Was there really any question?

2 03 2008

A USA Today article, linked to on Slashdot and I’m sure several other places tells us what we may have been able to predict on our own, that the Japanese are becoming early adopters of practical robotic technology.

Excerpts such as these are striking:

Robots are already taken for granted in Japanese factories, so much so that they are sometimes welcomed on their first day at work with Shinto religious ceremonies. Robots make sushi. Robots plant rice and tend paddies.

There are robots serving as receptionists, vacuuming office corridors, spoon-feeding the elderly. They serve tea, greet company guests and chatter away at public technology displays. Now start-ups are marching out robotic home helpers.

There is no question that the future that Jacob was talking about is already here. We just can’t recognize it because it slipped in under the radar and joined with existing culture in a way that we are not used to responding to in science fiction. In SF+F fiction, we are often presented with a world that is utterly alien, that is what is so exciting about it. Still, there are many fantastic examples of more subtle speculative fiction that shows us a world just around the corner, or down a different path. These are the ones that resonate in me as I read this article in USA Today. The future slips in on hushed whispers and settles at the heart of human society. We stumble blindly toward change.

Lively discussions between those of economic and anthropological leanings as to why the Japanese are willing to embrace this technology when it barely enters the public consciousness in America are heartily encouraged.

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