"Creating the Society of the Future" with Leaders in Problem Solving

Feb. 21, 2024 Mina Shimizu
(Photo: Tsuyoshi Miyazawa)

To create the "society of the future," effort needs to be made that transcends organizational boundaries, race, gender, and age. What can we do now to achieve this?

The Japan Association for the 2025 World Exposition will hold "Expo 2025 Osaka, Kansai, Japan". At this expo, Hitachi, Ltd. and KDDI Corporation will hold a joint exhibition with the theme of "Future Life Expo: Future City," as a showcase of a future society with the aim of achieving Society 5.0.

What should a new society look like in an age without an answer to inherent challenges? In this session, employees from Hitachi and KDDI ponder this question together with Ms. Asako Tsuji and Mr. Yuto Doya, who tackle problem-solving on a daily basis.

Is Japan ready for the "society of the future"?

This discussion took place during a special session at Hitachi Social Innovation Forum 2023 JAPAN, an event held by Hitachi in September 2023.

"To build the 'society of the future,' it is not enough for major companies like Hitachi and KDDI to speak out. We need people who will speak up," said moderator Yukinobu Maruyama of Hitachi, pointing out the importance of thinking together with the next generation of leaders such as Ms. Tsuji and Mr. Doya.

Yukinobu Maruyama of Hitachi (Photo: Tsuyoshi Miyazawa)

The audience was given a questionnaire that they could answer in real time via their smartphones. The first question was: “Is Japan ready to create the 'society of the future'?”

Although the majority of the audience responded with "No, Japan is not ready," Maruyama said: "That's wonderful. This is why we do these events. We need your support." Maruyama then listened to Ms. Tsuji's and Mr. Doya's vision of a "society of the future."

The "unconscious bias" that everyone has

Ms. Tsuji is a creative director who handles everything from advertising to product production. Through her creative activities, she works to solve social issues related to gender, communities, and business succession.

Ms. Asako Tsuji of arca (Photo: Tsuyoshi Miyazawa)

Ms. Tsuji explains that diversity is necessary to realize a society of the future. Referring to her experience of studying abroad as a teenager, she said: “When a diverse group of people gather together, they tend to be lumped together under broad categories such as 'Japanese people,' 'men,' or 'women,' but it is important to have an attitude of dealing with each person in front of you as an individual."

However, in today's society, "Everyone has an unconscious bias," Ms. Tsuji pointed out.

"Gender tends to be portrayed in terms of men versus women, or as 'boys don't cry' or 'women should be more attentive than men.' I think about what we can do to address the issue as a social structural problem rather than as a conflict structure," said Ms. Tsuji.

The importance of seeing the "nature of the situation on the ground"

Mr. Yuto Doya of CLOUDY (Photo: Tsuyoshi Miyazawa)

In contrast, Mr. Doya manages an apparel brand company and a non-profit organization, CLOUDY. He is engaged in activities that combine business and creativity while leveraging the results of these activities.

The company uses a model focusing on Ghana, Africa, where it builds schools, trains human resources, and produces clothing via a local factory. Cloudy does not just build schools and provide education but proposes "self-propelled" solutions to problems that will continue even after the founders are gone.

(Photo provided by CLOUDY)

Mr. Doya talked about the importance of "seeing the nature of the situation on the ground" in order to realize the "society of the future."

"Sending 10,000 T-shirts to Africa may bring joy for a moment. But the result would be to deprive African T-shirt sellers and manufacturers of jobs," he said.

CLOUDY's factory emphasizes manual labor, keeping in mind the possibility of job loss due to the introduction of advanced technologies such as robots. From the perspective of preparing for the "society of the future," Mr. Doya believes that this will help raise the level of employment in developing countries.

Keywords of a "society of the future"

Following Ms. Tsuji and Mr. Doya’s introduction of their activities, the audience was again asked to answer a question: "What are the important keywords for creating the 'society of the future'?"

The most-common answer was "Ability to take action," followed by "Creativity." "Cross-border human resources (people who can bridge different fields, transcending the boundaries of industries, etc.)," "Digital technology," and "Innovation" were almost evenly distributed.

Responses to the question at the venue

In response to the top result of "Ability to take action," Ms. Tsuji commented: "I feel this is what it is all about."

"'Technology' is convenient, but it is something that is very individual, and it is something that you use for richer cultural experiences. I agree with the audience that a more-human-like 'Ability to take action' will prevail as an important keyword for creating the society of the future."

Mr. Masaru Sugano of KDDI Research, Inc. explained that, in relation to the "cross-border human resources" in the questionnaire, they call people who are contributing to solving social issues by leading forward-looking lifestyles "transborder runners" and are working on co-creating with them. He cited as an example "climatarians" who are committed to a diet focused on reducing their carbon footprint in response to climate change.

Mr. Masaru Sugano of the Lifestyle Tech Lab, KDDI Research, Inc. (Photo: Tsuyoshi Miyazawa)

The importance of an "interpreter" to connect different worlds

Ms. Tsuji expects the number of "cross-border human resources" to increase in the future.

She comments: "There should be various goals in many industries, and people who can think outside of their industry and be a bridge to other industries will be invaluable in the coming era. People who are not confined within their own sense of values but who are like interpreters able to cross industries and fields so as to find a common language embody the term 'cross-border human resources.' If we have more people like that, I’m sure industries and countries will become seamless."

Mr. Sugano also pointed out the importance of transcending borders and described an overseas trial in which urban planning with citizen participation was conducted in the virtual world and then applied to the real world. He said that he would like to explore "collaboration between the real and virtual worlds," in which both those who are good with digital technology and those who are not so good can participate.

Seishi Hanaoka of Hitachi talked about a project that uses digital technology to connect restaurants, farmers, and local residents as an example of an initiative that transcends borders. Based on that experience, he said: "We sometimes have different thoughts coming and going from each other, but I think we need people who can interpret those thoughts across borders and that can mutually connect them, along with the digital technology to support this."

Seishi Hanaoka of Hitachi (Photo: Tsuyoshi Miyazawa)

"I would like to build a future that our children are proud of."

The "Future Life EXPO: Future City" project at Expo 2025 Osaka, Kansai, Japan will showcase Hitachi and KDDI’s vision of a "society of the future." "MYAKU-MYAKU," the official mascot character of the expo also made an appearance at the end of the session to say "hi" to the audience.

(Photo: Tsuyoshi Miyazawa)

Hitachi and KDDI have announced that, at Expo 2025 Osaka, Kansai, Japan, they will provide an opportunity for visitors to contemplate together a vision of a city of the future through an exhibit that combines the real and virtual worlds.

Moderator Maruyama expressed his enthusiasm for using this session as an opportunity to exchange opinions with a broad range of people.

"I would like to expand the opportunities for dialogue like this one in the 1.5 years leading up to the Expo. We will make the Expo successful and create a future that our children will be proud of."

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