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Robots in religion
I was sparked to lead this post based on footage that I watched about a priest in South India with regards a robotic elephant. Robots in religion have taken off in both Shinto and Hindu ceremonies.
Academics have widely talked about how the Shinto-based belief system have aided Japanese societal acceptance of robots, in comparison to western society. Secondly, Japanese authors have been exploring what it means to be human and what kind of dilemmas and opportunities do robots and AI bring in a future society. Robots in religion are a natural extension of robots in society.
Buddhism leads the way
What’s less commented on is that Japan’s buddhist temples have been leading robots in religion. The reality is that many Japanese see Shinto and Buddhism as complementary in nature and get involved in both beliefs.
Japan has some unique religious challenges that are interlinked. Temples are struggling as less people are active in their religious practice, the factors for this decline is multi-factorial in nature.
A second challenge that as the population shrinks roles need to be automated. What started in factories is now impacting the food and beverage sector (vending machines and restaurant robo-serving staff), so it was only a matter of time that robots in religion would supplement the clergy.
In India robots in religion is about kindness and de-risking religious ceremonies. In South India elephants take part in religious ceremonies. However the conditions that elephants are kept in can be cruel in nature and even result in death. Secondly, elephants can unintentionally kill or injure people involved in a religious celebration. This report on NHK World shows how robots in religion have been adapted to Hindu needs.
Finally, the elephant robot is used in celebrations over a large geographic area and is easily transported around. Robots in religion are likely to make even more sense as India urbanises even further, as the benefits are amplified in the denser environment.
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