The countdown to the era of robots begins…

  Robot security guards, robot drivers, robot salesmen, robot cleaners, robot babysitters and robot teachers… these are no longer just occupations that appear in science fiction, but are an important part of the national project that the Japanese government is about to implement. For the upcoming era of robots, people may be full of joy and expectation, or full of worry and doubt. What is certain is that it will bring an unprecedented revolution to human life.
Robot invasion

  I bought a fried banana pie from a vending machine: delicious, convenient and fast, and avoid the embarrassment of language barriers. This fully automatic vending machine is placed at Naruto’s wharf, and the cruise ship at the wharf is full of tourists who come to watch the natural scenery of Japan. Like other Japanese cities, there are vending machines everywhere. You can buy books, coffee, sandwiches, sushi, clothes, fresh vegetables, farm eggs, linens, cigarettes, tickets, and more. More than 5 million vending machines serve 127 million Japanese people 24 hours a day, and on average, there is one vending machine for every 25 Japanese people.

Robot consultant

  In Japan, sales, dishwashing, cleaning and other tasks are all done with corresponding machines. For the Japanese, it is very extravagant to spend precious labor on simple mechanical labor. Japan’s labor force is rapidly declining, with retired people over 65 accounting for a quarter of the total population.
  Taeho, Mino, who has just turned 70, has lived in Takamatsu for most of his life. She opened a udon restaurant 30 years ago, and her family has lived here since the Edo period. It has a history of 260 years. Now, she is still taking an apprentice in this restaurant.
  Takamatsu is the birthplace of Japan’s most famous Sanuki udon, and there are many udon restaurants. There is an urgent shortage of restaurant service staff, especially waiters who can communicate fluently in English.
  ”Then why not hire English-speaking employees to help?” I asked. Shi Taihao smiled and replied: “It is difficult for foreigners to adapt to our management rules. Our work requires tacit cooperation. Everyone has their own scope of responsibility. It is not easy for foreigners to grasp the traditional Japanese hospitality etiquette, so we try our best to let The Japanese came to serve.”
  Despite Shi Taihaode’s respect, she still worked with the waiter in the restaurant: receiving orders, delivering food, and cleaning up dirty dishes. The restaurant is crowded with tourists. The shoes taken off by the guests are neatly placed at the door, and a few pairs of slippers for the guests to go to the bathroom are placed aside.

In a busy metropolis, more than 5 million retail vending machines serve 127 million Japanese people 24 hours a day, and an average of one vending machine for every 25 Japanese people.

  The Japanese are very sensitive to everything related to the house. They forbid to bring things inside, so as not to disturb the balance of things in the house. Regardless of age, social status and weather, all guests must take off their shoes before entering a residence, restaurant or museum, and then enter barefoot. “In a broader sense, we are to protect ourselves and others’ homes from being destroyed by the outside world.” Shi Taihao said.
  The Japanese’s difficulty in trusting strangers began at the time of the Tokugawa Shogunate. In the mid-17th century, the Japanese military government implemented a closed policy to exclude foreigners. The reason why the Japanese people were completely isolated from the outside world was the Christian rebellion in 1637. They worry that Western missionaries will gradually conquer Japan, destroy its unique life traditions, and overthrow the ruling class. Under the threat of the death penalty, the Japanese were forbidden to leave their home country, but at the same time people began to build more and more large ships suitable for long-distance navigation. Japan’s “lock country” policy lasted for more than two centuries. Today, 98.5% of the country’s population are indigenous peoples. Cheap labor immigrants are not accepted here, and the government intends to fill the labor gap with robots.
  In January 2015, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry of Japan approved the industrial revolution strategy officially named “Robot Revolution”. The document sets the goal of becoming a “super robot power”, introducing robots into all areas of life, setting 2020 as the deadline, and holding the World Robot Summit this year. By that time, all the tasks of a quarter of the major Japanese companies will be undertaken by robots. They will not only work on the production line, but also pack dishes in restaurants, sort goods in supermarkets, and clean rooms in hotels. In Russia, Europe and the United States, these jobs are all done by immigrants from poor countries. Today, Japan has replaced people with machines as much as possible in these fields.
Simulating human

  Robot guides can be seen everywhere in the “Future Hall” of the Tokyo Science Museum. In Japan, many companies have launched robot molding products, both for enterprises and for the general public. These humanoid robots are expensive, ranging from tens of thousands of dollars to millions of dollars. The most famous of them is the ASIMO robot produced by Japan’s Honda Company. It looks exactly like an astronaut, has hearing and vision, can recognize human facial expressions, understand human language, and most importantly, its hands and feet can complete complex movements. Its hands can unscrew the lid of the cup, and it can even use sign language, its feet can run off the ground, and its top speed can reach 9 kilometers per hour.
  In the “Future Pavilion”, ASIMO appears 6 times a day, taking visitors for 10 minutes each time. 10 am is the first time. I walked by a young girl in a white dress. She was sitting on a pedestal and shaking her legs. I suddenly noticed that she was not a real person, but a robot in a kimono. Her voice was soft and she could broadcast news in different languages ​​around the world. Unlike previous mechanical robots, it is terribly similar to real people: the skin is made of silicone, which currently looks the same as human skin, and artificial muscles can control facial expressions and gestures. In 2012, its creator, Ishiguro Hiroshi, said in a speech at the Moscow School of Economics: “Smart robots can do many things, not only in technical aspects, such as cleaning or working in factories, but also in reading news on TV and going to school. Teach children. In some aspects, smart robots can do better than humans because they are not tired, have a much lower error rate than humans, and do not need to pay. For example, in the television news broadcast industry used to convey information, smart Robots do better than humans.”
  Bionic robots are robots that imitate humans or other creatures in appearance. The Japanese are chasing the humanoid robots almost fanatically. Forty percent of the world’s robots are made in Japan, and Japan is also The country with the largest number of robots in the world.

  In addition to Japanese companies, there are also companies in the United States that are developing similar products. One company called “Boston Dynamics” has recently entered the public eye. The company was established in 1992 and was acquired by Google the year before. Boston Dynamics has always maintained cooperation with the US military, the most famous of which is the robotic dog project. This kind of robot dog can walk on smooth ice and other complicated terrains, even if kicked, it can maintain its balance without falling. At the same time, the company has also developed a robot that can stand on two feet, Atlas, which is also sponsored by the US military. It has two sets of vision systems that can walk and climb on rugged terrain. U.S. companies are clearly interested in the ability of robots to search, detect and carry cargo during the war.
  Humanoid robots still have many mechanical problems. The complexity of human limbs requires high mechanical parts design, and there is still much room for improvement in the robot’s ability to walk upright. It can be seen from recent robot running competitions held abroad. Walking is still a big challenge for companies with insufficient technology accumulation.
  Ishiguro firmly believes that in the near future, intelligent robots will become an indispensable part of people’s daily lives like smartphones and computers. Tanareid, an adult intelligent robot made by Hiroshi Ishiguro, looks ordinary in appearance. It is a well-dressed woman, smiling and beckoning to people passing by, her eyes blinking. In the “Future Hall” of the museum, Tanareid is responsible for consulting matters at the service desk, answering some simple questions, and being able to keep simple conversations with people. Japanese children happily surround it, trying to take selfies with it.
  ”In Western culture, the idea of ​​large-scale robot development was first mentioned by the Czech writer Karel Capek in his works: artificial workers in factories began to rebel against humans. The word’robot’ also originated in the Czech Republic, the original meaning It is’heavy work’. It was translated into Japanese in 1923, referring to intelligent machines, and literally translated as’artificial humans’. In other words, Japan initially regarded robots as friends and as species similar to humans. “Science Museum” The tour guide of Miraikan said.
  For me as a child, “Robocop” and “Terminator” brought endless fear, but the associations caused by Japanese robots are completely different. It was drawn in the popular comic “Astro Boy” in the 1950s. There is a cute robot boy named “Atom”.
  Japanese manufacturers attach great importance to psychological effects when developing intelligent robots. For example, when a robot looks like a child, it will make people want to buy, raise, and spoil it. In the museum, there is a 130 cm tall child robot with a huge battery on its back, which looks like a character in a Japanese anime. It can walk around in the museum and show visitors its skills: climbing stairs, playing balls, and welcoming people. It can distinguish moving objects and can talk to 3 people at the same time.
  ASIMO walked to the booth and saw that many people were already seated, holding various mobile phones and cameras to take pictures at it. It paused, as if it was calculating the path, slightly changed its direction, and walked in the direction of no one. Walking to the center of the circle surrounded by the crowd, it bounced, ran back and forth around the room, and began to sing after saying something in Japanese—this was requested by the children sitting in the front row.
  All these robots are still in their rudiments and have not yet begun mass production. But at Tokyo’s Narita Airport, the robot attendant is already on duty: announcing the timetable and providing each waiting passenger with a bottle of water. In addition, this robot has been put into use in 4 Japanese hospitals, responsible for taking medicine and other items.
Save loneliness

  In Japanese houses, there are many talking machines: the dishwasher announces that it is “washed”, the washing machine reports that “washing is complete”, and the rice cooker says that “the rice is ready in 5 minutes.” Housewife Yoshiko’s husband works, and she stays at home all day to do housework, but she has never been bored because of the company of intelligent robots. Jizi thinks that their generation is lucky to be able to use intelligent robots. Many of her friends are still unmarried and live alone. Statistics show that the number of newly established families in Japan has halved in the past 30 years. Half of the 25 to 39-year-olds have not established their own family because they spend too much time at work and have no time to reach out to larger circles and make more people.

Robots that replace humans in factories

  In addition, the number of lonely elderly people in Japan is also very large, and the Japanese government produces many advanced “social intelligent robots” for them every year. Japan is the country with the largest proportion of retirees in the world. About 60,000 people are over a hundred years old. There are 270 nursing homes with intelligent robots that can communicate with the elderly.
  ”I want to buy an intelligent robot nurse for my mother,” said Yoshiko, “but it’s too expensive.” The social robot pepper is an accompanying intelligent robot designed for social interaction. Buying a friend who can distinguish human emotions and respond with laughter or words is completely feasible in Japan. But before purchasing, you need to fill out a questionnaire on the manufacturer’s website, upload your ID, and wait for the certification to pass. The basic robot kit is only 213,000 yen, but in order for the robot to work fully, assembly costs must be paid, and monthly maintenance and insurance must be paid. The total cost is 1.18 million yen-about 10,000 US dollars. Despite the high price, the first batch of 1,000 robotic peppers were sold out within a minute once they were launched in Japan.
  Since June 2015, more than 10,000 robot peppers have been sold, and you must wait 26 months to receive the goods after full payment. For those who can’t afford pepper, there will be a cheaper option this year. The 10 cm high Kirobo Mini is an intelligent robot driver developed by Toyota. Drivers no longer need to worry about inattention or fatigue while driving. But the goal of this mini robot at the beginning of the sale is not just to be a driver, but also to accompany the lonely Japanese. Kirobo can imitate children’s movements-sitting, shaking, having a toddler’s tone, and being able to recognize emotions. If your voice is sad, it will tell jokes to cheer you up.
  I am walking in digital Akihabara in Chiyoda District, Tokyo. It used to sell TV spare parts, and is now the world’s largest and latest digital technology market. In the evening, people come here to play traditional slot games in the lobby and read comics in the comic shop to relieve the pressure of the day. Nearby is the famous robot restaurant, there are buzzing pet dinosaur robot toys in the lobby, and robot war performances. Robots, dinosaurs and Transformers are all controlled by operators. They are not really fighting, but the young people sitting at the side will still argue over who will win the final victory, just like discussing who will win the world championship in a boxing match. Similarly, they also hold posters with the names of robots they support.
  Hundreds of robot dogs of various types and coat colors are placed on a small stall outside the restaurant. This is the most popular electronic dog AIBO in Japan. It is the first robot friend in human history. It was produced by Sony. The original purpose was not for military or factory operations, but just to communicate with people. Puppies wag their tails to please their owners, and can even charge themselves. After purchasing the dog AIBO, the owner needs to personally regulate their behavior and teach them how to play at home, just like a real puppy. For the first few days, smart dogs cannot stand alone, play with balls and bones, and cannot communicate. If you hurry up and train it a few days before you buy it, it will be able to highlight its main functions a few days later, but if you don’t continue to praise it, it may cause it to lose its behavior and even lose its “intelligence” forever: Robot Dog No longer picking up plastic bones, talking, and guarding the house. The caress and care of the owner is the spiritual charge for its continued existence. The name of this smart dog is derived from a game, the official abbreviation is AIBO (Artificial Intelligence Robot), and the Japanese name is “Friend”.

Confidence crisis caused by robots

  For the coming era of robots, people may be full of joy and expectation, or full of worry and doubt. Some robot supporters adopt a blindly following attitude towards robots. Scientists at Georgia Institute of Technology in the United States were surprised to find after the experiment that even if the emergency robot took the test participants in a circle twice during the simulated fire, they could not get out of the fire at all, they still chose to continue to follow the robot. “People overestimate the cognition of machines,” said researcher Alan Wagner. “They believe that robots will never make mistakes.”
  Such excessive trust in robots can have fatal consequences in extreme situations. The Tesla driver Josh War Brown ran into a large truck while driving in the car, only watching movies. The cause of this accident was the widespread trust in technology in the society. “Users will soon have trust in technology. At present, automated systems are slowly entering our daily lives, but they are not fully qualified for the tasks we expect them to complete.” said Alan Wagner, a robotics expert from the Zurich University of Technology in Switzerland .
  Like the hostile attitude towards technology that is currently spreading in Germany, blind trust is not desirable. Stefan Schal, dean of the Max Planck School of Artificial Intelligence from Tubingen, said: “We have to make people understand what robots can and cannot do. Now many people are afraid that robots will one day Surpass us humans, but this is impossible.”
  In Japan, where robots have been used for a long time, people’s trust in robots is most obvious. “Sometimes, people don’t trust each other, especially the elderly, who are full of distrust to outsiders. But their attitudes towards robots are completely opposite.” Japan’s most famous robotics research expert Hiroshi Ishiguro came to this conclusion through observation. . Nowadays, robots are used in many areas of Japanese daily life, such as elderly care, housework assistants, airport guidance and even hotel reception. Robots are regarded as popular life assistants, because here, the aging problem of the population is increasing day by day, and robots can just fill the job vacancies caused by labor shortage.
  However, in Germany, this kind of trust in robots is far worse. Here, the field of using machines is mainly in factories. Germany, China, South Korea, and the United States are the four countries with the largest investment in digital equipment in the world, and they are also beneficiaries of these equipment. Robots can significantly improve our competitiveness. The well-known sports brand Adidas has launched a production plan called “Rapid Production” in which robots and 3D printers are used to produce sports shoes. In the past 23 years, Adidas has been OEM production in countries where labor is cheap.
  In Germany today, robots have also left the factory. During a week on the topic of “the future of work” on German TV, machines were discussed as “job killers”, and their impact on the labor market caused a lot of debate. “Except for the industrial field, robots will not take away our jobs. Only when there is a labor shortage in the future, they will be put into use. Such as the nursing industry.” Stefan Schal said, “If robots can help take care of me The 91-year-old aunt allows her to stay in her own home longer, which is a very good thing.”