Continually Advancing AI Thinking of the future potential achievable by people and AI

[Fujitsu Forum 2016 Conference Report]

Artificial intelligence (AI) is now being used in a wide range of fields, including personal robots with "emotions" and self-driving cars. How will the development and application of AI technology change our society, business, and personal lives? We introduced cutting-edge AI technologies and held active discussions on the potential of AI at the AI Conference held in Fujitsu Forum 2016, which took place on May 19-20 at the Tokyo International Forum in Japan.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) Embedded in the Real World

Current status of AI development (comparison between Japan and the U.S.)

Junichi Tsujii, Director of the Artificial Intelligence Research Center at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science, gave a lecture in the first part of the session. He began by presenting the studies conducted in the research center. "Since it was established in May 2015, our research center has been working on the themes of 'AI Solving Problems Together with Humans' and 'AI Embedded in the Real World.'" He defines AI rather broadly, saying that AI is "something that can autonomously make decisions and act on its own to some extent."

He added that the recent AI boom can be attributed to the rapid advancement of AI research by large US-style IT companies, which did so by centralizing huge amounts of data and resources, including excellent researchers, and converting them into something valuable. "Almost all industries and organizations have data, so it is necessary to develop an open eco-system where they can integrate their data and turn them into something valuable," he commented, explaining that AI is now entering the next phase.

Mr. Tsujii also mentioned that AI technology is applicable to a wide variety of fields in society. "Creating a smooth transition from research and development by universities and companies (Seeds) to real application in business and society (Needs) is the mission of AI and the role of the Artificial Intelligence Research Center where I serve as Director."

Cycle of AI Technology R&D and Its Application

Japan's Three Advantages in AI Research

"It is rather difficult to use AI to resolve real problems in society," Mr. Tsujii explained. This is because it is difficult to obtain data from the real world and specialized knowledge is required to resolve issues.

"But now, AI is closely linked to IoT (Internet of Things) and robotics," he added, highlighting the need to team up with a strong partner to advance AI research. "Japan has an excellent environment to pursue the research of AI," he said as he pointed out the potential in Japan, and listed its three strengths.

"The first is the spirit of omotenashi (hospitality), which allows us to apply our knowledge of providing the best services to people in different fields, such as medical care, nursing care, and Fintech. The second is the strength of the manufacturing industry. By incorporating the strength of Japan's manufacturing industry into AI, we can shape the next manufacturing industry. The third is the abundance of human resources, including engineers and scientists. In the era of Big Science, it is important to accelerate research using AI by capitalizing on the abundance of human resources." Mr. Tsujii concluded his lecture by stating that "the important theme going forward is finding a way to create an AI that fits into the Japanese culture."

How will AI Change our Business and Society?

In the second part, the guest speakers for the panel discussion were Mr. Tsujii who gave a lecture in the first part, artist Sputniko! who is also an Assistant Professor at the Media Lab of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and Toshiyuki Sugiyama, Executive Officer of Nikkei Business Publications, Inc. and publisher of Nikkei BigData. The speakers discussed the theme "What can AI do? How will AI change our business and society?" with Seishi Okamoto, Director of the Artificial Intelligence Research Center, Fujitsu Laboratories, as the moderator.

Mr. Okamoto began by introducing Fujitsu's Human Centric AI Zinrai, which was created with the knowledge and technologies cultivated by Fujitsu for over 30 years. Announced in November 2015, the concept of Fujitsu's AI is "a human-centered AI that collaborates with people" with the aim of achieving greater prosperity in our lives and society. He explained that the theme of the panel discussion is based on queries Fujitsu received from many customers after the announcement of Zinrai.

Fujitsu Brand AI Technology--Human Centric AI Zinrai

Direction of Fujitsu's AI

Mr. Sugiyama started the discussion by explaining the results of the 2015 survey conducted by Nikkei BigData, where he serves as publisher, and the Nikkei newspaper from the business point of view. "For example, about 60% of managers from major companies replied that they think some intellectual office work will be replaced by AI." With the advancement of AI, a number of jobs, such as general clerk and patent attorney, are expected to be replaced by computers in the future. On the other hand, he stated, "There is a debate over how far AI can go in replacing human jobs, in particular, creative jobs," citing the results of a joint research between Nomura Research Institute and Dr. Michael Osborne, Associate Professor at the University of Oxford, UK, which concluded that "creative, cooperative, or non-routine" jobs are unlikely to be replaced by computers.

72% of managers answered that some jobs in production, logistics, and construction sites can be replaced by AI

Next, Professor Sputniko! shared her opinion on the "three strengths in AI that are unique to Japan," from the point of view of an artist.

The first is AI and physicality, which means incorporating hardware capabilities such as robot technology, precision in manufacturing, and advantages of craftsmanship into AI, shifting away from the over-emphasis on software. The second is AI and friendship. "The idea that robots are our friends is stronger in Japan than in the U.S., as seen with the character Doraemon, and "Japanese people want a robot who can listen to them and their stories," she said. The third is AI and morality (omotenashi) and she used self-driving cars as an example. "The society where an AI learns is the most important thing. As the Japanese society is said to have a high moral standard, we can develop a unique AI if it learns the spirit of omotenashi from our society," she suggested.

Can AI Morals be Created from Public Big Data?

Next are discussions centering on AI morals pointed out by Professor Sputniko!.

Mr. Tsujii showed the limitation of technology when he said that "based on the way AI is created currently, AI morals must be programmed by humans to exist." "In the first place, every human being has different moral standards, which is a good thing because the values of wealth and happiness differ from one country to another, but ultimately, this will lead to the question: Are humans worthy enough to preach morals to AI?" Professor Sputniko! agreed, questioning whether the right morals can be created based on public data. "There have actually been cases where AI made unsuitable comments after learning from public big data on web chats."

In response, Mr. Tsujii used the morals of self-driving as an example. He pointed out that even though human drivers make different decisions while driving, we only feel worried when the one making the decision is a machine. "Ultimately, we feel justified in our choices simply 'because they were made by humans.'"

Next, Mr. Okamoto asked about the potential of manufacturing in Japan, which Professor Sputniko! listed as an advantage of "AI and physicality." Mr. Tsujii responded by saying, "Japan has an abundance of highly-skilled human resources in various technical fields, making it an excellent environment for robots to master techniques." Mr. Sugiyama concurred, saying that "AI will make it possible for Japan to shine in the world by reproducing skilled techniques."

AI Creates New Businesses, Builds Momentum for Innovation

Lastly, each guest speaker delivered a message about the future of AI and what they expect from Fujitsu.

Mr. Sugiyama: "We need to explore a different way of doing jobs that can be replaced by AI. We should look at AI as something that gives us an opportunity to transform ourselves, rather than being afraid of or suppressing AI. Fujitsu has a long history of providing hardware and solution services, and as a result, it is well-positioned to create a synergistic effect for AI. I have high expectations for Fujitsu as a leading manufacturer in Japan."

Professor Sputniko!: "Now is the time to review school education so that children will not be deprived of their jobs by AI in the future. There is no future for our children if we maintain the current system of entrance examinations and tests that can be solved by AI. I feel a bit presumptuous speaking about expectations, but I hope Fujitsu can create a society where people live in harmony with AI."

Mr. Tsujii: "AI provides us with the opportunity to transform our society. I hope that most of the legacy from our Japanese society will lead to positive changes when it happens, but there is also the risk of producing a Galápagos effect if done incorrectly and the society is unable to evolve. This is not just a technological issue, and I think we also have to re-design Japanese society if we want to take advantage of the wave of transformation brought by AI. When working on a new research, Japanese organizations tend to conceal their activities without being able to form good alliances. Instead of trying to do everything alone, I hope Fujitsu can develop a system with good partners which will allow Japan to leverage its strengths."

After these comments, Mr. Okamoto concluded the discussion. "Fujitsu will strive to develop an eco-system and a practice of co-creation together with customers using AI as one of the key elements."

Guest speakers:
  • Junichi TsujiiDirector of the Artificial Intelligence Research Center
    National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science

  • Sputniko!Artist and Assistant Professor
    MIT Media Lab

  • Toshiyuki SugiyamaExecutive Officer of Nikkei Business Publications, Inc. and Publisher of Nikkei BigData

  • Seishi OkamotoDirector of the Artificial Intelligence Research Center
    Knowledge Information Processing Laboratory
    Fujitsu Laboratories

Presenter profiles contain information current as of this conference.