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Japanese anime, manga offer hints as to ‘apocalyptic’ AI, robots
By Tomoko Mitsuoka  |  Jun 12, 2024
Japanese anime, manga offer hints as to ‘apocalyptic’ AI, robots
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Western films and cartoons tend to play up apocalyptic fears in their portrayals of AI, robotics, and other advanced tech, but Japanese anime and manga show how these might just end up blending in and becoming part of people’s everyday lives, argues AI ethicist Tomoko Mitsuoka.

TOKYO - Japanese anime and manga have long enjoyed a boom in popularity among many people outside Japan. Robots and other advanced tech powered by artificial intelligence (AI) feature in many of these cartoons, with three in particular that stand out.

The first is Astro Boy, created by Osamu Tezuka in 1952 and animated in 1963. Astro was created by Dr Tenma - or Dr Boynton in the English version - to resemble his dead son, who was raised by Prof Ochanomizu - or Prof Elufun in the English version. The energy source used to power Astro Boy was nuclear power - later nuclear fusion - and Astro Boy was portrayed as having emotions the same as those of a human being. According to people in the Japanese robotics industry, many who read the manga and watched the anime version of Astro Boy cited its huge impact and influence in deciding to become robotic researchers. 

On April 7, 2003, Astro Boy was registered as a citizen of the city of Niiza in central Saitama Prefecture, where his creator Tezuka Production is located.  

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