"Society 5.0"-focused applied philosophy and ethics project commences (3 April 2018)

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On 3 April, a KyotoU team led by Professor Yasuo Deguchi of the Graduate School of Letters announced the launch of a collaborative research project with the Hitachi Kyoto University Laboratory. The undertaking is focused on preparing for "Society 5.0", an ultra-smart society envisioned by the Japanese government.

The project's aims are to identify the philosophical and ethical issues that may arise in connection of the deployment of advanced information technology (IT) systems, and to shift the paradigm for social phenomena research, from explanation and prevention to diagnosis, intervention, and prognosis.

As the first step in this undertaking, the team hosted a workshop, "Applied Philosophy on Society 5.0", on 7 April during the 10th annual meeting of the Japan Association of Contemporary and Applied Philosophy (JACAP).

From left: Dr Yasuyuki Kudo, principal investigator, Kyoto University Office of Society-Academia Collaboration for Innovation (SACI) and Hitachi Kyoto University Laboratory; Professor Deguchi; Associate Professor Jun Otsuka, Graduate School of Letters; and Program-Specific Associate Professor Takeshi Kato, SACI and Hitachi Kyoto University Laboratory

Comments from the project team

Rapid advances in science and technology have radically transformed our society and the way we live. Now, a new wave of information technology — represented by artificial intelligence, robotics, and big data analysis — has begun to permeate our daily lives more extensively than ever before, giving rise to an unprecedented situation. In October 2017, a group of philosophers and engineers sharing this recognition embarked on a joint study to explore this and related topics.

A newly developed technology — one perfected through laboratory tests — often sparks unexpected philosophical and ethical debate just as it is being readied for introduction into society. Our new undertaking — a collaboration between the KyotoU Graduate School of Letter's Center for Applied Philosophy & Ethics (CAPE) and the Hitachi Kyoto University Laboratory — seeks to avoid this pattern by having philosophers and engineers discuss IT systems together while they are still being finalized in the laboratory. In other words, we are adding an entirely new dimension to technology development.

Instead of waiting to see what issues may arise with the introduction of new information technologies, we will conduct extensive thought experiments to proactively identify the associated risks and opportunities, and to assess their potential impacts on society. This way, we hope to be able to design the co-evolution of society and technology, a goal we believe represents a new phrase in industry-academia collaboration and disciplinary integration.

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