Moving Towards Society 5.0

Security in Society 5.0: Possibilities and Pitfalls, co-organized by Cyber Civilization Research Center, Keio University and the Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs, Australian National University, was successfully hosted on April 23. It sought to discuss the Society 5.0 concept as advocated by the Japanese Government and Keidanren – the Japanese Business Federation.

Society 5.0 is foreseen as an ambitious project which aims through the integration of the physical and cyber realms, to address existing economic and social problems. This idea of ‘Society 5.0’ sees technological change and advancement as overwhelmingly something positive and controllable, offering solutions to many of the big challenges Japan and other developed countries are facing. Yet such a perspective downplays many potential dangers that come from cyber and A.I. becoming so deeply integrated into the functioning of society. The use of big data and algorithms give rise to concerns about surveillance and manipulation, while the potential social ramifications of A.I. are only starting to be comprehended.

The event sought to interrogate the assumptions and logic underpinning the Society 5.0 concept, focusing on the viability of this approach, as well as exploring some of the potential risks posed by a greater reliance on cyberspace and A.I. The discussion was divided into two panels: the first panel sought to understand ethical, moral and legal ramifications and implications of using A.I., big data and deep-learning approaches, while the second panel sought to highlight examples of Society 5.0 and the use of these technologies within Japan.

Security in Society 5.0: Possibilities and Pitfalls

The first panel was hosted by Prof. David Farber, the co-director of the Keio University Cyber Civilization Research Center. Prof. Toni Erskine, Professor of International Politics and Director of the Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs at The Australian National University discussed the broader ethical consideration regarding the integration of A.I. in technology. She identified three core risks that should be carefully considered. First, the physiological tendency to disown responsibility towards the integration of these technologies and in cases of mistakes. Second, the misattribution of human characteristics to machines. She also highlighted the tendency to understand e.g. robots as humanized machines. Third and finally, the risk that biases could develop as a result of automatization.

Prof. Jiro Kokuryo, Vice-President for International Collaboration at Keio University, started by asking what is the main purpose of A.I.? Would it be primarily for the human benefit, filling the notion of human rights or would it develop according to the market principle, serving commercial interests? He illustrated these issues by discussing the ability of targeted marketing tools. Prof. Christopher Hobson, Visiting Professor at Ritsumeikan University, built further on the ethical discussions and asked the question on how society could deal with new possible risks and vulnerabilities, and how in particular we could identify groups that would be at the greatest risk and made the case to which extent we seek to integrate these technologies. Moritz Marutschke from Ritsumeikan University, also raised the question of how Japan’s society could develop an adaptive equilibrium between human and A.I. In this, Prof. Marutschke made the point for a clear set of goals for the integration of these technologies.

Security in Society 5.0: Possibilities and Pitfalls

The second panel discussed practical examples of the integration of these technologies. Prof. Andrew DeWit of Rikkyo University, discussed the concept of smart cities, illustrating this by the example of Japan’s waterworks and how they could benefit and improve their efficiency through these technologies. Prof. Arisa Ema, of The University of Tokyo, discussed the fundamental philosophy and key principals that should guide the integration of A.I. into society in general. She empathized the need for humanity and transparency and raised the question of how these could be translated into reality. Prof. Masaka Umejima, of Keio University, talked about the importance of an open strategy to be considered in the Society 5.0 with the example of Energy Management System in Japan, while Mr. Hokuto Osaka of the METI shared the new policy decision made at Japan’s IT Strategy Headquarter in Dec 2018, and pointed out the key priority of the new governance model is to bring together the real space with the cyberspace architecture with a data interoperability framework. Discussant Robert Fahey of Waseda University summarized the panel adequately by making the point that society 5.0 seems all about moving forward towards a better future and society, while keeping it would not cause considerable upheaval.

The workshop illustrated the perils and pitfalls of society 5.0. It showed that it has the potential to address a set of problems facing Japan now and soon. From aging to healthcare and medical resources management, to smart electric grids, Society 5.0 holds considerable potential to address some of Japan’s most pressing problems. At the same, it became apparent that the integration of these technologies and the Society 5.0 concept requires a serious discussion over the ethical, legal and moral considerations of integrating these technologies into society. The potential to alter Japan’s society for the better brings up questions too about what kind of society Japan wants in the future? In this, the workshop served as a starting point to connect like-minded scholars and to foster future research on these topics.

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