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No.36
No.36 ,Science ,Discussions  Dec 26, 2016

Interview: Artificial Intelligence

  Professor Sakura Osamu (left) had an interview with Professor Nishigaki Toru about the artificial intelligence (AI) on September 2, 2016, at the Office of the Dean of the University of Tokyo Interfaculty Initiative in Information Studies.   Professor Sakura (hereinafter “Sakura”): First, I would like you to give a brief self-introduction. I have just read your book entitled Big Data and Artificial Intelligence: Gain Insights into Their Possibilities and Traps, which you published in July 2016 through Chuokoron-Shinsha Inc. In this book, you discuss the cultural and social background behind artificial intelligence (AI), with relation to recent big data and singularity. I found it very interesting. I am remembering the excellent impression I got from reading your book for general readers entitled AI: The Concepts Behind Artificial Intelligence, which you first published in 1988 through Kodansha Ltd. Big Data and Artificial Intelligence came ... ... [Read more]

No.30
No.30 ,Science  Feb 11, 2016

From the Subaru Telescope to TMT

KASHIKAWA Nobunari, Associate Professor, National Astronomical Observatory of Japan

It has been fifteen years since the Subaru Telescope began operation. It stands as a symbol of the technology on which Japan prides itself. The telescope has been used to observe a wide range of astronomical objets throughout the universe, from the solar system to distant galaxies more than 10 billion light years away, and has produced a multitude of achievements. The Subaru Telescope has made a number of findings about the universe, and at the same time has presented us with many new questions. We have a boundless curiosity to peer into the unknown, and this pure desire to know more has driven us to reach even higher and build a new larger telescope. In this article, we introduce the TMT (Thirty Meter Telescope) that is currently being constructed and some of the new doors to the universe that it will open.... [Read more]

No.28
No.28 ,Science  Nov 01, 2015

Electricity Reform Is the Best Performer for the Growth Strategy

ITOH Motoshige, Professor at the Graduate School of Economics of University of Tokyo

The Great Earthquake and Tsunami Disaster that stopped nuclear power generation revealed the vulnerability of Japan’s electricity system ABE Junichi (AJ): The Government decided in a cabinet meeting and submitted to the Diet the Bill for Partial Revision of the Electricity Act in March to achieve electricity system reform. Professor Itoh, you had, in the capacity of the chairman of the “Electricity System Reform Expert Committee,” compiled a report in February 2013 proposing the full liberalization of electricity retail sales and the separation of power generation and power transmission. The report became the pillar of electricity system reform. Why should the electricity system be reformed now?... [Read more]

No.26
No.26 ,Science  Jun 01, 2015

Corporations and Geniuses― The main man behind the invention of blue LEDs speaks.
Serendipity: No Such Thing Exists
Interview with Amano Hiroshi, Professor, Graduate School of Engineering, Nagoya University

22 October 2014, Professor Amano visited the Prime Minister’s Office (From the website of the Prime Minister of Japan and his Cabinet)

The invention of blue LEDs was the product of the conviction of a researcher who does not even view effort as really effort. How should corporations deal with capable researchers?
The dream of all researchers is to make possible that which is considered to be impossible. They seek to conceive an invention that breaks accepted theories. However, the road to innovations that destroy paradigms is a long one, and they can only be brought about through years of research that goes unnoticed. This was the case of the research of Amano Hiroshi, a professor at Nagoya University who worked on inventing blue light-emitting diodes (LEDs). In 1983, Professor Amano enrolled in a master’s program at Nagoya University. To produce gallium nitride crystal, a material for blue LEDs, he lit his device every day except... [Read more]

No.25
No.25 ,Science  May 23, 2015

The Robot & AI Revolution I
Robots will Change Work & Industry

It has two eyes on its flat head. It cannot walk with two legs, but it has two triple-jointed arms—with shoulders, elbows and wrists—that it can move freely… The external appearance of NEXTAGE, a robot developed by Kawada Industries, is totally different from that of the clunky-looking industrial robots that have seen popular widespread use in Japan until now. The difference is not only in its appearance. In contrast to conventional industrial robots, which pride themselves on speed and power, and operate under the assumption that human beings will not go near them, NEXTAGE aims to coexist with humans. It’s not merely a piece of ‘equipment,’ but a ‘partner.’ But Kawada Industries didn’t develop NEXTAGE simply to give it a friendly appearance and try to create a nicer atmosphere on the production floor. There is a genuine business opportunity behind it. ... [Read more]

No.25
No.25 ,Science  May 23, 2015

The Robot & AI Revolution

SAKURA Osamu, PhD., Dean and Professor at the Interfaculty Initiative in Information Studies, University of Tokyo ©AOKI Noboru

Robot research is one of Japan’s areas of specialty. With 310,000 units, Japan lead’s the world for the number of industrial robots in operation (2013). The level of research and development of robots at universities and research institutes is also high. People point to influences such as the popular Japanese anime Astroboy, with its robot protagonist, as the backdrop to this. Based on these circumstances, the Abe administration has positioned the robot industry as one of the growth strategies in its economic strategy ‘Abenomics.’ In light of Japan’s declining birth rate and aging population, there are high hopes in particular for the foray of robots in the field of nursing care. On the other hand, however, common problems from other fields of Japanese industry can also be seen in ... [Read more]

No.24
No.24 ,Science ,Discussions  Jan 08, 2015

The Truth behind the STAP Cell Case
Reality of research institutions, international competition, morality of researchers — Why wasn’t the fraud avoidable?

Panel discussion by SAKURA Osamu (Professor, Interfaculty Initiative in Information Studies, University of Tokyo), KATASE Kumiko (Science writer) and YASHIRO Yoshimi (Research Associate Professor, Center for iPS Cell Research and Application, Kyoto University)... [Read more]

No.24
No.24 ,Science  Jan 08, 2015

Discussion of the Governance Problems Surrounding STAP Cell Research Papers

SAKURA Osamu, Researcher (Science, Technology and Society)

In January 2014, a research team led by Obokata Haruko, a research unit leader of the Laboratory for Cellular Reprogramming at RIKEN Center for Development Biology (or CDB) in Kobe, Japan, published two research papers in Nature to the effect that a new technique had been discovered to produce pluriopotent cells by applying an external stress such as immersing the somatic cells of mice in a mild acidic solution. The newly discovered cells are referred to as Stimulus-Triggered Acquisition of Pluripotency (STAP) cells. This groundbreaking technique captured a lot of attention in both the media and the public at large as well as in academic circles because it allows cellular reprogramming only by using an external stressor without introducing external genetic material. In Japan’s scientific community the ratio of women to men is low, and against this backdrop the government and academia have been ... ... [Read more]

No.23
No.23 ,Science  Dec 18, 2014

Feature Article on Scientific Advice: Paradigm Shift in Scientific Advice
Responsible Innovation, Post-Normal Science, and Ecosystemic Approach

“Scientific advice,” which provides the government, corporations and individuals with useful technical information, knowledge and judgments on the policy issues related to science and technology, such as “risk” issues in food safety, emerging infectious diseases, climate change, earthquakes, nuclear power and cyber security, and as promotion of science, technology and innovation, is expected to play an increasingly vital role in contemporary society. Scientific advice in Japan has hitherto been undertaken by various deliberative bodies and organizations, including councils and committees attached to government ministries and agencies, regulatory bodies such as the Food Safety Commission, and, regarding comprehensive policies for the promotion and regulation of science, technology and innovation, the Cabinet Office’s Council for Science, Technology and Innovation (CSTI) and academic organizations... [Read more]

No.23
No.23 ,Science  Dec 18, 2014

Feature Article on Scientific Advice: Between Science and Administration
The Politics of Scientific Advice

(1) Is It Reactionism?  Members of the Subcommittee that deliberated on the draft of the Basic Energy Plan were replaced following a government changeover. In a blatant selection of personnel, the LDP almost exclusively appointed new experts who advocate maintaining or promoting nuclear power generation. The Agency of Natural Resources and Energy has already sent officials to an LDP working group meeting for explaining the draft of the Basic Energy Plan, wherein LDP-affiliated Diet members raised questions about the draft, which positions nuclear power as an important base power source and spells out steady promotion of the nuclear fuel cycle.The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant accident on 11 March 2011 has been taken as an opportunity to question the ideal form of giving scientific and expert advice to administrative authorities. A variety of criticism has been heard and many proposals made concerning this question, ... ... [Read more]

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