Robots And Religion, East And West

Christopher Mims cites Heather Knight, founder of the world's first (non-industrial) robot census, on why the Japanese are more receptive to robots:

She posits that the difference between Japanese and American attitudes toward robots is rooted in something much older than even the idea of robots: religion.

"In Japan... they're culturally open to robots, on account of animism. They don't make a distinction between inanimate objects and humans."

Animism is a component of the Shinto faith, the religion that preceded the introduction of Buddhism to Japan and remains an influential part of the country's culture. Animism is the notion that all objects have a spirit - even man-made objects.

In the West, in contrast, creating life inevitably leads to destruction of the creator -- a notion that is hardly original to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, as author Rui Umezawa points out.

In order to understand fully religion's influence on the West's attitude toward robotics, we also must remember that Judeo-Christian monotheism also adheres to the doctrine that only God can give life, a popular interpretation of Genesis in which there is only God in the beginning and all living things are His creations. Exodus also decrees that idolatry is a sin. Thus, any human who breathes life into an inanimate object is assuming the role of God and thereby becoming a false idol.

(Video hat tip: Max Read)