Overview of the 18th “Asia Pacific Forum, Awaji Conference Japan” Forum

Picture Symposium 2017

  • Date:
    Saturday August 5 2017
  • Location:
    Awaji Yumebutai International Conference Center
    (1 Yumebutai, Awaji-shi, Hyogo, Japan)
  • Theme:
    "Technology, Culture and the Future"
  • Details:
  • Koji MURATA
    (Professor, Faculty of Law, Doshisha University)
    • ○Keynote Proposal
      1) The Future Society where Human and AI Work Together
      Takahira YAMAGUCHI (Professor, Faculty of Science and Technology, Keio University)
      2) Media Upheaval and Social Change-The Age of Redefining Mass Media
      Shinichi YOSHIDA (President, TV Asahi Holdings Corporation)
      3)The Future Wearables and IoT Open Up
      Masahiko TSUKAMOTO (Professor, Graduate School of Engineering, Kobe University)
    • ○Parallel Sessions
      Group 1: Technology for the Future
      Moderator:Masaru NAKAO (Presiding Partner, ARCO PATENT OFFICE)
      Group 2: Culture for the Future
      Moderator: Takayuki SATAKE (Professor, Institute of Business and Accounting, Professional Graduate School, Kwansei Gakuin University)
      Group 3: Fusion of Technology and Culture for the Future
      Moderator: Kazuhiko YAZAKI (President and CEO, FELISSIMO CORPORATION)
    • ○Plenary Session
      Coordinator: Yutaka KATAYAMA
      (Professor Emeritus, Kobe University and Kyoto Notre Dame University)
    • ○Summary & Acknowledgements

      Shigeyuki ABE (Professor, Faculty of Policy Studies, Doshisha University)

The forum began with an address from Representative Director Satoshi Iue of the Awaji Conference Japan. This was followed by three speakers’ keynote proposals, with Professor Koji Murata of the Faculty of Law, Doshisha University, serving as facilitator. Afterwards, upon being divided into three subcommittees, the forum participants engaged in active discussion on their respective themes.

At the plenary session held in the afternoon after lunch, Professor Emeritus Yutaka Katayama of Kobe University served as facilitator. The plenary session began with a report by the moderator of each subcommittee session on the key points of the discussion held in his subcommittee. This was followed by further in-depth discussion with the involvement of all the participants. The two-day Awaji Conference was concluded with the presentation of a summary and acknowledgements from Professor Shigeyuki Abe of the Faculty of Policy Studies, Doshisha Universtiy.

Summaries of Keynote Proposals
Future Society Featuring Cooperation between Humans and AI
Takahira Yamaguchi (Professor, Faculty of Science and Technology, Keio University)

AlphaGo, AI using deep learning for learning, beat Lee Sedol, the world’s second-ranked professional go player. The victory by AI in the complicated game of go has raised the expectation that it would be very simple to automate company operations. As a result, a spree of orders for such automation have been placed for the past year with electric appliance manufacturers. However, there have been many cases where things did not go well.

AI is software for simulating human intellectual behaviors. What can be achieved by AI varies greatly depending on the type of operation into which AI will be introduced and the type of AI technology. Accordingly, the key lies in understanding the characteristics of AI in each category, rather than AI in general, before considering the relationship between AI and humans.

Basically, deep learning does not present consequences, such as cause-and-effect relationships. What is presented are interrelations. The validity of the consequences presented by deep-learning-type AI needs to be inspected by humans using a different method.

If used effectively, AI today provides humans with new perspectives. However, if there is a need to ensure that some operating procedures are being followed correctly, it is important to integrate conventional knowledge-type AI.

As a result of the introduction of AI, there have been some cases where employees were dismissed. To realize a society featuring cooperation between humans and AI, it is necessary to consider various matters not based on occupations but based on operational processes. This will enable the division of work into what humans are good at and what AI is good at. It is said that management resources consist of the four elements of humans, goods, money, and information, but it is necessary to regard AI as a fifth management resource, and look at things from a comprehensive perspective.

Upheaval of Media and Changes in Society – Age of Redefining the Mass Media
Shinichi Yoshida (President & Representative Director, TV Asahi Holdings Corporation)

The progress in IT, social media, etc. has enabled everyone to disseminate information easily. What has been affected by this most deeply is reporting by the mass media.

The world of the mass media is now suffering a decrease in newspaper circulation, and a decrease in average viewership of TV programs. It is estimated that ad budgets for TV will be surpassed by those for the Internet in 2020.

The progress in IT, social media, etc. is getting young people away from TV and newspapers. With this background, both newspaper companies and TV broadcasters are embarking on business using the Internet. In the use of information from social media, however, an unprecedented and truly important problem has arisen – fact checking.

On the other hand, the media have been relativized considerably, leading to the established mass media being regarded as “one of them.” Added to this is the huge information flow in society, resulting in divisions in society. In this environment, distrust of the media has occurred.

It is clear that the functions of reporting can no longer work in the way they used to, and it is necessary to redefine these functions. In addition, it is also necessary to seriously discuss the ideal common information structure in a democratic society.

Newspaper circulation is decreasing, while the ad revenues of TV broadcasters will be surpassed by those of the Internet. For the 20th-century-type mass media, the appropriate business model is the largest concern.

Is it acceptable to use the Internet platform as the foundation for distributing information in society? If so, how should the platform be used? Along with the problem of fact checking fake news, these important issues should be included in the discussion not only of the 20th-century-type mass media but also of society at large.

Future Created through Wearable Computers and IoT
Masahiko Tsukamoto (Professor, Graduate School of Engineering, Kobe University)

A typical example of mobile computers is smartphones, which users can carry in their pockets but need to take them out and hold in their hands for use. An advanced version of this type of equipment is wearable computers, which users can operate while wearing on their bodies.

The size of computers has been reduced over the past five decades, and how to use them has also been changing. They were originally used for military purposes or for scientific technology calculation, but they soon began to be used for business purposes, and then were shifted to personal use. The consequence of this evolution is smartphones.

If the size reduction trend continues, the time will come when people will “wear” computers (wearable computers). Meanwhile, the trend will also usher in the age of the Internet of things (IoT), when small computers will be used by things. Unlike existing computers, which are mainly used in a huge cyberspace where people are absorbed in their activities, size-reduced computers, smaller than smartphones, are used in real space.

Although there is not widespread use of wearable computers for actual operations, it is expected that they can be used in a wide variety of fields. They are now being used on a trial basis in such fields as health care, sports, tourism, agriculture, medicine and nursing care, and police and security. It is important to create a new culture using this technology. Wearable computers and IoT will change people’s future lives.

The proposals from the speaker are “to ensure that focus is placed on real space through the use of wearable computers and IoT,” “to ensure that all the participants in next year’s Awaji Conference wear head mounted displays (HMDs),” and “to ensure that implanting businesses (implanting wearable computers in bodies) and cyborg businesses (replacing a part of the body with a machine and eventually connecting a part of the brain with a computer) are first launched in Japan.” The speaker concluded by saying that he would become a cyborg within 15 years.

Overviews of the Discussions in the Subcommittees
First Subcommittee: Future Created through Technology
Moderator: Masaru Nakao (Presiding Partner, Arco Patent Office)

In our subcommittee session, we engaged in discussion based on the theme “Future Created through Technology.” We exchanged opinions regarding how technology should evolve and how humans should handle technology.

Our session began with discussion about android robots created by Prof. Ishiguro. Some participants offered comments and asked the following questions: “Despite the progress in robots, robot production itself is analog. Aren’t the robots of Prof. Ishiguro also made in an analog manner?” and “Each phase of making robots requires special skills, such as welding, but how will the completed robots be actually used?”

Afterwards, we explored the relationship between science and fantasy. Some participants stated that science and fantasy affected each other and that scientific progress was based on fantasy.

The Consul General of the Australian Consulate-General, Osaka, introduced some technologies invented in Australia: a technology used for Wi-Fi and Google Map, and a technology used for regeneration medicine. He posed the question of how these technologies could be connected with technologies invented in Japan. For this question, some participants said: “It might not work to simply present a list of technologies, and ask ‘which technology do you need?’ Technologies always come from humans, so one option is match-making by enabling researchers or those who would like to do business based on technologies to stay in Australia for a while.” This might serve as one of the approaches for evolving technologies.

For robots, some participants asked: “Now that Fintech and advanced services that make it unnecessary for users to go to banks are available in the West, what’s the point of Japanese banks installing robots at teller windows?” However, other participants asserted: “As indicated by the concept ‘slow bank,’ some customers, such as senior citizens, prefer fact-to-face communication.” The participants continued that it was necessary to conduct business based on consumer experiences, rather than to consider the appropriateness of ensuring that robots work at all the banks.

We also discussed negative aspects of the development of technologies. Some technologies are used for preventing people from taking some action, such as shoplifting prevention technology in which IC chips are embedded in product tags; drink-drive prevention technology which detects breath containing alcohol; and illegal copying prevention technology. In China, bad manners, such as inappropriate use of shared bicycles, are recorded, and the rating points of the individuals concerned are deducted. In a way, people are monitored and restricted, and this is regarded as one of the negative aspects of technology development. Some participants also referred to the right of being forgotten, in relation to a lawsuit which caused temporary controversy in society, and stated that it was problematic that information remained a long time on the Internet.

We also explored how robots would gain self-awareness in the future. In the U.S., some researchers are working hard on the development of an autonomous judgment system for robots in order to mitigate the sense of sin of soldiers engaged in bombing and murder. This is an approach in which blame is attached to robots, alleviating humans’ psychological burden. In Japan, however, as is seen in the case of Astro Boy, there is an approach to prevent the wrongdoings by robot themselves. In the subcommittee session, some participants indicated that there were differences in ethical views, although no conclusion was reached regarding what would become of such differences in the future.

Different countries have different ethical views. Some of the participants in the subcommittee session stated that the Chinese way of managing personal credit was regarded as too extreme and abnormal in Japan, a country with a well-developed sense of ethics. Others asserted that in China, however, their way of managing personal credit was regarded as reassuring. This matter served as a good example of showing there are no universal ethical views.

We also considered the future vision of the robot industry. Some participants said that it was necessary to develop robots with consideration given to cultural and qualitative differences in the Asia-Pacific Region, and to the greatest common denominator among the general purposes of using robots. They also asserted that the evolution of technology should not be based on technology alone but on the three perspectives of technology, business, and consumer experience. It is often said that the approach to development of robots in the industrial field should be made based on the relationships of robots with humans and ethics. However, some participants indicated that the important thing in a practical sense was an approach to technological progress based on relationships with systems and society, and that this point was not being discussed in society today.

Second Subcommittee: Future Created through Culture
Takayuki Satake (Professor, Institute of Business and Accounting, Professional Graduate School, Kwansei Gakuin University) )

At the beginning of the subcommittee session, along with two of the speakers, I explained how we would advance our discussion. When I agreed to be the moderator for the subcommittee session, the first thing that hit me was the changes in Japanese-style management. Singularity is one of the symbolic phenomena. As a result of the progress in artificial intelligence (AI), what has been done so far by humans will be done by machines. Of course, as indicated today by Prof. Yamaguchi, AI should be regarded as a fifth management resource, after humans, goods, money, and information. In that sense, it will be important for companies to use AI strategically. Actually, this will concern Japanese cultural studies. In the past, the strengths of Japanese-style management have resided in the fellowship among employees, the loyalty of employees to their companies, and their sense of belonging. If automation is in place due to AI, and things become even more convenient, what will become of these strong points of Japanese-style management, compared with the U.S., Europe, and China? How will the advantageous points of Japanese-style management change with the background of development of AI? Will such changes be inevitable?

The key point lies in the speed of such changes. Of course, speed will vary depending on the field. There is less than 30 years before 2045, when singularity is expected to occur, and no one knows what things will be like when that happens. Some might change, while others might not. Some might change quickly, while others might not. Some people might be optimistic, while others might be pessimistic. Although there are a wide variety of perspectives, one thing for sure is that Japanese-style management itself and Japanese companies themselves will change. This is a discussion point that I presented in the subcommittee session, out of the belief that Japanese companies themselves are one of the aspects of Japanese culture.

Next, President Yoshida presented three discussion points that he had not mentioned in his keynote proposal: 1) culture; 2) policies; and 3) education. For the first point, he stated that the media itself was a part of the culture. For the second point, he said that it was important to explore technological progress based on a blueprint, but it was still unclear what the final target would be, and the discussion today focused only on how to achieve technological progress. For the third point, he referred to media literacy in the age when robots might provide education, although this issue concerns to what extent will people be involved.

In light of the history of tools, Prof. Tachikawa presented the three keywords of purposes, means, and memory. He said that considering that there was almost no change in the shape of humans, the purposes of tools remained almost the same throughout history. He continued that on the other hand, tools, including AI, changed considerably from the perspective of means. To explain about memory, he referred to a knife as an example. According to him, plastic would be more convenient as a material for a knife handle in light of its means and purposes. However, a knife with a wooden handle has added value, since such an item features its own attractive texture and atmosphere, appealing to human memory. He, thus, presented the discussion point that something that has remained in the memory of humans throughout history, such as texture and atmosphere, might be closely related to people’s lifestyles.

If I could give you more detailed explanations of these points, there could be another exciting discussion, but let me continue my report because of time. In the second subcommittee session, we discussed a wide variety of topics, but the main discussion was on the role of the media, or the role of the mass media. I asked whether the media was the fourth power, and some participants said that the “fourth power” was a concept adopted in the Showa era. While considering the role of the media, we also talked about how the general public should receive information from the media. This issue is related to democracy itself. The world today is experiencing division, as indicated by the Trump phenomenon, the U.K. exit from the EU, and the Macron phenomenon, disparities from which the division has stemmed, and conflicts caused by the disparities. Without fundamental education on democracy, widespread use of AI, the media, and SNS will cause a wide variety of problems. In the subcommittee session, it was indicated that this point needed to be discussed in society at large.

Another interesting discussion point presented in the subcommittee session was why there was no discussion on civilization, and what the difference was between civilization and culture. Some participants said that although sociologists and some others discussed civilization or culture, the participants themselves felt that civilization would collapse, leaving aside whether it was acceptable, while culture would be accumulated. In the process of the formation of culture, the direction to be taken in the fields of economy, management, culture, and society might be presented, even if it is on a temporary basis, and this is, of course, related to the media.

The discussion point presented by Prof. Katayama was about relationships with social capital. He presented the point based on the theory of Robert Putnam, who asserts that widespread use of the Internet enables people to obtain a wide variety of information, thereby enabling people to obtain the freedom of acquiring information and the freedom of selecting information, which will result in the development of social relationships of trust. In cyberspace, however, people might tend to listen to information that would please their ears, while refusing information that would offend their ears. This issue is related to the pluses and minuses generated by the media and SNS, and ultimately the pluses and minuses generated by all mass media.

Since this topic was discussed freely by all the subcommittee participants, there was no specific conclusion reached. But sooner or later, and more or less, we will experience a wide variety of things, including AI, that will change culture itself. When that happens, I feel that democracy will serve as our basis. From the perspective of an economist, I believe that noninterference and a free economy are different. My own conclusion is that we should not act selfishly as we like, and that we need to utilize new technologies in compliance with a certain level of common beliefs and regulations, operate such new technologies with the involvement of judgment by humans, and consider our future from a broad perspective.

Third Subcommittee: Future Created through Fusion of Technology and Culture
Moderator: Kazuhiko Yazaki (President & CEO, Felissimo Corporation)

The theme of the third subcommittee was changes to be caused by technology in people’s daily lives, society, and industries. The discussion session was attended by Prof. Tsukamoto, who presented a keynote proposal this morning, and President Ito, who provided a commemorative lecture yesterday, and Representative Director Iue and Prof. Iokibe.

In our subcommittee session, which drew approximately 20 participants, it was expected that different participants would have different concerns and questions, which I thought needed to be shared. So, I began the session by inviting questions, comments, and opinions from all the participants. Some asked very philosophical questions regarding the nature of things, while others asked from the viewpoints of technology, business, and culture. The subcommittee session proceeded in a manner such that answers for such a wide variety of questions were presented by Prof. Tsukamoto, President Ito, Representative Director Iue, and Prof. Iokibe.

The first topic was what would be generated by culture and technology. It seems true that culture and technology exercise a reciprocal influence on each other: culture creates technology and technology affects culture. Regarding how this fact should be considered, President Ito and Prof. Tsukamoto provided truly interesting comments.

President Ito was asked questions regarding Hatsune Miku, such as what he thought of the trend of people worshiping the idol Hatsune Miku, whether people should have more interest in something real, and whether Hatsune Miku would prevent young people from developing their communication skills. President Ito answered: “Many people feel sympathy not with the virtual existence of Hatsune Miku but with the feelings and passion of the people creating works using Hatsune Miku.” His comment served as an important pillar underpinning the discussion held in the subcommittee. I feel that this is a message showing that the ultimate factor in making full use of technology lies in people, and this is a very crucial point.

Prof. Tsukamoto presented a somewhat extreme view by referring to the “elimination of the virtual world.” According to him, the virtual world, or cyberspace, has become too large, and people spend too much time there. People should instead act as humans in real society and live their own lives, and therefore the virtual world should be eliminated. He suggested that as a means of making the real world even better, wearable devices should be introduced.

Prof. Tsukamoto also presented a truly attention-drawing key phrase: opposition to the prohibition of using smartphones while walking. The inconvenience people feel when using smartphones while walking actually serves as a driving force for widespread use of wearable devices. If such use is prohibited, it follows that the evolution of wearable devices will stop. He stated that using smartphones while walking should be regarded as an important step toward the creation of a new lifestyle or a new form of society. Prof. Tsukamoto, thus, presented very interesting discussion points.

Prof. Iokibe referred to the Japanese tradition of humane robots, as indicated by Astro Boy. According to him, Japanese manga and anime sometimes depict superhuman sports techniques, and some top-level athletes in the real world were inspired by such works when they were children. This is a great achievement by culture, and we are now observing that achievement further evolving into items like Hatsune Miku. Prof. Iokibe said that he wanted to try wearing a head mounted display (HMD) next year. He also commented that no matter how far technology would progress, we should not lose our humanity.

Based on his own experience, Representative Director Iue stated that technology changed very fast in China and other parts of the world, and that Japan could not win the global competition without keeping up with the current technological progress.

The discussions in the subcommittee have made me realize that despite the continuing technological progress, how to use technology should be finally decided by humans. A person can be divided into the three elements of the body, the spirit, and the mind, and it is evident that we are inferior to machinery in terms of physical strength. We will perhaps again become inferior to machinery in terms of the mind. Then, what about the spirit? On the first day of the forum, some stated that the time would come soon when machinery would have spirit. At least now, however, only humans have spirit, which will determine how technology is used. Thus, the third subcommittee handled a wide variety of interesting discussion topics.

Back to Top