Debate: Topic and Outline
We held the 144th YY club meeting to debate on the topic “Will AI technology be able to make people happy or not?” Let me introduce how it went using the following conversation with Akiko and Benjamin as always.
Akiko: Recently, innovation in AI technology is remarkable! Please tell me some examples.
Benjamin: That’s true. I think a well-known story is that “AlohaGo” finally defeated a human.
Akiko: A couple years ago, humans devised an algorithm programming for AI but couldn’t imagine AI itself, would be able to create something new. Is there any other field that needs AI creativity?
Benjamin: Well…. I heard that a novel that was written by an AI was commended in the SF contest in Japan. Writing a novel is just one example of what can be done with creativity.
Akiko: As you can imagine, AI technology is improving day by day. But what should we do? Is there a possibility that AI could take our jobs in any particular field? That could possibly make people quite unhappy.
Benjamin: In the latter half of the 20th century, Charlie Chaplin, a famous film director, directed a comedy film called “Modern Times”. In this era, automobile factories became automatized, and workers lost their jobs. It’s a criticism against the modern and industrialized world.
Akiko: How it’s related to AI?
Benjamin: It’s the same point that replacing our jobs with another machines.
Akiko: Please raise some specific issues.
Benjamin: Okay. In this story, Chaplin as a factory worker is employed on an assembly line and fastens a bolt every time and that eventually becomes a bad habit for him. One day, he encounters a lady on his way home and can’t stop thinking of fastening the lady’s button. Finally, he chases down the lady. Of course, this is an extreme expression and an ironic humor. However, it points out the problems of the modern society like non-human aspect-automation, simple jobs and so on.
Akiko: On the other hand, is there anything you want to make it automatic to simplify your work with help of AI?
Benjamin: If AI could do housework including cleaning and cooking, that would be great!
Akiko: That is very convenient for sure. However, there is a possibility that people will no longer have the desire to marry because they won’t need a partner anymore. That could speed up decreasing birthrate and aging of the population in Japan. That’s another problem.
Benjamin: How should we use AI at the national level?
Akiko: To prevent car accidents by senior citizens, developing automatic driving vehicles is a very important next step and most car manufactures are now engaging in work seriously.
Benjamin: What is essential now in Japan?
Akiko: In Japan, especially in the countryside, driving a car is an important element of everyday life transportation. Thinking in particular about the aging population, introducing automatic driving vehicles could help make good measures for more safe driving.
Benjamin: In the Western nations including Japan where population and labor force are predicted to decrease, transportation workers for product delivery will also decrease. To make up for this labor shortage, we need to effectively use an automated operation system.
Akiko: Countries like Japan where they are facing a falling birthrate and population decrease need this kind of technology and Japan are expected to take the leadership to improve this situation by developing existing and new technologies. Klause Schwab who is the founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum points out that “Japan could show good leadership for this field.”
Benjamin: Since long ago, people in Japan were not opposed to robots and treated them like friends. The famous Japanese comic book “Astro Boy” is a good example. Therefore, people have frankly accepted the latest robot technologies like humanoid robot-ASIMO created by Honda Motor Company. Oppositely, the United States, France and China are now
catching up with Japan in this field.
Akiko: A former teacher from France at ABCD Institute studied Robot Engineering in the University of Tokyo. He took charge of the science classes and the presentation topic he gave the returnee students in 2011 (after the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami) was “Proposing a robot which could help searching important things that were carried away by a tsunami or from collapsed houses at the disaster.
Benjamin: In this AI field, there will be an intense competition around the world and only the winner will make a monopoly of the technology. Ideally, making the technology open and improving transparency will contribute to the development of a new technology.
Akiko: How should we improve the system?
Benjamin: According to Mr. Schwab, the way to survive this world together is creating win-win relationship, not “the best always win” of the capitalism. This is a concept of Confucianism and there are many things to learn from Confucius’ doctrine.
Akiko: It’s interesting to hear that “Learn from Confucius” by a Westerner, Mr. Schwab. Come to think of it, Eichi Shibusawa pointed out the same thing at the beginning of the Meiji era. Japan will be able to contribute from this aspect, too! Keep it up!
The above is translated by Ms. Kojima and prood reading by Mr. Sam