A niche of the Japanese robotics industry are developing humanoid robotics as a research tool to understand:
what does it mean to be human as technology progresses?
Luisa Whitton first became interested in what she describes as “technology and it’s effects on identity, in particular its ability to create a double self” while working on a project during the second year of her BA at London College of Communication. Whitton spent several months in Japan working with Hiroshi Ishiguro, a Japanese scientist who had constructed a robotic copy of himself, and continued to work with other scientists documenting their scientific progress on humanoids.
“In the photographs, I am trying to subvert the traditional formula of portraiture and allure the audience into a debate on the boundaries that determine the dichotomy of the human/not human. The photographs become documents of objects that sit between scientific tool and horrid simulacrum”
Whitton’s images are often accompanied by transcribed interviews between herself and the scientists, which she asks questions on the philosophy and role of religion in creating such robots. In doing so the text gives access to the human side of the project, and an insight into the scientist’s pursuit of answering the larger question: what does it mean to be human as technology progresses?
We are not so serious about religion. In the United States, some states refuse to teach Darwinism. That is very strange for me. As a Japanese Scientist, we have a freedom from this
type of thinking, we think about technology and philosophy free from religion.
And did you know, Honda, when they designed the Asimo and P3 robot, they asked the Vatican if it was okay to create the humanoid, and the Vatican said yes. They were told; God trusts humankind. There is no problem.” (Interview excerpt with Scientist Minoru Asda)
“The definition of human will be more complicated, there is no absolute definition. We use artificial
organs more and more, and replace our bodies with machines.”
“What about the heart?”
“The heart is the easiest part. Artificial hearts are very popular now. The liver is more difficult” (Interview excerpt with Scientist Hiroshi Ishiguro, University of Osaka)