Reasons Why Robots Are Better Than Children
by Mad Dog
Japanese look at robots differently than we do. While we use them to
build cars that fall apart quickly, they’re using them to fulfill
their nurturing needs.
||For years we’ve been
hearing that the day was near when robots would be running around
doing all the things we hate to do, like cleaning the house, cooking,
shopping, and watching Larry King just in case someone accidentally
says something of substance. But there’s a reason Popular Science
and Time aren’t named the Nostradamus Weekly —
besides the fact that they didn’t think of it — they’re much
better at reporting what has already occurred than what will happen,
which is why they had no idea robots would replace children before
Toddler replacement is nothing new.
It started with Cabbage Patch Kids. They begat Teddy Ruxpin, which
begat Furby, which begat Ubu-love, an interactive doll that for some
odd reason lays an egg, much as Kevin Costner did with his last few
films. Then came Primopuel, a human-looking monkey doll that talks in
a childlike voice and has a repertoire of over 200 phrases. Kind of
like Victoria Jackson with an “off” switch. Over 100,000 childless
women in Japan have snapped them up at $65 each. Okay, 6,980 yen. This
should come as no surprise since this is, after all, the country that
gave us Hello Kitty, Tamagotchi, and ATMs that sterilize and iron
money before dispensing it.
But what do you do once your
Primopuel is couple of years old and still stuck on only 200 phrases?
Face it, no one wants a slow learner doll as their surrogate
offspring. Luckily Japanese researchers are one step ahead of us.
They’ve just released Wakamaru, a $14,300 robot that’s shaped like
a child, recognizes the faces of up to 10 people, and speaks with a
vocabulary of 10,000 words. Its manufacturer, Mitsubishi-Heavy
Industries Ltd., says it can give you a wake-up call, remind you of
your day’s schedule, and if linked to a mobile phone, can be both
housesitter and security guard. I’d like to see your toddler do that
without breaking the child labor laws.
Japanese are known for being trendsetters — after all, they ate
sushi, used a Walkman, and visited Pearl Harbor before I did — we
should look closely at this fad and see if maybe they’re onto
Obviously the Japanese look at robots differently than we do.
While we use them to build cars that fall apart quickly, they use them
to fulfill their nurturing needs. While we design them to be
Democratic presidential candidates named Al and John, they make ones
that hug you. It’s true. At RoboFesta, a real life robot exhibition
held in Kawasaki (the city near Tokyo, not the motorcycle), there was
a robot named Robovie that could “express affection” by hugging a
This points out another cultural
difference. In the United States we’d arrest the robot for child
molestation or imitating Michael Jackson, prompting Congress to spend
weeks debating whether we need more specific laws against it when they
could be using that time to do something more constructive, like going
on free trips with lobbyists who wouldn’t think of wanting anything
in return. In Japan, on the other hand, they display the robot proudly
and put it on sale for $93,000. Heck, you can’t even buy a junior
Senator for that money in the U.S.
Since the Japanese are known for
being trendsetters — after all, they ate sushi, used a Walkman, and
visited Pearl Harbor before I did — we should look closely at this
fad and see if maybe they’re onto something. Since I know you
don’t have time to do this, and I have way too much, I’ve done it
Reasons Why Robots Are Better Than Children
You can turn
robots off, return them to the store where you bought them, or throw
them in the recycling bin without worrying about who your cellmate
will be and which one of you will be on top. I’m referring to the
sleeping bunks, of course.
1. Robots don’t need to be fed, won’t spit up
on your new shirt, and never need to have their diapers changed.
2. They won’t wake you up in the middle of
the night, swing the cat around by its tail, or whine. If they do,
you can take out their batteries and not get a visit from Child
3. Robots are cheaper than babies. Well,
unless you buy babies from Gangusamy Ramachandran, the man in India
who was arrested recently for trying to sell a youngster for $22.83.
While this sounds outrageous, he claims that’s exactly what he
paid for it.
4. You don’t lose your youthful figure by
getting a robot. On the other hand, you can’t use it as an excuse
for having lost your youthful figure.
5. Robots come with a warranty.
6. Robots save you money by not needing the
latest, trendiest, and most expensive clothes, not sucking up every
penny you could be spending on yourself so they can go to college
and get a degree they won’t use when they decide being a
multi-pierced barrista at Starbucks qualifies as a career
path, and not hitting you up for a Primopuel when they’re thirty
and don’t want children yet still would like something around the
house that can say cute things, none of them being “Honey, what
are you thinking?”
7. Robots don’t mind sitting at home alone
for two weeks while you’re in Cancun. If you do take them, you can
check them as baggage and not pay for a seat.
8. Fewer headaches, though to be fair you
can’t blame all your headaches on children. A man in South Korea
who had a headache for four years recently went to a doctor who
discovered he had a 2-inch nail in his skull. There wasn’t the
first child in there. See what I mean?
9. You can turn robots off, return them to the
store where you bought them, or throw them in the recycling bin
without worrying about who your cellmate will be and which one of
you will be on top. I’m referring to the sleeping bunks, of
10. Two words: no adolescence.
©2000, 2005 Mad Dog
Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
These columns appear in better newspapers across the country. Read
them while waiting for the robot to arrive.