This chapter introduces readers to distinct Chinese, Japanese, and South Korean perspectives on and approaches to AI and robots as tools and partners in the AI ethics debate. Little discussed and often ignored, this sensitive topic commands our attention as it continues to grow in local importance. Given East Asia’s influential position as a source of global inspiration, development, and supply of AI and robotics, we would do well to inform ourselves of what’s to come.
Each country’s perspectives on and approaches to AI and robots on the tool-partner spectrum are evaluated by examining its policy, academic thought, local practices, and popular culture. This analysis places South Korea in the tool range, China in the middle of the spectrum, and Japan in the partner range. All three countries hold a salient tension between top-down tool approaches and bottom-up partner perspectives. This tension is likely to increase both in magnitude and importance and shape local and global development and regulation trajectories in the years to come.