50th MUMEI-JUKU (25/06/2020)

Theme : The Current State and Prospects of Artificial Intelligence: Japan’s Position
Speaker: Dr. Junichi Tsujii
(Director of Artificial Intelligence Research Center, The National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology)

~Excerpts from Representative Takeda’s remarks~

Perspectives on the Virtual: Thinking from the Physical to a More Natural Reality

One of the reasons why Japan is lagging behind in the digital world is the tendency to emphasize the physical and neglect the cyber. In Japan, the perspective that the cyber or digital world (space) is a more profound version of the physical world (space) has not yet emerged, and I would like everyone to think about it.

In Japanese, the word “virtual” is often taken to mean “virtual” or “hypothetical,” but in English, “virtual” means “factual” or “actual,” never “imaginary. The reality of the physical world that we humans consider as reality is nothing more than a mapping of the brain based on the fusion and integration of information* obtained through our five extremely vague senses, i.e., sight, hearing, etc. In fact, physicality is not the essence of nature, and unfortunately, it is also virtual in a sense.

On the other hand, what is called “digital” or “virtual” is a form of intelligence that has been developed through AI, computers, the Internet, or digital science, beyond the realm of human intelligence. We should see that we are getting closer to the profound reality of nature. I believe that this is a series of movements that we now call digital transformation**.

The human sense of sight can only detect a very limited area (0.40 to 0.75 μm) of electromagnetic waves called visible light. The sense of touch also detects only a limited portion of air vibrations (20Hz to 20kHz). The senses of touch, taste, and smell are even more vague and insensitive sensors, capturing only a small part of nature. In the physical world, it is an illusion for us humans to think that only direct seeing and touching is real.
**Even if we see the same thing, we see it completely differently. I think this is what is happening in the digitalized world… On the other hand, in Japan, we are seeing things in the traditional way.
Is the spread of AI beyond our imagination?
There are many ways to use AI, but it is believed that the most effective applications are in governance and surveillance. In the real world, AI and other digital technologies are being used more in organizational and corporate management than expected. The reason why Amazon CEO Jeffery Bezos’ Amazon Prime and President Xi’s Chinese Communist Party are doing so well is because they are conducting AI-based governance and surveillance (for organizational management). In this regard, Bezos said, “AI is behind almost everything we do.

Japan needs to invest more money to remain competition.
As for the position of RIKEN’s Fugaku, it has shown several times the performance of the Summit at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the US, which was the top supercomputer until now (this difference will not be overtaken for at least a couple of years, no matter how much the world doubles). However, what we should be aware of is that the Japanese have a low sense of internationalism. To put it in perspective, of the top 500 supercomputers in the world, more than 200 are in China. The U.S. has 140, while Japan has about 30. Still, Japan is ranked third in the world, so I would say that they are doing well.
I believe that Japanese researchers are excellent. However, no matter how talented they are, they cannot do anything without money. To put it bluntly, China is about to invest more than 10 trillion yen in AI, but a few hundred billion will not be enough to compete.

Digital and the Nature of China

According to a study by Graham Allison of Harvard University, “China is already the world’s number one in automobiles, manufacturing, trade, the number of middle class and billionaires, solar power capacity, and so on.
The key digital areas are 5G, AI, quantum computers, AI chips, and self-driving. China has already taken the lead in 5G. In the other areas, while the US is leading, it is almost a toss-up. For example, the U.S. has the advantage in quantum computers, but China is leading in quantum cryptography.

China’s Strength: A Long-Term Battle with a Solid Strategy
There are those who argue that the Chinese Communist Party’s continued efforts to introduce AI have created the basis for China’s current growth. On the other hand, there are those who point out that China routinely engages in cyber attacks and cyber theft. Normally, when warned, they would cut back a bit, but if you believe the FBI’s announcement, that is not the case. Year after year, their technology theft is increasing. An origin study of the technology used in China’s homegrown COMAC C919 aircraft by World Aviation’s Aerotime shows that the technology, from flight controls to engines to tail fins, is stolen from companies in many different countries. What I want to say is that this is also a reality that China has. They have been steadily adopting IT and other digital technologies since Deng Xiaoping, based on a solid strategy that includes these things.

The Importance of Strategy

In fact, the Japanese government is the second in the world, after the Canadian government, to announce an AI strategy. While I believe that the Japanese government has good sense, it has not made good progress in doing so.

Academics have pointed out that in considering a digital strategy, is our “democratic system really better” or is it “stronger if the government has more power in an authoritarian system? To answer this question, I believe it is important for the Japanese government to have a strategy to implement AI strategies over time. We are faced with the challenge of how to increase the digital agility of the Japanese people.

Digital agility

Digital agility: The ability to be agile in order to promote digital transformation. Knowing the basics of the digital world, being sensitive to the movements within the digital world, and making quick decisions and actions.

To advance AI is to create the future of the world, and I would like all of you to think of a path to create a great future with your own hands.