Can Humans and Humanoids Co-Exist?
With technology comes automation. And when we speak of automation, we couldn’t help but relate it robots. Over the past few months, we hear reports that retail companies are now using robots to help humans or even replace them in their job. And that is a rising concern among Americans.
However, on the other side of the globe, Japan is facing a population crisis. Married couples are not having children, the elderly are increasing, schools are closing because there are no children going to school anymore. If this trend continues, in fifty years the Japanese population will be reduced to half of it’s current population. But in order to maintain their current level of quality of life, their answer is to develop robots that can support their daily lives.
That was what Hiroshi Ishiguro said in an interview. He is the director of Intelligent Robotics Laboratory at Osaka University. He has developed humanoid robots with lifelike appearance and visible behavior such as facial movements and reactions to touch.
One of which is named Erica, which is considered to be one of the most advanced android in the world. She looks like human, her eyes blink, her body moves like she’s breathing, and she speaks like a human. She can work as a receptionist in Ishiguro’s laboratory.
The idea of having a humanoid working in a place dominated by humans, this is not far-fetched. As technology is improving, we are also humanizing robots. These robots are going out from their laboratories to enter our homes, hotels, and hospitals. In Nagasaki, the Hen-na Hotel is the first hotel to be run by robots from the receptionist, the concierge, to the bellboy. And every room has a small robot that you can instruct to turn on and off your lights.
The Japanese has already adopted the idea of having robots in their lives. Pepper, one of the first commercially available social robot, can also double as a friend and companion to some Japanese. These robots are not considered pets, but real companions. Before, our concept of neutral family is a father, a mother, kids, and a dog. Now, a robot is included. The bond between the humans and the humanoids is what scientists are looking for to be one step closer to the possibility of co-existence.
INSPIRED BY CHOBITS?
In 2002, Chobits, a Japanese manga that became a hit anime, became famous. It is a story of Hideki Motusawa who finds an abandoned persocom (personal computer) in human form. The anime gave us the idea that humans and humanoids can co-exist.
And now, we’re seeing it. Some find it eerie or uncanny. The perception of eeriness vary from person to person. And this is a reality that we humans have to work through.
So the question is do we want it to be more human or do we want it to be better? Humans have feelings and emotions that are susceptible to greed, self-preservation, and all of those stuff. Sometimes, these emotions cause troubles for humans. But with humanoids, scientists are creating something new that doesn’t have to be a person, just something that can perform jobs better than humans. And in order to do that, engineers, designers, and psychologists have to work hand in hand. Sounds familiar? Of course, because in some ways software and web development do have engineers, developers, and UI/UX designers.