Can we get over our aversion to AI?

Scaremongering news headlines and TV shows like Black Mirror have got many of us fearful that ‘the robots are coming’, while the Japanese have been happily frolicking with robot dogs for decades. We delve into the differing perceptions of AI in East and West

Barely a day goes by without another ground-breaking development in artificial intelligence, whether it’s a new technique to help detect the deadliest form of ovarian cancer in women, or the ‘world’s first’ AI bin that tackles waste in restaurants by keep tracking of what types of food are being thrown away too often.

Whatever the latest headline, it is clear that we have well and truly entered the age of AI. The technology is set to define everything from the future of transport to healthcare, and is expected to add as much as $15.7 trillion to the global economy by 2030, according to a recent report by PwC.

teamLab, What a Loving, and Beautiful World digital installation, 2011 © teamLab

As AI has become more of a part of our lives over the last few years, what has also become clear is people’s uncertainty of the technology, aggravated by hysteria-inducing news headlines like ‘Robots are coming for you and your job: Experts discuss the imminent threat of machines on EVERY industry’, or ‘AI developed by the US military that tracks EVERYTHING you do online could one day be used by bosses to keep tabs on you, privacy experts say’.

The ‘robots are coming’ attitude orchestrated by the Western media is a far cry from countries like Japan, for instance, where the public has been accustomed to having AI as part of their everyday lives for much longer. AIBO, Sony’s cute robot dog which purely fulfils the function of keeping humans company, was first introduced in the country in the 90s and has gone through various incarnations since then, but has always been met with a more subdued reaction in the West.