The December 20th issue of the Economist contains a fascinating, must-read story about robots and Japan. Why is that Westerners tend to be afraid of artificial intelligence, and yet many Japanese actually prefer the company of robots to real humans? The answer, the Economist says, has to do with religion and popular culture:
Few Japanese have the fear of robots that seems to haunt westerners in seminars and Hollywood films. In western popular culture, robots are often a threat, either because they are manipulated by sinister forces or because something goes horribly wrong with them. By contrast, most Japanese view robots as friendly and benign. Robots like people, and can do good.
The Japanese are well aware of this cultural divide, and commentators devote lots of attention to explaining it. The two most favoured theories, which are assumed to reinforce each other, involve religion and popular culture.