This is the most interesting thing that I read today:

Not only does Japan have an economic need and the technological know-how for robots, but it also has a cultural predisposition. The ancient Shinto religion, practiced by 80 percent of Japanese, includes a belief in animism, which holds that both objects and human beings have spirits. As a result, Japanese culture tends to be more accepting of robot companions as actual companions than is Western culture, which views robots as soulless machines. In a culture where the inanimate can be considered to be just as alive as the animate, robots can be seen as members of society rather than as mere tools or as threats.

— Alec J. Ross, The Industries of the Future
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