With Google’s AI assistant able to make phone calls and androids populating households in games and films, the line between machine and man is getting scarily blurred. Just a few weeks ago, Google demonstrated that its home-assistant robot is capable of holding an unsettlingly natural conversation with a human being over the phone to book a haircut or make a restaurant reservation, complete with “ums” and “ahs” to make the listener believe they are talking to a real person. In the game, household androids that have been mistreated by humans start rebelling, eventually banding together to demand rights.
It is not an original premise, but video games now look so lifelike that it is a good litmus test for how comfortable you feel with the idea of a human-like android. The game’s characters, played by human actors, look almost indistinguishably close to real people. In Japan, where the animus belief perhaps makes people more comfortable with the idea that spirit can reside in something that isn’t human, robots are already being used as shop assistants, in care homes and in schools. Japan is the world leader in robotics and demand is high for robots that could help fill a shortfall in nursing care. In Europe, by contrast, people are generally uncomfortable with the idea of an android performing roles that require interaction with humans.