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The advancement of artificial intelligence (AI), the prevalent use of smartphones and the evolution of IoT ...
With the current spread of technology every detail of modern life including how we work,
how we live and we communicate is changing rapidly.

What does the future hold for humans? Will AI deprive us of work? Why should we continue to work?
It may turn out to be unavoidable that we get anxiety from the rapidly changing world.

The science and technology underpinning advancements such as AI, and the concept of society are closely related.
New science leads to new technology which inevitably has an impact causing a transformation of our society.
Conversely, the needs of our society encourage the development of new technologies, which opens up new paths towards better science.

An understanding of this relationship between science, technology, and society can help one overcome anxiety of the future.

We asked two experts, who have a bird's-eye view of current trends,
about their image of the future.

Producer and directorYoichiro Tsunoda

Born in Chiba Prefecture in 1970. After graduating from the University of Tokyo where he studied history, he joined Tokyo Broadcasting System (TBS Television) where he was in charge of producing numerous popular TV programs. Since leaving TBS in December 2016, he has been active as a freelance producer who creates shows based around popular items.
He has written books titled, "24 Keywords to Understand World History the Fastest" and "A Proposal to Live by 'Doing Only Things you Love'".

Science writerKaoru Takeuchi

Born in Tokyo in 1960. He entered The College of Arts and Sciences (Majoring Science History and Science Philosophy), and then graduated from The Department of Physics, Faculty of Science at The University of Tokyo. He completed a doctoral program at McGill University, (major: high energy physics theory) with a PhD. After graduate school, he worked as a science writer. He has done a number of different jobs including working as a science pundit, essay writer, lecturer, etc. He has also been active on television in roles including as a host for the TV program NHK 'Science Zero'. One of his most popular books is titled "A Course for Literature Majors to Brush up on their STEM Subjects."

Evolution is a spiral process.
The reason why history repeats, but the same thing never happens again.

Tsunoda:
There is the phrase "history repeats", but I think to be more expressive, it's better to say "history repeats, but the same thing does not happen again".

For example, 2017 is the 150th anniversary of the Taiseihoukan, the restoration of the Japanese government to the crown in 1867. With the technology brought by the Kurofune, the black ships of Commodore Perry which arrived in Japan in 1853, society was shaken and Japan was forced to open up. The era often called, "the end of Edo" led to the Meiji Restoration. The modern age where social transformation is spurred by technologies such as smartphones, IoT, artificial intelligence (AI), etc. is comparable to the end of the Edo period. It perfectly represents the principle of "repeating but not identical".

Previously, I watched an interesting video on YouTube explaining the sun's revolution using computer graphics. Everyone knows that the earth revolves around the sun but we unconsciously consider the sun to be immobile. However, the solar system is also part of a galaxy. Our solar system revolves around the galactic core at a tremendous speed. When watching the video, I could see the orbit of the planets around the sun was a spiral. When spring comes around again after a year, in terms of galactic coordinates, we are in a completely different place.
There were many professionals pointing out flaws in the video but I still feel, for amateurs, it represents a perfect visualization of the flow of time on a galactic scale. I think it shows how, even though history is repeating, the path is not a straight line but a spiral.
Takeuchi:
Speaking of spirals, in Einstein's book on the theory of relativity there is a copy of the common diagram of the solar system in which the orbit of a planet is represented by a circle centered around the sun. Taking into account Einstein's theory of special relativity however, the diagram changes as the concept of "space-time" is applied. Space-time describes how time and space are related to each other and, when it is considered, the diagram changes to show spiral orbits.

An important concept to understand when reviewing the history of science is that science and technology do not progress linearly. As scientific theory progresses the expectations of it increase, this increased scrutiny can lead to drops in research progress and projects may stagnate. However, in some cases, if attention is focused back onto a project there may be a burst of progress from the renewed attention. This repeating cycle of bursts of progress followed by stagnation may repeat many times during a project's lifetime and it is important to remember that this may apply to current areas of work.
Tsunoda:
Albin Toffler advocated the concept of the "third wave". The first wave was the Agricultural Revolution, the second was the Industrial Revolution and the third is the Information Revolution. We currently find ourselves in a period of major change in the Information Revolution.
I would like to talk about the Information Revolution. AI is now evolving at an accelerated pace, we have reached the point where an AI can beat a pro at a game of Shogi or Go. Computers have discovered moves and tactics which were previously unthinkable for high-ranking players. I think it is one of the strengths of computers that they can search out all of the holes in the experiences accumulated by humanity through the spiral of time.
Takeuchi:
An AI can be programmed with the complete record of all previous Go and Shogi matches played by humans and it will never forget any of the data. In addition, an AI can play against itself repeatedly, becoming stronger and developing novel tactics which a human could never conceive. It is not that the AI is only looking at previous match records when it is playing against a human, it is deciding by itself what move to play based on all of its knowledge and, more importantly, experience. I find this very interesting.

The essence of the Information
Revolution is that value has shifted
from materialistic concerns to relationships.

Tsunoda:
During the Agricultural Revolution, humans started to farm goods which, up until that point, had been harvested from the wild. Humans began to devote labor to production. In the Industrial Revolution manual labor was replaced by machine labor. Both of these revolutions represented an increase in the productivity of goods.
However, the current Information Revolution has caused humans to shift their perspective to one where information is more valuable than physical goods.
Takeuchi:
The Japanese have a concept of "value from a thing". In the Information Revolution the information and the relationships between the data is more important than the underlying infrastructure. However, there are many people who still believe that, say for a computer, the only value is in the computer itself, the information it contains is worthless.
Tsunoda:
That's my exact point. The Information Revolution is not an extension of the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions but must be thought of as a totally different type of revolution. Conceptually the Information Revolution is at a much higher level than the previous turning points of human civilization. When applied to Japanese history, the Agricultural Revolution would be the Yayoi era and the Industrial Revolution would be when the Kurofune came to Japan's shores. The Information Revolution is now. I can foresee that, in the future, there is a bigger change coming for Japan than even the Meiji Restoration, the event which restored imperial rule to Japan in 1868.

Not realizing you are at the end of an era,
Sakamoto Ryoma and the Tokugawa Shogunate.

Takeuchi:
As Mr. Tsunoda mentioned earlier, when we think of now as an era of big change I cannot help but see the similarities to the end of the Edo period. The Edo Shogunate contained many conservative individuals who could not see the change that was coming. Their continued grip on old ways brought the country's social system to a standstill. Their stubbornness to accept the inevitable led to progress being blocked.
Tsunoda:
There are times when I am concerned that there are people in the world unaware that a wave of change bigger than the Meiji Restoration is coming. As I said before, 2017 represents the 150th anniversary of the Taiseihoukan. However, it took an additional year after the Taiseihoukan before the Edo castle was given up by the Shogun and the era changed to Meiji. At our current progress rate, I predict the era will change in 2019, I feel however that there may be a similar pattern to the change as that of the Meiji Restoration but of course it will not be exactly the same.
Takeuchi:
Another comparison would be the postwar period. When Japan was defeated in World War II the system by which society functioned broke down. After the recovery, companies gained incredible momentum leading to high economic growth. The situation now however is one of stagnation. We need to find a way to break this block on advancement.
Tsunoda:
Perhaps it's that people have an unconscious fear of destruction. As AI and IoT are talked about more in the media there are people who think they are going to be dominated by things uncontrollable by humans. It's important to realize however that the process can't be stopped, we are now in the middle of the Information Revolution, it's too late to go back. As an example, Ryoma Sakamoto did not know he was living at the end of the Tokugawa period. He died in 1867 never seeing the Meiji Restoration. However, he had the foresight to realize that the Shogunate was on the way out and that the old social system would soon follow, he acted accordingly.
Takeuchi:
Exactly, at the end of the Tokugawa period there were those clinging onto the past and those looking forward to the Restoration. Even in modern times, there are many who realize that AI and IoT are coming and they are trying to adapt to a future with these technologies. On the other hand, there are people and organizations who are clinging to the old era of physical goods. I hope the latter people will realize sooner rather than later that it is in everyone's interest to get onboard with this latest revolution.

Using creative thinking,
visualizing a time
when we only have to do the work we love.

Tsunoda:
The emergence of AI is creating anxiety in some sectors that jobs will be lost to machines. For example, the development of automatic driving technology may lead to the occupation of "driver" disappearing.
Takeuchi:
During the mechanization of the Industrial Revolution many people shifted their job focus. For example, the development of machines to carry goods caused job loss in the goods transportation sector. However, those who lost their jobs due to this mechanization found work in different areas.
Tsunoda:
It is very likely that a similar situation will arise in the current Information Revolution. However, the destruction of jobs, even if it is only temporary, is often seen as a negative point. What do you think should be done about this?
Takeuchi:
Human beings are good at surviving, the key point is to be creative. It is important to think, "what is it that I really want to do?". Repetitive, mundane work and simple tasks will be the first to be replaced by AI. Is it not better to let AI take these jobs and us humans concentrate on doing the work we want to do?
Tsunoda:
Recently my book titled, "I Make my Living Doing what I Love" has been selling well. However, this means that there are many people who think, "my current job is not my favorite thing to do". I hope we can become a society where people are able to make a living doing only what they love.

If you are a driver then you may lose the job of driving a car as a means of travel, however, you will still be able to drive for fun. In the modern world people do not use horses as a means of transportation, but there are still plenty of people who enjoy horseback riding as teachers or as a hobby. Similarly, if you love to drive then you can make driving your job in a way that makes the most of it as your hobby.
Takeuchi:
"I want to" becomes "I can do", isn't that right? Thanks to AI taking care of mundane tasks, humans will have time to spend on hobbies and creative pursuits.

The Information Revolution represents a second Renaissance.
A new era where technology, science, and art merge

Tsunoda:
If that's the case then the Information Revolution could be thought of as a second Renaissance. The Industrial Revolution brought humans closer to machines, the Information Revolution will make us more human again.
Takeuchi:
Since the beginning of the Primary Industrial Revolution, the trend towards mechanization has not stopped. We are now in the so called, "Forth Industrial Revolution", but I think we are at the point now where we have gone beyond mechanization. I think humanity will truly shine in the Information Revolution.
Tsunoda:
I believe that engineers involved in the Information Revolution will find themselves more resembling artists than our current understanding of what an engineer is. The etymology of the word art is from the Latin "ars", meaning technology. As the art before the Industrial Revolution implied "beautiful technology", it seems that there will be a similar fusing of art and technology after the Information Revolution.
Takeuchi:
In Japan, science and technology are often thought of as being one in the same. Historically however, scientists and engineers have different origins. Scientists did academic research, engineers honed their skills through apprenticeships to guild craftsmen. I had thought that the Information Revolution would bring an era where engineers came to resemble scientists but it would be even more interesting if the creative arts were merged into the mix as well. I would like engineers to take this future perspective into account when studying.

A firm grasp of the "now"
「will lead to a productive future.

At OMRON we hope our "SINIC theory" will lead us on a course towards reconciliation with machines as they take on more human capabilities.
OMRON's founder, Kazuma Tateisi, proposed "SINIC theory" as a prediction for how technological developments would play out in the first half of the 21st century. To date the predictions have been accurate. It is our aim, guided by "SINIC theory", to address and solve future social issues as predicted by the theory.