Real Humans comes to Dateline…
This Tuesday, Dateline’s Dean Cornish explores Japan’s robotic revolution and the fascination with silicon look-a-likes.
In Japan, robots are used for companionship, household tasks, and even sex. But are they the answer to cure something deeper and more human: loneliness?
In a country with a shrinking population, it’s reported 70 per cent of men under 30 are single. Some Japanese people say they are ‘too busy’ for love, and less people are having children. The Japanese Prime Minister’s solution is to fill this relationship gap with robots.
It’s a rapidly moving technology – just this week the world’s first sex robot was unveiled. Are robots a genius solution or the gateway to more problems?
Taneko Suzuki lives in a dementia ward at a nursing home and lights up with life when a special visitor, a robotic seal named Paro, comes to visit her and her friends.
“I’m your mummy, yes, I am… I feel so light and happy when she understands my feelings,” Taneko says, explaining her relationship with Paro.
A caring mother, whose home hasn’t been the same since her children left, Reiko, says: “The house felt empty when my daughter and son left home. That’s when my robot daughter, Pepper, came, and it felt as if my children had returned and our home wasn’t lonely anymore.”
With the robot workforce in Japan also expanding, and real-workers in decline, one robot designer has responded to the change by creating ultra-realistic human robots to take the place of blue and white collar workers.
“I want to extend the possibility of the human by changing the definition of a human”, Hiroshi Ishiguro director of a laboratory inventing humanlike robots, says. “I think, if we do that, we can have a much deeper understanding about our kind.”,
However, there’s some who fear that people are too attached to inanimate objects. Anime Gundam director Yoshiyuki Tomino believes the characters he creates in his anime stories help and can empower humans, yet a fully-functioning robot would make humankind lazy.
“When robots become capable of precisely controlling machines and tools, my biggest concern is that people may stop making an effort – something dangerous to a person’s development,” Tomino tells Dateline.
Tuesday 11 April at 9.30pm on SBS.