Eastern and Western Views of Automation

Automation is a good thing, as far as we’re concerned. It allows us to be more productive, more profitable, and at the same time to be more respectful of both our environment and each other. We can give machinery highly repetitive tasks, dangerous jobs, and chores that need to be done in environments which are noisy or uncomfortable. Humans can keep the highly creative jobs, so we’re all happier.

You don’t want to spend all day and night monitoring feedback from your equipment, do you? Didn’t think so.

We have to admit, though, that there is an ambivalence toward automation in America. Sure, we like our thermostats, but when we get down to any more obvious replacement of human work, we get nervous.

We begin to see potential danger.

The machinery could get smart enough to take away our jobs. It could become evil and kill us. It could mount armies and go to war against us.

Asian robots don’t seem to have this potential. Some researchers think this is because of traditional Japanese Noh plays. Japanese robots, according to people like Selma Sabanovic, are like toys. Their faces are like masks. They’re cute. Ours are like dangerous machines — it’s Optimus Prime vs. Hello Kitty.

Accordingly, Japanese workers don’t feel any fear of automation.

We work with European IA from German company Bosch-Rexroth, so I’m not sure where we fall on this continuum, but we sure do love Rexroth servos.

Check out the Japanese robot in this video. At one point, the speaker says the robot is cute (sounds like “kawai”), and it blushes.

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