On February 23, 2019, the Kodaiji temple in Kyoto, Japan unveiled Mindar, the Android Kannon. The robot, its head and hands covered in something resembling human skin but otherwise machine-like, was fashioned after Kannon, the Buddhist deity of mercy.
“The android…is programmed to deliver a ‘sermon’ from the Heart Sutras in Japanese. The translated versions of English and Chinese are projected on a screen.”
While Mindar’s existence may seem strange (according to AFP, some have compared it to Frankenstein’s monster), the temple feels the android may help bridge the old and the new, and perhaps inspire younger generations.
At the time of the unveiling, a fellow priest at the temple, Tensho Goto, said, “We are hoping that the Android Kannon will help Buddhist teaching reach the hearts of people today.”
Goto also believes advancements in artificial intelligence may lead Mindar to become a source of wisdom in its own right. “With AI we hope it will grow in wisdom to help people overcome even the most difficult troubles,” he told AFP earlier this month.
It’s an intriguing prospect, that an immortal robot may exist to pass down knowledge across generations, forever delivering its sermons. Adding artificial intelligence into the equation (whatever that may look like in the future) raises some interesting questions about how robots may react to religion. Or how they may be used.
That said, I don’t know if it’s just me, but 0:40 sounds almost exactly like something out of Nier: Automata.