Do you remember the time before ATM machines? When people had to wait in line at the bank just to deposit their paycheck or withdraw some cash? Well I don’t, seeing as how ATM’s were first available in the late 1960’s.

And how about self-checkout registers at supermarkets? Invented in the 80’s, they were popularized in the 90’s and 2000’s. I remember being “promoted” from cashier to carriage-collector boy when my local supermarket introduced the self-checkout machines. Even 20 years later, rather than speeding up your shopping experience, these robotic tenders can often cause quite a headache. But don’t get me wrong, I’ll still choose self-checkout over standing in a long line.

Japan and Robots

Japan has been at the forefront of automated and robotic designs, with Honda’s humanoid robot ASIMO a prime example. Animated series and manga have also brought us some of Japan’s most beloved characters such as Astro Boy and Evangelion’s EVA’s, which are technically cyborgs.

Anthropologist Christal Whelan wrote that jinzō ningen 人造人間, ‘artificial human’, was the original way to say robot in Japanese, coined by biologist Makoto Nishimura in 1928. Whelan writes that robots are considered friends and companions in Japan and Nishimura was quoted in The Osaka Mainichi Shimbun as saying “If one considers humans as the children of nature, artificial humans created by the hand of man are thus nature’s grandchildren.”

When are Robots Better than Humans?

The results of an online survey asking Japanese which jobs they think could be replaced by robots was released on February 12. About 1,000 people aged 20 to their 60’s participated in this survey conducted by Tokyo Star Bank.

The first question asked, “Robotics (AI) is said to be progressing more and more. From the following choices, which human jobs do you think can be replaced by robots (AI)?” Before scrolling down to read the list, take a moment to anticipate the results. Which jobs do you think a robot could do just as efficiently than a person, if not more so? Do you think your position made the list?

Alright, ready for the results?

Chart by Mujo

How’d you do? Will you still have a job for years to come? Do you agree with the results?

Personally, I thought that many announcers, such as the Kyoto City Bus English announcements, are already robots. There’s just something off about the way that cool voice stumbles over the bus stop names. And her intonation is all wrong.

However, if you’ve ever ridden the Tokaido Shinkansen bullet train or a JR East train, you’ll surely recognize these voices:

Humble opinions

Even though many people may think these positions can be replaced by robots, you might say that we humans bring a certain special something to the job. If you are trying on clothes at an apparel shop, the staff might offer advise on which item suits you. Can a robot offer genuine advice regarding fashion?

And how about a nurse? Maybe a robot can take your blood pressure and give you medicine, but do you want to make small talk with a machine?

As our society becomes more automated and we spend less time waiting in lines, the wife of the ATM’s inventor Donald Wetzel says that we lose something at the cost of efficiency. In an interview with her from The Happiness Lab, Mrs. Wetzel says she’s never used an ATM. She prefers to wait in line and interact with the bank teller, exchange smiles and pleasantries.

Maybe she’s right. Would you trade in all your frustration and impatience at human error for a day out to only interact with robots?

By - Mujo.