A 450-year-old Buddhist temple in Chiba Prefecture, Japan, gives a unique 21st-century twist to traditional funeral services by offering Buddhist rites for missing robot dogs.
The historic Kofuku-ji Buddhist Temple in the coastal town of Isumi recently held solemn funeral rites for 114 of Sony’s iconic “Aibo” robotic dogs, with priests in traditional robes chanting sutras and offering prayers for the puppies in plastic missing.
Recognizing the impermanence of all compound phenomena is one of the fundamental tenets of Buddhism, and this of course includes cybernetic dogs. When the first generation of Aibo hit stores in 1999, it was marketed as a world first: a home entertainment robot that could develop its own “personality”. Sony reportedly sold over 150,000 robot dogs in various iterations and updates before the company ceased production in 2006. In 2014, Sony finally ended repair services at its “clinic” for the malfunction. Aibos, leaving owners whose bionic buddies needed mechanical attention with an uncertain future.
Surprisingly, Buddhist funeral rites for these electronic doggies are not actually a new phenomenon. In recent years, electronics repair company A-Fun, which has continued to service the robots since Sony closed its clinic, has sent around 800 retired Aibos to the temple to receive a final shipment before they go. be salvaged for spare parts – a form of robotic reincarnation, perhaps.
A-Fun executive Nobuyuki Norimatsu is cited by The Japan Times saying, “We would like to return souls to the owners and make the robot a machine to use their parts.” We do not participate until we have organized a funeral for them. A repaired Aibo, he testified, is given a new lease of life thanks to the generosity of other Aibo owners, whose automated dogs have become life-saving donors. “I feel it touches the combined hearts of the owners,” he added. (The Japan Times)
Small robots often arrive at the temple with notes or letters from their owners that indicate the name they gave their mechanical companion and how they spent their time together. “Please help the other Aibos. Tears came to my eyes when I decided to say goodbye, ”reads one of these notes, while another declares:“ I am relieved to know that there will be a prayer for my Aibo. . (The Japan Times)
Returning from the somewhat unorthodox funeral formalities, the chief priest of Kofuku-ji, Bungen Oi, was quick to dismiss any suggestion that the conduct of funeral rites for doggie droids is ridiculous: “All things have gone wrong. a little soul, ”he observed. (The Japan Times)
Still, Aibo was not completely buried. Sony unveiled an updated version of Aibo in January this year that came with modern hardware and software, as well as internet connectivity, although it did not carry over maintenance from older models.
A majority of the Japanese population, around 57 percent, claim no religious affiliation, according to 2010 data from the Pew Research Center, based in Washington, DC. Buddhists make up the second segment of the population with 36.2 percent, while the other religions combined make up around 10 percent.
In Japan, Aibo robots have their own funeral (The Japan Times)
In Japan, old robot dogs receive a Buddhist shipment (NPR)
over 100 sony aibo robot dogs have their own funeral at buddhist temple in japan (design boom)
114 Very Good Sony Aibo Robot Dogs Get Traditional Buddhist Temple (Mashable)