absolutely correct to view mass immigration with suspicion. Injecting a large mix of wildly divergent cultures will lead to more disorder and disharmony in the long-run. It's better to go with the slow and careful approach, allowing the dommestic and immigrant population to integrate in a manageable way. Not doing this will only lead to unecessary trouble further down the line.



The native religion of Japan, Shinto, teaches that everything has a spirit. While many poo-poo this as a backward and strange throwback to an animastic past the west shrugged off a long time ago, this view is much more practical than is often realised. Viewing everything as a spirit that exists in relation to everything else encourages the development of a much more sensitive and context aware mentality.



The long-term aim of Japans robot development programmes will be familiar to many of those who've watch the excellent Ghost In The Shell movies and television series. The struggle to develop better and more sentient robots is an extrapolation of their Shinto influenced culture, and may be regarded as an effort to inject life into the inanimate world, as well as a search for individual perfection.



-- CultureShock

Re:All Hooked Up (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14335009)

Japan is absolutely correct to view mass immigration with suspicion.

Yeah, after all, just look what it did to America...

check out www.debito.org [debito.org] if you want to hear what it's like to live there with the wrong skin color...

Re:All Hooked Up (5, Insightful)

Hiro Antagonist (310179) | more than 8 years ago | (#14335055)

Great, Yet Another Fuckheaded Idiot who thinks they know everything about Japan because they've seen Ghost In The Shell and have a Chii body-pillow.

Japan doesn't allow ready immigration mostly because of long-standing racist policies. Doubt me? There are generations of Koreans (and other Southeast Asians) who were born in Japan, have lived in Japan for their entire lives, and speak, read, and write Japanese fluently, but are denied citizenship because they aren't 'Japanese'. This is changing, which is good, but the speed of this change is glacial.

Most Japanese laugh at their religions (Shinto and Buddhism) and don't take them seriously at all; you go to the shrines on holidays, and for special occasions, but that's about it. Japanese people don't walk around in mystic-eyed wonder at the 'spirits' of the things around them. Why? Because that would be weird as hell; this might surprise you, but Japanese people act in many ways much like Americans, only with a hell of a lot more groupthink.

Re:All Hooked Up (4, Funny)

dhakbar (783117) | more than 8 years ago | (#14335111)

"this might surprise you, but Japanese people act in many ways much like Americans, only with a hell of a lot more groupthink."

Oh, so Japan's a lot like Slashdot?

Re:All Hooked Up (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14335128)

The korean situation is not that simple. It has a lot to do with both the Korean governments and the Japanese governments not allowing dual citizenship (the Korean government changed that recently), as well as the history of how the Koreans were brought there in WW2. It's actually quite easy for a foreigner married to a Japanese citizen to gain Japanese citizenship herself/himself, if she/he's willing to give up his prior citizenship. (This is not a good idea for Americans, for instance, because it makes it very difficult to get back into the country to visit family, etc. Additionally the IRS will continue to tax those who renounce their citizenship unless they were flat broke at the time, because there is a presumption that renouncing citizenship is a tax dodge.) There are other ways to gain Japanese citizenship (I've met a few refugees from Afganistan, etc. who were granted citizenship), but I'm not going to profess expertise in the area. To be frank, most foreigners in Japan do not actually want Japanese citizenship, because it gains them nothing besides a greater tax burden. Expats from pretty much every country but the U.S. at worldwide professional firms are able to reduce their taxes to almost zero by not being classified as Japanese residents and a bit of other sneakiness. (Literally, the millionaire partners at big law firms pay less worldwide income tax than their Japanese secretaries.) Finally, although Americans don't want to think about it, in fact America is far more intolerant of non-citizens than Japanese people are. For example, it is essentially impossible to get a job with the federal government without being a citizen due to an executive order in the 1970s, and many jobs are barred even where it makes no sense (airport baggage screener, anyone?), while in Japan Korean nationals have pretty much all the jobs Japanese nationals do. There was a lawsuit recently about a Korean woman who was denied a promotion into government management, and the court upheld that, and although that seems awful and racist the U.S. is just as bad and in some ways much worse. There has never been a U.S. federal judge, for instance, who just had a green card (showing equivalence), and then there's the civil service restriction I mentioned which applies at ALL levels, not just managerial levels (which shows it's worse). As far as anti-immigrant rhetoric, it's very easy to find that in the U.S. too.

Re:All Hooked Up (2, Informative)

Jahaza (933245) | more than 8 years ago | (#14335183)

Non-citizens can join the US Military, though they can't get most security clearences or be officers. They can, however, then immediately apply for naturalization with 1 day of service.

Re:All Hooked Up (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14335140)

You're entitled to your opinion.

I'm more than familiar with immigration issues, being a citizen of the United Kingdom, and my view on managed immigration policies is consistent with the more informed public policy discussions. Yes, I'm aware that Japan has its difficulties, but to colour their response with the blanket accusation of rascism is wrong. Instead of finger pointing, perhaps, you would benefit from examining your own views more closely.

To say most Japanese laugh at their religions is as true as anywhere else in the world, and just because someone doesn't explicitly practice a given religeion doesn't mean that its cultural significance doesn't have any impact. There's more than enough material you can search for that backs this point of view, whether you're talking about Japan, Europe, or anywhere else. People are the same, wherever you go. That's a no-brainer. But, to say these differences are insignificant is something else.

If you misunderstand Japan, you misunderstand yourself.

--CultureShock

Re:All Hooked Up (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14335199)

Blockquoth the poster:
Japan is absolutely correct to view mass immigration with suspicion. Injecting a large mix of wildly divergent cultures will lead to more disorder and disharmony in the long-run. It's better to go with the slow and careful approach, allowing the dommestic and immigrant population to integrate in a manageable way. Not doing this will only lead to unecessary trouble further down the line.


That sounds like average middle-aged Japanese person to me, what with the subtle racist overtones. It's just missing those magic words I LOVE to hear from old native Japanese people, "racial purity".

Good thing your younger generation has more sense. Maybe the Koreans will start getting more of a fair shake than they have gotten previously. After that, maybe we'll get around to that burakumin and Ainu stuff.

Re:All Hooked Up (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14335224)

While I agree with most of your comments, I find that "inject[ing] life into the inanimate world" is a dangerous precident. If the robots come to rebel against their Japanese masters, all hell will break loose. At that point, we can only depend on immigrants. One such great Japanese immigrant who will strike both hope and fear into the Japanese people on the day that the robots rebel is hope Godzilla himself. We can only pray that he will rise from the seas to crush this robotic menace for the Japanese people.

Slightly to the West (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14334906)

In Soviet Russia, robots are less afraid of YOU!

Re:Slightly to the West (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14334929)

Can't we go just one damn day without a "In soviet russia..." joke?
PLEASE?

Re:Slightly to the West (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14334946)

In Soviet Russia, jokes plead to go just one damn day without YOU!!!

Re:Slightly to the West (1)

Drooling Iguana (61479) | more than 8 years ago | (#14334960)

In Soviet Russia, joke goes without YOU!

Recent robotics fair in Japan (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14334907)

A bit off topic but I managed to catch a short glimpse of a talking female android from Japan which was on the news recently in Australia. It looked pretty interesting from the short bit I saw, does anyone know what event that was and/or have a link to it?

compassionate Filipina? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14334911)

compassionate Filipina? What the hell does that mean in this context? Please explain. I don't get it. How is it related to Japanese and robots?

Re:compassionate Filipina? (3, Funny)

misanthrope101 (253915) | more than 8 years ago | (#14334987)

compassionate Filipina? What the hell does that mean in this context? Please explain. I don't get it. How is it related to Japanese and robots?
Print comment, show to heterosexual male, ask for explanation, and you will understand. You're either female, or gay. If you're Filipina, then email me directly and I will explain in a sensitive, kind, faithful, strong, stable, caring way.

Re:compassionate Filipina? (1)

Anakron (899671) | more than 8 years ago | (#14335060)

...in a sensitive, kind, faithful, strong, stable, caring way

And yet your nick is "misanthrope"101. Interesting...

Re:compassionate Filipina? (1)

Antony-Kyre (807195) | more than 8 years ago | (#14335004)

I'm also wondering why they said that in the article. It seems out of context. (After reading the reply, I shall note this. I am a heterosexual male.)

(I'm going to take it that Filipina is referring to nationality as opposed to ethnicity.)

Re:compassionate Filipina? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14335027)

I thought it meant that the Japanese would prefer robots to take up the lowest paid jobs and look after the elderly rather than have immigrants like Filipinas to these things. Or are they talking about prostitution?

Re:compassionate Filipina? (2, Informative)

0spf (574535) | more than 8 years ago | (#14335030)

The Japanese have a reputation for being prejudiced.

I think this is want the last comment is referring too, Japans xenophobia.


http://www.hrdc.net/sahrdc/hrfeatures/HRF39.htm [hrdc.net]
http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2002/11/12/10370 80728620.html [theage.com.au]
http://www.crnjapan.com/discrimination/en/ [crnjapan.com]
http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=31436 [ipsnews.net]

Re:compassionate Filipina? (1)

taggat (547334) | more than 8 years ago | (#14335132)

It might refer to the Japanese occupation of the Philippines in WWII Try Googling for the details. I know a lot of Filipino's and they tell horror stories about the occupation. Horror stories that I will not repeat here because I do not know if they are true.

there is a switch (2, Funny)

Gravis Zero (934156) | more than 8 years ago | (#14334926)

see... people arent afraid of robots because you can turn them off or reprogram them. if the situation gets deperate, you can "kill" them because they arent actually people or animals. i look forward to setting fire to my robot friends. i also find it amusing that the article says "[MARIE] is inexpensive." ill buy one! :)

Re:there is a switch (1)

gardyloo (512791) | more than 8 years ago | (#14334976)

people arent afraid of robots because you can turn them off or reprogram them. if the situation gets deperate, you can "kill" them because they arent actually people or animals.

      Oh, good. I don't have to be afraid of jetliners or cars or blenders any more!

Re:there is a switch (1)

jacen_sunstrider (797955) | more than 8 years ago | (#14335131)

Blenders?

Old /. semi-meme resurrection (0, Troll)

jb.hl.com (782137) | more than 8 years ago | (#14334928)

Rampaging robot hordes invade your home, rape your wife and kill your family... in Japan!

Re:Old /. semi-meme resurrection (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14335098)

Rampaging robot hordes invade your home, rape your wife and kill your family... in Japan!

Impossible. Everyone knows that robots don't have tentacles.

Re:Old /. semi-meme resurrection (1)

jb.hl.com (782137) | more than 8 years ago | (#14335211)

In Japan they do.

Japan (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14334939)

progenitor of Solaria?

Reach out and IM someone. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14334949)

"If this bold social experiment produces lots of isolated people, there will of course be an outlet for their loneliness: they can confide in their robot pets and partners. Only in Japan could this be thought less risky than having a compassionate Filipina drop by for a chat.'""

And this is different from geeks and the internet, how?

Cause:Effect::Invent::Restrict (1)

SammysIsland (705274) | more than 8 years ago | (#14334953)

Us humans have such a knack for discovering new, wonderful technologies and then spending mountains of energy on resricting the use of them. It's sad really.

Better things to worry about (5, Funny)

servognome (738846) | more than 8 years ago | (#14334963)

'What seems to set Japan apart from other countries is that few Japanese are all that worried about the effects that hordes of robots might have on its citizens.

Maybe because they are too busy dealing with Godzilla, Mothra, and all those other giant radioactive monsters.

Japanese lack social skills (4, Interesting)

Neo-Rio-101 (700494) | more than 8 years ago | (#14334973)

You have to keep in mind that there are A LOT of socially inept people in Japan. The thing is that wile there is little crime or conflict in Japanese society - it all happens under the radar. When a Japanese person does not like you, they don't get angry at you and start an argument. Instead, they just shut you out and ignore you. For example:- Two coworkers in my department had a disagreement and instead of work through it like normal adults they sent hate mail to each other whilst they sat quiety in seats next to each other... pretending the other person didn't exist.

The thing is, when the Japanese get pissed, you don't get a second chance - and they get pissed and upset SO easily it is incredibly frustrating. And they will not forgive you. They will just shut you out and pretend that you no longer exist. Problems happens when this happens on a large scale while society is basically stepping on each other - one little tiff and nobody speaks to each other ever again.

A robot is forced to like you, be tolerant of you, do what you want, and keep smiling back. Kinda why English teaching is popular here - not so much for the English but because the Japanese want top learn social interaction skills and the Japanese are too busy ignoring each other to ever develop those.

Re:Japanese lack social skills (2, Insightful)

Comatose51 (687974) | more than 8 years ago | (#14335070)

"You have to keep in mind that there are A LOT of socially inept people in Japan. "

I find that rather hard to believe. It's more likely that their social norms and rules work differently than ours. It might appear inept to us but it's quite normal for them. In fact, a lot of what you just described also applies to the Chinese, which is my heritage.

There are cultures other than us who tend to be non-confrontational and indirect. There are advantages and disadvantages to that. Being indirect means problems are harder and takes longer to solve, especially when it's an issue of miscommunication. On ther other hand, both parties always have the options of backing down without losing too much face and suffering embarassment. Just observe a politician at work during an interview to see how this works. Also, escalation tend to be slower when you're indirect. Going back to your example, not speaking to someone is less likely to lead to physical violence than calling him names. I don't know the specifics of your experience but what might appear to insignificant to you might mean a lot to other people. For example, not taking off your shoes in a Chinese household goes beyond cleanliness and soiling their carpet. It implies that you think their house is not clean enough for you to walk on--the same reason you won't walk barefeet out on the streets.

If you look at things from the Chinese or Japanese perspective, the typical American appears rude, bullying, and uncompromising (at least that's what my parents accuse me of when I argue with them).

Re:Japanese lack social skills (1)

Comatose51 (687974) | more than 8 years ago | (#14335077)

Sorry about the poor grammar in my post. It's late.

Re:Japanese lack social skills (3, Informative)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 8 years ago | (#14335071)

Is you situation atypical or perhaps biased by a small sample size of those you know? I don't know, it seems to go for a stereotype for an entire people.

Anyway, here is a blog from a American teacher in Japan, it's funny (and insightful) reading of over there:

http://outpostnine.com/editorials/teacher.html [outpostnine.com]

Re:Japanese lack social skills (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14335074)

In japan, not acting like that would be considered socially inept.

You confuse sociology and culture with social ineptitude.

Re:Japanese lack social skills (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14335092)

Absolutely. It's much healthier to blow up in front of everyone, call people names to their faces, flip anyone who you dont like the bird, and occasionally take an NRA-sanctioned weapon and mow everybody around you down. yup, the japanese are pretty inept socially compared to us.

Re:Japanese lack social skills (5, Interesting)

Susan In Oz (664607) | more than 8 years ago | (#14335129)

Having worked for the Japanese in a senior management position, learned a bit of the language, and made quite a study of them, this comment has some validity but is off in other ways. It is incredibly difficult and stressful for Japanese to interact with each other. Their language requires that you make a decision about power and relataive status to say anything. It is far more complicated than "polite" versus "not as polite". It is also a shame based culture, not a guilt culture. How you appear to others is more important, generally speaking, than any standard of morality. That's why Japanese kill themselves when they are in the middle of a scandal. Being held in low esteem is far far more wreching for them than for us. But as the writer pointed out, they do hold grudges and can be incredibly, unimaginably nasty and petty if you offend them. So that is why robots would be easier. They are obedient, they can be programmed to give pleasant responses, they don't care what form of address you use with them. Some people like animals better than their fellow humans. The Japanese have not been as big on pets as Americans, due to their generally cramped housing, so for them, a robot could well be "man's best friend".

Re:Japanese lack social skills (1)

earthstar (748263) | more than 8 years ago | (#14335139)

True.I once saw a story in BBC - Japanese youth send SMS love messages to artificial/robot girls - because they are very shy to talk to girls.!
I just thought "Strange world".

Re:Japanese lack social skills (2, Interesting)

JanneM (7445) | more than 8 years ago | (#14335167)

Yep, there are socially inept people in Japan. Yep, they are especially frequent in technical and academic fields.

And of course, that is true for any society. Also, if you're a non-Japanese - and especially if you're the kind of person that reads and comments on /. - the Japanese people you're most likely to run into are those working in technical and academic fields.

I've lived here for some time now, and I find this to have no more more basis in fact here than anywhere else. After seeing supposedly always composed and polite Japanese scream, shout, argue and fight often enough, I've consigned this stereotype to just another myth. It's just like the sterotype of Americans as loud, shallow and selfish - such people certainly exist but isn't really the societal norm.

Re:Japanese lack social skills (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14335181)

Sounds like classic passive-aggressive behaviour.

Re:Japanese lack social skills (1)

Gashu (538328) | more than 8 years ago | (#14335255)

The thing is, when the Japanese get pissed, you don't get a second chance - and they get pissed and upset SO easily it is incredibly frustrating. And they will not forgive you. They will just shut you out and pretend that you no longer exist. Problems happens when this happens on a large scale while society is basically stepping on each other - one little tiff and nobody speaks to each other ever again.

Well, I'm Japanese. but not do I. I'll just search for why this guy pissed, if there is a worthful reason, I'll hahave considering that curcumstance. And if there's no reason, I'll just say simple but most powerfull F words from my F words dictionary.

Population Density (3, Insightful)

wmajik (688431) | more than 8 years ago | (#14334990)

I think only a trained sociologist will probably have a good idea on the link between the Japanese and their fascination (or in this case, level of comfort) with robots.

That said though, for anyone familiar with Japan or having lived there before, those that live in the city have a very, very different way of life than in places like the United States. The pace of life is faster, the population density is higher and there is a generally an absurd amount of strangers that you pass by on a daily basis. The fast, brisk level of interaction required to perform your daily tasks with others is just an automated response after awhile. It's no surprise to me that Japan is the leader in automation, simply due to this constant barrage of hit-and-run interaction.

I would venture that the Japanese have simply become accustom to automated systems and technology, having evolved around the idea of using non-human tools to help them throughout the day. If you asked another person in a fast paced city such as New York or LA versus a slower city like Austin or Memphis on their opinion toward robots, I would imagine you get a correlation between pace of life and comfort level with robots (or automation).

My 0.02 hypothesis at least.

Re:Population Density (1)

WilliamCotton (856410) | more than 8 years ago | (#14335122)

Living in New York City, I would tend to say that most people there wouldn't be in to robot companions. It's a very social city. I know the guy by the train who sells me coffee in the morning, I know the guy at the deli by work who makes my sandwiches, I know the people in my building and a few down the block as well. That's in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, a predominately black neighborhood, and even in white-bred yuppie Manhattan I've got some friends who live in Tribeca and run an Internet company and they're good pals with the people in their building, their super, and a bunch of other people in the neighborhood. New York is fast paced, but people don't shy away from social interaction. Someone is going to tell you that you're being a jerk when you don't give up a seat for an old lady or hold the door for someone. You'll get a big genuine smile if you do it instinctively. Make a robot that you can have a heated argument on the street with and will still leave you with a parting from-the-heart remark like "Have a good one", and you might have some prospective Gotham customers.

Re:Population Density (1)

JanneM (7445) | more than 8 years ago | (#14335184)

Make a robot that you can have a heated argument on the street with and will still leave you with a parting from-the-heart remark like "Have a good one", and you might have some prospective Gotham customers.

You know, one of the big draws for me with the idea of automated service is that when I don't want to, I'm not forced to be social. The parent poster has a serious point - seing hundreds of people at all times can become pretty draining, and the option of buying a coffee, or lunch, or a paper without having to interact with anyone can be an enormous relief.

Oh, and if I never, ever, hear any variation of "have a good day" - formulaic and habitual, uttered just because the employee manual requires it - ever again, I will consider my life to have been well lived, all considered. That alone os reason enough to look forward to the march towards automated service.

Automation has nothing to do with interaction (1)

xtal (49134) | more than 8 years ago | (#14335159)

Japan has lead in automation because of a limited pool of workers. Thus, they have much more incentive to invest in heavy next-generation levels of automation. The opposite extreme is China, where there is a near infinite supply of very cheap labour available. Thus, no incentive at all to innovate. If you can hire people at near subsistance level wages, they are very capable machines properly engineered.

This is more to the core of why Japan has lead innovation vs. population density. They're a very small nation geographically and population wise, running against much larger, much more resource and energy rich competitors.

Dear Santa (1)

Josh teh Jenius (940261) | more than 8 years ago | (#14334993)

Dear Santa, I have been very good this year. I worked hard, paid (most of) my bills, and didn't strangle anyone, even though they deserved it. Please bring me a Luck Liu bot this Christmas. I'll promise to walk her twice a day and pet her all the time. P.S. Please hurry, I got the munchies and these cookies won't last too much longer. Love, Josh

You had me... (5, Insightful)

Weaselmancer (533834) | more than 8 years ago | (#14335002)

...and I was with you 100%, right up to the "compassionate Filipina" bit. Where the hell did that come from?

Re:You had me... (1)

mpaque (655244) | more than 8 years ago | (#14335043)

Well, you would have had to read the article. And since this IS SlashDot...

Re:You had me... (2, Insightful)

kingturkey (930819) | more than 8 years ago | (#14335082)

When I got to that bit I too was confused. I had a thought about mail order brides but it didn't really make much sense. I then read the article and it makes perfect sense! Amazing what reading TFA does.

Re:You had me... (4, Informative)

earthbound kid (859282) | more than 8 years ago | (#14335087)

Cost of developing a thinking robot: Billions, perhaps trillions, of yen.

Cost of opening Japanese borders to foreigners: Zero yen. Oh yeah, and society will have to open up a little too.

As you can see, it's inevitable that the Japanese develop robots. The cost of not doing so is too high for the Japanese populous to bear, or even contemplate. Seriously, the Japanese are nice people and all, but they really insist on dividing the world into "Japan" and "everybody else" in a way that's not healthy at all. I like Japan, but they're going to have make some changes. On their current path, they're either going to end up like Europe, with a bunch of isolated and pissed off foreigners living inside their borders or like techno-Europe, with a bunch of isolated and pissed off robots living inside their borders. Or, heaven forbid, they could follow the US/Canadian model and integrate foreigners into their society, instead of isolating them and maybe the people would think of themselves as Japanese. But they might not have black hair, so scratch that idea.

Re:You had me... (1)

ecloud (3022) | more than 8 years ago | (#14335138)

I don't get it either; can somebody explain why Filipinos are more compassionate than other people?

Re:You had me... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14335254)

Actually, I think their compassion is drowned out by their vanity.

Sure, but (1)

jpellino (202698) | more than 8 years ago | (#14335048)

they scurry at the sight of 100 foot tall reptiles and then their mouths stop working.

Americans on the other hand stare at any imminent danger like inquisitive puppies, waiting for their closeup.

Robots can only be good for humanity (4, Interesting)

Morgaine (4316) | more than 8 years ago | (#14335056)

Let's take a look at the three common scenarios:

A. Robots remain good and helpful.

Compare this against the current state of affairs, where humanity is segmented into fundamentalist religious factions at war with each other, rapacious and/or clueless politicians bringing in 1984, big business cartels treating the citizenry as cattle, lawyers oiling the wheels of all the "legal" malevolance, plus an underbelly of simple criminals who care not about what they do to their neighbour. Yes, robot companions will become infinitely preferable to people, on average.

B. Robots do the Skynet or War Games thing and try to exterminate or dominate us.

This would undoubtedly unite us again, much like an alien invasion would do, because it's in the nature of humanity to unite against an external threat --- it's been happening throughout the ages, against attacks on one's country. So, at least there would be a silver lining for humanity amid the War Against The Machines or equivalent, until it's over one way or another.

C. The Culture scenario from Iain M. Banks' novels, ie. machine intelligence and capability becomes so incomprehensibly greater than our own that Man and all other creatures in the galaxy become their very well looked after pets.

Banks' scenario is good whichever you look at it: either mankind is happy as a pampered pet and wishes to remain so, or else mankind absorbs the technology of AI into itself and becomes one with it in order to remain the dominant species on the planet. The latter is Ray Kurzweil's expected future, as described in The Age of Spiritual Machines.

So, I see only good from the coming of the robot, regardless of its level of machine intelligence and the goals it develops for itself, if any.

Me. (1)

headkase (533448) | more than 8 years ago | (#14335081)

Um, how about we keep the intelligence in humans instead? There's nothing a superintelligence can do that enough well organized humans can't. Although it would probably take longer with people, what's the hurry? Back to organization - the forest is a distict entity based on trees. You can be a human tree and let the emergent forest do its thing hopefully in a human valued way or you can delegate your decisions to a machine and risk irrelevence.

Re:Robots can only be good for humanity (1)

helioquake (841463) | more than 8 years ago | (#14335192)

B. Robots do the Skynet or War Games thing and try to exterminate or dominate us.

While reading that line, it occurred to me: how much influence have human-friendly robots in many Japanese animes had on the growning cyber-phile genre in Japan?

Maybe... (1)

chinakow (83588) | more than 8 years ago | (#14335086)

...they spend less time paralyzed thinking about what could go wrong and more time thinking about how to make something better? :-)

Wow. Can't believe it lasted so long without this. (3, Funny)

ScaryFroMan (901163) | more than 8 years ago | (#14335099)

I, for one, welcome our new robot overlords.

Now where are... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14335117)

we going to find some whiney 14 year olds to pilot them...

Sorry, couldn't resist.

mod do3n (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14335136)

code 5haring cent8alized Cuntwipes Jordan The curtains flew

Japanese Find Robots Less Intimidating Than People (0, Redundant)

johncadengo (940343) | more than 8 years ago | (#14335204)

Japanese Find Robots Less Intimidating Than People

What does this mean?

People from Japan are less intimidated of inviting robots into their own homes than of inviting other people into their own homes?

Or:

People from Japan are less intimidated of inviting robots into their own homes than other people (meaning, Americans/Europeans/Chinese/etc?) are of inviting robots into their own homes?

Even after reading the blurb it's confusing. And the article didn't help any either. Does the blurb and title have much at all to do with the article and the author's point getting across? =/

It's not voice of masses inJapan. (1)

Gashu (538328) | more than 8 years ago | (#14335207)

Well, this article is totally interesting, but lacks some important points. First of all, it is not based on voices from mass, just saying MASS because the ROBOTS are still in niche market in Japan. We MASS still seeing that "Curious" or "Futuristic" but NOT "Better Than Human".

Looking back background arround the robots in Japan, Yes, there are some Robot Icons in SF / Manga Culture as you may have seen in Japanimations. But connecting this background to mass is so irrelevant. Because few artistic SF / Manga / Anime creator is applaused in economic market.

So pointing robots' background culture to Japanese society in some kinda JAPANESE_SHOULD_BE_THIS view is totally irrelevant. If you believe that, You will lose something important.

Again, As I, one of Japanese, This article is NOT based on voice from masses in Japan. Here is no Blade Runner culture in masses, people are wathing this in curious eyes, probably not so different from you folks.

Invasion of the Marvins (1)

Belseth (835595) | more than 8 years ago | (#14335233)

Given the high suicide rate in Japan I'd avoid real people personality prototypes. An army of Marvin styled robots could double the suicide rate overnight. Even overly enthusiastic robotic doors could add considerable. I still remember the first cars with voices back in the 80s. About the third time it told me the door was ajar when I was opening it I nearly took an axe to the thing.
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