not universal; they differ within different cultures. For instance, any- one who attended, like I did, the huge ROBODEX 2003 trade show and public exposition in Yokohama would have seen no reason why artificial creatures could ever be considered evil, or represent attempts to usurp God’s place. In display after display from corporations, gov- ernments, and research institutions, the beings were uniformly pre- sented as helpful to people, providing services from nursing care to home protection, or were shown as amusing and entertaining, as in a soccer game played by Sony’s AIBO dogs and a quiz show featuring Honda’s ASIMO. The ASIMO quiz show was played on stage with children, and though those children were actors, it was easy to see on the faces of many families visiting ROBODEX that their children thought they had entered Disneyland, only better.
Like culture heroes such as the good robot Astro Boy, this event showcased the particularly benign Japanese attitude toward artificial beings combined with Japan’s leading position in robotics, which be- gan when manufacturing robots took hold there in the late 1960s. According to Frederik Schodt’s book Inside the Robot Kingdom, a vari- ety of economic and business factors sparked the initial interest: a need for traditional Japanese assembly lines to become more flexible, a labor shortage, and a corporate attitude that encouraged long-term development of this new technology. By 1988, reports the U.S. Na- tional Research Council, Japan had 176,000 industrial robots, five times as many as the United States (where the industrial robot was invented!) and exceeding the entire robot population of the rest of the world.
Japan still dominates, with just less than half the world’s popula- tion of robots.And while other nations are catching up, the dynamic Japanese style of robotics research has continued,with incentives from, for example, the government-funded Humanoid Robotics Project. Running from 1998 to 2002, with a budget of $38 million,the project combined government and corporate resources to develop a human- oid robot for tasks such as industrial plant maintenance, patient care, and operating construction machinery. The result, as I saw at ROBODEX 2003, is HRP-2, a 1.5 m (5 ft) tall, blue and silver, walk-