Toward a Society of Symbiosis with Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Masato Ishikawa

Dean of the Graduate School – Doctor of Engineering
Masato Ishikawa

■ The spread of AI

Recent years have seen remarkable advances in AI technology. After the chess-playing machine Deep Blue defeated a chess master in the 1990s, it was said that AI could not handle the game of go, which has even more permutations than chess. But in 2016, Alpha Go vanquished a go master. This was made possible by the dramatic advances in deep learning and other AI technology in recent years. These recent advances are astonishing even to me as one who was engaged in AI research and development at a certain company around 1980.
Because AI has advanced to this point, it stands to reason that people have begun voicing apprehensions about the loss of jobs due to it or eventual control of humanity by it. In fact, apprehensions about control by AI appeared around 1990, but proved to be groundless. This will probably be the case in these times as well.
We must, however, begin to give serious thought to the prospect of a decrease in the number of human jobs.

■ Lost jobs opening up gaps

When computers began to spread, there was a substantial decline in work for typists and secretaries. The spread of information technology nevertheless generated new jobs, and workers shifted to new fields and supported industry.
Will the same thing happen this time, too? Not necessarily.
This is because today’s AI is progressing in the direction of taking over knowledge-intensive work that has been regarded as high-level so far. Even if workers replaced by AI attempt to shift to new fields, AI may already be at work in them as well.
If this situation is left as is, wealth will gravitate to the people making and using AI, and others will be left behind. The gap between the two will grow into an enormous problem.

■ An improper social system

At the manufacturer of electrical equipment where I worked in the 1990s, the employees pooled knowledge and strove day and night to produce high-quality goods with low prices. Its objective was basically attained, and people’s lives dramatically improved. People came to have plenty of electrical products that were low-cost and not liable to break down or fail. At the same time, however, this led to a decline in spending that made the business unviable and lessened work for employees.
A major purpose of technology development by companies is to improve human life and increase human happiness. How regrettable it would be if employees were to lose their jobs once this purpose is fulfilled.
The progress of AI is likely to exacerbate this trend. The performance of work by AI robots for people was once considered an ideal situation and depicted as a utopia. It would be contradictory if, the closer we came to making this a reality, the more we would feel a sense of crisis about it. Herein we can glimpse the limits of a social setup grounded in capitalism.

■ Let’s build an ideal society

The purpose of academic research in universities and other institutions is definitely also improvement of human life and increase in human happiness. Companies have ended up being built into a social system based on capitalism. In contrast, universities are in a position to contribute to reform of this system, and this is one of their strengths.
This is why universities, and especially graduate schools, must not confine themselves to education on a level that can be conducted in companies; they must provide education that takes a critical look at the current social system and establishes creative perspectives for opening up the future of humanity and society.
Traditionally, fields of learning in Japan have had vertically-oriented frameworks based on social sciences, humanities, and natural sciences. In societies replete with information technology, however, people are again awakening to the need for horizontal, cross-cutting approaches going beyond these frameworks, in anticipation of the coming symbiosis with AI.
While guarding the established traditions, we at Meiji University Graduate School are also oriented toward progressive approaches enabling interchange among students in mutually different fields. We earnestly hope that students full of spirit will enter the Graduate School and widen these circles of interchange.

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