Freelance writer Tim Hornyak is the author of ‘Loving the Machine: The Art and Science of Japanese Robots.’ He anticipates that the family robot will become a reality in Japan
Tim Hornyak lives by a maxim. “You have to keep doing leaps of faith,” he said. “You can be bowled over by insecurity — that’s something I’ve observed. But you can be creative. I’d like to encourage others to take their leaps of faith.”
That is a brave precept from someone who lives by freelance writing. “You have five or six balls juggling at one time,” he said. “You don’t know the next chapter. It’s a bit of a mixture coming at you. I’d like to find myself in a more stable situation, but I think I’ll continue the way I am for quite a while. It makes it worthwhile to try.”
Hornyak’s father as a young emigrating man took the family name from Hungary to Canada. His mother was an adventurous young woman who moved from England to Canada. The two met and married and settled with their two little girls and youngest baby Tim.
Hornyak was only 19 when his father died. He says that his mother is his inspiration. She is an artist, self-disciplined, and becoming known internationally for the emotion she projects in her work.
“In 1987, she was the only Canadian invited to participate in the World Exhibition in Paris. That show featured artists such as Modigliani, Picasso, and van Dongen,”Hornyak said.
Hornyak began his academic life with a French diploma from Dawson College, Montreal, and moved to an honors BA degree from McGill University, Montreal.
He spent the summer of 1996 with CNN in Seoul, assisting bureau staff there in general news production. He followed with a year’s extensive reporting, analysis and research on Korean reunification. This work led to his completing a master’s degree in journalism from Carleton University, Ottawa.
“I always loved reading and writing,” Hornyak said. “I harbored a secret desire to become a writer. I also wanted to write poetry, haiku and always wanted to do something creative. Freelancing was my experience and opportunity.”
In 1998, he set himself up in Montreal as a freelance journalist. His range covered topics from business features to medical research reporting and human rights profiles. His Montreal associations still persist. He had his chance, something he had always wanted, to come to Japan in 1999.
At Kyodo News he edited breaking news, and wrote features and compiled news summaries. “If you are able to write about Japan, it’s a dream come true,” Hornyak said. With energy and finesse he undertook editing for NHK TV News, program scripts and a variety of topics. He placed his own stories and photos in many well-known local and international publications.
A big opportunity came his way when Lonely Planet Japan was looking for a coauthor to write the Western Honshu chapter for its 2007 edition. Hornyak gladly took the assignment.
He traveled freely and widely, basking in the scenery, criss-crossing the Inland Sea, grading hotel and inn entries. He checked on availability of access, on restaurants and local night life, and reported on fruit, flowers, and fishing.
He met “amazing, individual” people who told their own quirky tales. “You find these people living out there in the countryside, and they tell you the way they respond to foreign travelers.”
Hornyak is also the author of “Loving the Machine: The Art and Science of Japanese Robots,” published last year by Kodansha International. Amazon.com selected this book as one of its top 10 science titles for 2006.
Hornyak quoted the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry in its estimate of the expansion over the next decade of service robots, with Japan already having about half the world’s industrial robots in action.
Hornyak believes that Japanese people anticipate a peaceful domestic coexistence with robots, to monitor their security, to entertain and help with housework and daily tasks, and assist health-care.
“Robots are emerging as niche market products in Japan,” he said. “The family robot will become a reality in Japan.” He looks beyond today’s application of robots to the basic feeling nurtured by Japanese of respecting tools that are used.
“Inanimate objects in general are accorded respect,” he said. “The Japanese have a great ability to recognize something beyond the immediate. That really interests me.”
He has his own goal. “Part of myself to be writing a mixture of fiction and non-fiction,” he said. “I like the meeting of technology and culture.”
He has ideas for screen plays, and enjoys his walks in the countryside, skiing, and hot-spring baths. He still follows his haiku trails. “Whatever you do for your own pleasure, sooner or later you are coming back to follow your interest in writing and desire to be creative.”