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Robots now are the airplanes of Miyazaki's 'The Wind Rises'

The Wind Rises is Hayao Miyazaki's latest, and possibly last full length animated film. It is a fictionalized story of the life of Jiro Horikoshi, the designer and engineer of the Mitsubishi Zero, the plane that Japanese Kamikaze pilots flew to their deaths. It is a deeply moving and tragic film.


In the movie, Jiro is portrayed as a dreamer, primarily interested in using the latest technology of his day - aviation technology - to make something beautiful that the world had never seen before. His aim was not to make weapons of war, but that is ultimately what ended up happening.

I saw the film yesterday and cried and cried and cried. Jiro had such a drive to create these machines. He was enthralled by their beauty and potential. But ultimately he had no control over how they would be used.

I am reminded of the film this morning by an article about a Carnegie Mellon professor of robotics Illah Nourbakhsh. Professor Nourbakhsh does not accept defense funding. Like Jiro, he wants to use cutting edge technology for good.

“The reason we don’t take defense funding, is we want to build robots and robot technologies that we want people to use,” he said. “We don’t want to spend all our time building a really advanced interesting killing machine that we hope nobody ever has to use.”

In eastern thought, "The Wind Rises" can be roughly translated as "The winds of change are upon us."

This is evident in the film, which begins with the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 that leveled Tokyo. We see Japan moving from its traditional society to take its place in the modern world.

After a visit to Germany, Jiro is painfully aware of how poor and backward Japan is. They are still making planes of wood and canvas, and hauling them to the airstrip for testing with oxen. Japan is in a hurry to move forward.

Today the wind is rising once again.

The chill wind of technology blows, and the Giants are in a mad rush toward the unprecedented glories that technology will inevitably bring. There are a few voices of caution. Bill Joy was one of the first. Jaron Lanier is another, as is Professor Nourbakhsh, who warns of a potential dystopian future in his book, Robot Futures.

With his film, The Wind Rises, Hayao Miyazaki is another voice of caution. There is nothing overbearing or heavy handed in the message of the film. The viewer will be left to draw his own conclusions.

The message that I was left with is to always be careful of your actions, and think of how your creations may be used once they are out of your control.


We are all creators. Our words and actions are fundamentally creative acts.

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Michael Nystrom's picture

Kurzweil: Robots will be smarter than us all by 2029


By 2029, computers will be able to understand our language, learn from experience and outsmart even the most intelligent humans, according to Google’s director of engineering Ray Kurzweil.

One of the world’s leading futurologists and artificial intelligence (AI) developers, 66-year-old Kurzweil has previous form in making accurate predictions about the way technology is heading.

In 1990 he said a computer would be capable of beating a chess champion by 1998 – a feat managed by IBM’s Deep Blue, against Garry Kasparov, in 1997.

When the internet was still a tiny network used by a small collection of academics, Kurzweil anticipated it would soon make it possible to link up the whole world.

Now, Kurzweil says than within 15 years robots will have overtaken us, having fulfilled the so-called Turing test where computers can exhibit intelligent behaviour equal to that of a human.


He's the man.
jrd3820's picture

Aren't they already smarter than us?

Why don't people see the danger in all of this?

I think I am going to write Kurzweil a letter. A strongly worded letter concerning my concerns about all of this nonsense.

“I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living.”
― Dr. Seuss

Michael Nystrom's picture

Because it is going to be really cool!

Unless, that is, it is really bad.

I stole that from the front of the NYT Magazine this last Sunday. There is an article about bringing back extinct species!

Right now they're working on the passenger pigeon.

The passenger pigeon’s decline was impossible to ignore, because as recently as the 1880s, it was the most populous vertebrate in North America. It made up as much as 40 percent of the continent’s bird population.

And now it is extinct. Isn't that incredible? The last one died in 1914, in captivity.

And now they want to bring it back to life. By 2025 they hope. They talk about how they're going to do it in that article. There is a beautiful picture of one at that link, with its reddish orange breast and purple wings.

The species’ incredible abundance was an enticement to mass slaughter. The birds were hunted for their meat, which was sold by the ton (at the higher end of the market, Delmonico’s served pigeon cutlets); for their oil and feathers; and for sport. Even so, their rapid decline — from approximately five billion to extinction within a few decades — baffled most Americans.


They're also working on the Wooly Mammoth.

I'm thinking of stopping by the Harvard Museum of Natural History one of these days soon. I've been there before. They have all kinds of animals there. Maybe they have a passenger pigeon.

Anyway, if you're going to be writing letters, don't forget about these guys too. They could use a letter too. Ask them if they saw Jurassic Park.

He's the man.
Joη's picture

it's a numbers game

Even those who refuse to create war machines will be outnumbered by those who will, all the more so in a prolonged poor economy, like one caused by a society making frequent use of war machines.

And any skill gap can be made up with manpower at this level of technology. It's depressing.

But thanks, yes, I look forward to seeing this one.

"You underestimate the character of man." | "So be off now, and set about it." | Up for a game?

Spirited Away and the music by Joe Hisaishi

absolutely enchanted me with its imagination so I am excited to see The Wind Rises. Spirited Away won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film in 2002 outgrossing Titanic as the most successful box office film in Japanese history. Critics were acclaiming it as one of the best films of the 2000s decade and one of the greatest animated films of all time.

Joe Hisaishi has written the soundtracks to many of Miyazaki's films, This song is from Spirited Away.

Joe Hisaishi Live - One Summer’s Day



"For the people who used to be 10 years old,
and the people who are going to be 10 years old."
--Hayao Miyazaki

Michael Nystrom's picture

I didn't know about Joe Hisaishi

Thank you.

The train scene from Spirited Away is probably my favorite, also with music composed by Joe. This is the best clip I can find on YouTube of it, which will give something of the flavor, but is all the more reason to see the whole film:


He's the man.


an anamated movie making its debut on the daily paul. Huge fan of animated movies/shows, and am looking forward to seeing this one. Depending on the story animated can tell better stories than live action.

jrd3820's picture

Michael, have you read this book?


It's been a while since I read it, but it's a great dystopia. I'm not even sure if you will necessarily like it or anything. The reason I am posting it here is because my brother in law sent me this article today


He knows I compare the rate of which modern technology is moving forward with how it moved forward in the past and even though I don't like it, I do from time to time pay attention.

The books in that article are pretty popular ones with a few exceptions. But in all cases, technology created in a fictional setting in the far past has come to light, and people that early wrote about such technology or created some of it have no control over how it is used.

I posted Stand on Zanzibar because I had forgotten how much it resonated with modern America, not so much because of any specific piece of technology.

Here is the author of the article posted above reviewing the book;

John Brunner’s Stand On Zanzibar is widely recognized as the most prophetic science fiction novel ever. Published in 1969, it posits a future America of 2010 that sounds eerily similar to the one we live in now. Under the leadership of President Obomi, the United States is plagued by random acts of violence including school shootings, as well as terrorist attacks. Cars are powered by rechargeable electric fuel cells, Detroit is an abandoned wasteland with a new style of electronic music. And young men and women are eschewing marriage for short-term, low commitment hookups. It’s quite the startling read.-Thor Jensen

Ok, that's all. I got that article today and it made me think of what you said in this post about how the creators ultimately do not have control of how their creations are used long after they are gone.

“I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living.”
― Dr. Seuss

Michael Nystrom's picture

Thank you for leaving me this little easter egg

I always check the bookshelf. I love to find little surprises. But the bookshelf is about to be overrun by a whole slew of covers from this thread.

That article was awesome, and that book sounds awesome.

Under the leadership of President Obomi ...

You have got to be kidding me!

I'm going to put this on my ever growing list of books to read. I really love science fiction. Of course, every day the world gets more and more like sci fi.

Speaking of which, there is a new sci-fi movie coming starring Scarlett Johansen. I like the poster better than I liked the trailer, so I'll post that here.

BTW, that link in your signature line is incredible!

He's the man.
jrd3820's picture

Gaiman, Bradbury, and Miyazaki interviews and whatnot

Neil Gaiman is interesting to me.

He is a prolific writer, but I have only ever loved American Gods from him. I don’t hate the other stuff I have read, Stardust and The Ocean at the End of the Lane, it’s just not always my style, but again… American Gods is a timeless masterpiece .

Anyways, I stumbled upon this interview on soundcloud because I do like listening to him as he is smart. It’s kinda long, but a name jumped out to me. Hayao Miyazaki…. ‘I have recently heard this name…’ I thought to myself…. Turns out it was right here at the DP in this thread.

I never saw Spirited Away or Princess Mononoke. As much as I love fiction and children’s/young adult literature/stories, for some reason I never made my way to those stories, in this interview when he talks about Miyazaki he discusses how they both still have a love and understanding of childhood which is why he thinks their styles are so similar.

In my stream this came up next. It is shorter, and kind of unrelated to this thread but really interesting. It is his thoughts on Ray Bradbury and how frustrating it must have been for him to lose his words. It was a birthday present he wrote for Ray. It’s almost poetic. Actually I suggest this one over the one above. I thought about making it it's own post because Gaiman and Bradbury probably have some fans here and it is so well written/read.

“I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living.”
― Dr. Seuss

Michael Nystrom's picture

Spirited Away, American Gods

Samantha just asked me which one I liked better - Spirited Away, or The Wind Rises.

For me, as epic as The Wind Rises is, there is something so beautiful about Spirited Away. It was the biggest box office hit in Japan ever, when I saw it in the theater for the first time. I was still in Seattle, so it must have been around 2001 or 02. I didn't know anything about Miyazaki at the time. There was a huge line going around the block for the movie at the Neptune theater on 45th in the U District. The theater was packed, and I got an incredible surprise and a treat. I love surprises like that. I had no idea what I was in for. I think you'd really like it.

Samantha said for her it was The Wind Rises. She said it is closer to what we're living in now. She doesn't do robots, but she does neuroscience, and that is the new technology too. Being new, it suffers the same fate: How will the technology that she is pioneering ultimately be used, and by whom?

And American Gods. That is just in a class all by itself. I haven't really liked much of anything else he's written, either, but I just this week got his new book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane. I'm going to read it tomorrow or Monday (or both). It is short enough that I think I can finish it in a day or two. We're getting another snowstorm Sunday night and into Monday.

Right now I feel about like this kid:


So a day of snuggling in the bed with a book sounds good.

I'm listening to the first one you posted now.

He's the man.
jrd3820's picture

Oh. My. God.

I just watched Spirited Away. It was amazing. I loved it. Alice in Wonderland, Wizard of Oz, Spirited Away. I have to check to see if The Wind Rises is playing anywhere near me as I am even more interested now. I'm so glad I watched it.

“I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living.”
― Dr. Seuss