There has been a lot of discussion over the last several years around automation technology and advanced robots taking jobs away from humans. Well, the clergy are next on the robot-forged chopping block.
At the Life Ending Industry Expo (fun name!), a funeral industry fair in Tokyo, Japan, Softbank’s robot Pepper was on display as a replacement for human Buddhist priests.
Funerals in Japan can average more than 2.3 million yen ($25,000 USD) based on a 2008 study by Japan’s Consumer Association. Up to 25% of that total cost can be for the services of a priest.
Nissei Eco, a plastic molding company, displayed a customized Pepper robot at the funeral fair that can chant sutras and tap a drum, providing a cheaper alternative to human priests. The cost of Pepper performing a service will be about one-fifth of the average cost for a human priest. Additionally, the robot will be able to live-stream the service online for anyone not able to attend in person.
Religion has often had to change in order to stay relevant (although the changes are usually slow to come, and done purely for survival), but as technological development continues to revolutionize society, religions will have to adapt more and more quickly or risk dying out. Like “The Catholic App” which I covered late last year, religions are trying to reach people in new ways in order to desperately retain what power they have.
Pepper has not been hired to perform any funeral services yet, but it is likely just a matter of time before robots play a much more expansive role in our lives, including the end.