Written by: Cornelia Marie Dybwad
Photo by: Guwashi/ Wikimedia Commons
Breakthroughs in technology has resulted in massive changes in the financial sector, health sector – and everything in between. Mostly as a result of globalization, the world as we know it has become a deepened interconnected cosmos and people on all levels of the economy, as a matter of fact the whole society, are being affected by these inevitable changes brought upon us. With changes one may face challenges, but also stumble upon great opportunities. One of the states that is currently trying to implement a lot of changes in its society is Japan. With a slightly futuristic model, Japan has in sight to improve the well-being of the population, as well as fostering innovation to a larger degree to change the nation – even if it is one step at a time. But will the realization of Japans hi-tech Society 5.0 leave us for better or for worse? Have the disruptive technologies gone too far?
Because of the breakthroughs in so to say all sectors, we are at the moment facing a fundamental shift in how we structure our societies. With a larger degree of automation, integration of new innovations as well as even further implementation of technology in our daily lives – the current order as we know it, is on the edge of a huge transition.
Japan is pioneering this way of thinking, by actively implementing Society 5.0s ideas to change its society for the better. The reason for this transformation is the current challenges Japan is facing, both on a social and economic level. Among these are its ageing population, weak growth in economy as well as labor shortages. Japans solutions to their prevailing problems will probably be applicable to other countries in the future. Thereforeit is in everyone’s interest that these new plans of Japan, especially in the sectors of mobility as well as healthcare, are shared across the world. A human-centered society which aims to use new innovations and technology to achieve it, is at the heart of the Society 5.0 model.
So, what exactly will this societal transformation bring upon us? Currently, the future as we see it, or at least the perception we have of it, is a lot more automatic and dependent on technology. Despite our daily lives already being full of technologies which supposedly are bringing ease over our days – we are standing above a human-oriented revolution that will be realized through further technological innovations.
Artificial intelligence: information, healthcare and more autonomy
One of the innovations and focus areas of the societal transformation is artificial intelligence. Where humans earlier have been met with an overflow of information, where the work of finding and analyzing the massive amount often have been burdensome and difficult – artificial intelligence is considered to be the answer. Artificial intelligence provides a huge opportunity to address complex issues at an unprecedented scale. Also, within the fields of healthcare and mobility AI is sought to be a promising answer. Japan is presently facing problems as a result of their aging society – which per now seems to be a preeminent issue compared fellow countries of this increasingly interconnected world. By putting remote medical care into practice and using artificial intelligence at medical facilities, one would create a digital society for an aging population. Another challenge which the Japanese society faces due to its large percentage of elderly population, is within the department of mobility. Not only has the long-term population decline in Japan been noticeable in the cities, certainly also the more rural areas have been affected. The lack of public transportation to a larger extent in these rural areas can have contributed to establish a deepened center - periphery conflict. Autonomous vehicles and delivery drones are presented to be a solution for this instance – but one question I have in this regard is whether or not the citizens in these peripheral areas will utilize these advanced unmanned vehicles or if the technology would have an almost frightening effect.
Relocation of power – new responsibilities
Society 5.0 is marked by emerging technological breakthroughs in a number of fields, whereas artificial intelligence and autonomous vehicles are two of them. As the fourth industrial revolution may be accounted to be the driving force of this futuristic society it is important, almost crucial, to mention that these two are deeply correlated. The fourth industrial revolution is impacting multiple sectors and stakeholders, and reallocating responsibilities. Presented short; new technologies create new powers, and as a result we can see a shift in who to hold accountable. This tendency seems to be constant for the societal shifts we have faced earlier, and nothing suggests that Society 5.0 will be a deviation. These new responsibilities should include a change in policy framework - but how can this policy framework be adapted to a society which is not yet fully developed? One does yet not know the consequences of the realization of Society 5.0, but still rules need to be established. This should be regarded upon as one of the bigger challenges the transformation is standing above as it certainly will change society as we know it. What will it for example mean for global trade and GDP numbers when producers will start to 3D print parts for robots instead of getting them shipped from a supplier?
A possible consequence - outsourcing of jobs
One of the more prominent aspects of the futuristic society which I think can turn out to be a challenge is the outsourcing of jobs – to technological actors. Automation of the society started decades ago and robots are more present among us than ever. Even though they ensure increased efficiency, which comes in handy in the consumption-society we live in, they can also threaten jobs. Society 5.0 promotes, as mentioned earlier, a super-smart society where technology will be so implemented in our lives that we can focus on our well-being. On the other hand, it seems as this robotization in productive sectors can replace humans. Educating humans to become proficient is a lot more time-consuming than building a robot and updating their software every now and then. According to United Nations conference on trade and development, up to two thirds of developing country jobs can be eroded as robots are entering the playing field to a bigger extent. It should also be mentioned that the innovators themselves claim that the robotization will not be stealing jobs – but then again, they are making money on these innovations.
Who will be affected?
An essential question is why exactly it is two thirds of the jobs in developing countries which possibly are threatened. The main reason is probably because these countries are not modern enough. The societal transformation emphasizes the use of technology to enhance the human life, but in developing countries other priorities are in focus. For non-industrialized countries, it is difficult to embrace the industrialization and globalization that comes with one transformation before if it is too late and another one is introduced – despite being decades between the predeceasing societies and Society 5.0. At this point I think I should point out that “former” technological revolutions are still ongoing. As reported by World Economic Forum, over a billion people across the globe still do not have access to electricity and many institutions are still struggling with the changes that came with Society 3.0 and the industrial revolution, as they yet are trying to become digital organizations. While media, finance and telecommunications already have been disrupted, other industries have not yet been disrupted by digitalization. The use of disrupt in this context refers to Clayton Christensen’s idea of disruptive innovation. The term is used to describe a process where new products or services act as disruptors in their industries – something that changes the entire game.
Our societal commitments to accessibility, inclusivity and fairness are also at stake during this societal transformation. Despite aiming to be human oriented, as it can aggregate wealth into fewer and fewer hands. Reinforcing cycles of higher and higher educational requirements will be created, and externalized costs to stakeholders who are not included in development will emerge. Already now one can see tendencies that lean towards creating a society which benefit the ones that are already rich. Clustering of market capitalization will have a profound negative effect on further innovation, which already is accounted to be a problem in the world today.
A high-tech society that’s worth jumping in with both feet?
As stated, we are now witnessing the emergence of new transformation with its own dynamics. Society 5.0 that comes with the fourth industrial revolution, builds on a digital revolution that represents new ways in which technologies becomes embedded within societies. This transformation is expected to be of significance for entire systems of production, distribution and consumption. For generations to come todays choices will impact values, identities and possibilities. As the focus lies on systems, the individual technologies are set aside and the way technology is used as a binding factor between different fields is emphasized. This is exactly what one can see by the focus on the creation of a super smart society in Japan. The challenge is how we design a future and future systems that are above our current level of understanding. After all, positive values must come to the front as a feature of these new technologies and how they are integrated. It all lies in the design of the frameworks that can drive the society to the desired outcome – if not we can end up with an even more unpredictable future. The challenge is if we fail to pay attention to critical governance issues, then we are likely to allow undemocratic, random and potentially malicious forces to shape the futuristic society. For this to happen it must be created a positive narrative which will unify and shape the society as an entity. It seems as both challenges and opportunities will occur as this new societal transformation is taking place. Where it on one hand will utterly bring ease over the problems regarding the aging population, it will on the other hand seem to make it more difficult for the productive-age population as further automation can possibly threaten jobs. There are both good arguments and counter-arguments for making the Society 5.0 a reality – but two things are clear. One -rules change drastically during revolutions of technological character. Two - if you don’t learn and keep up with the new rules, you will get left behind.
Written by: Sarah Figenschou
Photograph: Bloomberg via Getty Images (source)
Modern day Japan is considered one of the leading nations when it comes to technology and diligence. Known for its pacifistic attitude, anime and peaceful culture the country has successfully built up its new identity over the years following the second world war. The attempt at using its own culture as a weapon in the international society has been perfectly executed as tourism is ever-peaking, but what lies beyond this meticulously painted picture? What do we find when we take a closer look at the culture? One of the most prominent aspects that seem to have little congruence with the developed and modern Japan presented to us in the media is women’s role in the society. Although stagnation is a term often used when discussing the Japanese economy, I believe it is also applicable when discussing the issues that the country is facing culturally, most prominent when looking at the unuttered issue of gender inequality. Another issue that has received more attention from the world due to the burst of the economic bubble in the late 1980’s is the stagnating state of the Japanese economy. Another issue that has received more attention from the world due to the burst of the economical bubble in the late 1980’s is the stagnating state of the Japanese economy. In the aftermath of the bubble burst the country has struggled to get back on its feet economically, facing a reality of a depressed population reluctant to consume, an aging population and a gradual decrease in births makes this no easy situation to recover from. For Japan to reconsider the asset women can be to the society is long overdue, not only as stay at home moms but as business women, innovators and leaders. New numbers show that the profits and economical boost Japan could experience would be of considerable amounts if only they were willing to set aside their medieval mindset, step into the 21stcentury and utilize the remaining 50% of its population.
The bubble economy
One could argue that when discussing the contemporary Japanese economy, it’s close to impossible not mentioning the bubble burst in 1985. The reason for this is that the collapse of the asset price bubble in japan has had a tremendous impact on the economy of which we still se aftereffects from to this day. The consequence most relevant would probably be the following years of depression and pessimism among the people, causing people to consume less and the birth rate to decline drastically. With people being hesitant to consume and invest this made it even harder for the country to get out of its stagnating state, and the struggle to encourage people to invest their spending’s and consume more is something Japan is facing to this day. The decline in births combined with the baby boom following the second world war has resulted in a rapidly aging society. Some of the main economic issues of an aging society is the labour shortage that follows and the growing population of old people that are no longer able to work and thus are dependent on either social services, or if this is not available; own savings. As Japan is now facing this new reality they need to look for new ways to make up for the decline in workforce.
One of the solutions Japan has turned to is the focus on new technology through robotics and automation. As Min Lan Tan argues in her articleJapans’ decrease in labour force is forcing the country to turn to new strategies, creating a healthy development characterized by innovation. She argues that “… as Japanese companies face a looming demographic crisis, their focus will need to shift away from competing on price to enhancing productivity, improving profit margins and creating new product categories.”. As Japan has changed so has the international market, and Japan is now facing new competitors like China and Silicon Valley. New times calls for new measures, and thus she believes Japans way back into the competition will be through an enhancement of productivity. However, new advanced technology and robotics is a costly and time-consuming project, and many has started questioning why not begin with utilizing an already existing and accessible workforce that is the Japanese women. As japan has driven a strict immigration policy over the years it seems unlikely that they will follow the strategy of several European countries importing workforce from abroad. Since this option is out of the picture there has now been a newfound focus on initiating the remaining 50% of the population, educated and willing Japanese women that are more than qualified, as the LDP has too realized they can no longer be overlooked. In an attempt at making the transition easier for the women the LDP has now launched new policies focused on facilitating social care and other measures aimed at making the role as a mother and a worker achievable. The policies are mainly focused on the balance between motherhood and work because new numbers show that 70% of women in work quit after having their first baby. This can be explained with the combination of lack of social services like daycare from the government and the fact that only 2.6% of Japanese men make use of their paternity leave and spends an approximate of one hour per day on household chores, a shockingly low number compared to the three hours that are measured in Sweden, Germany and the US. This leaves the women alone with the majority of the childcare and house related chores, making little room for time spent at work.
The inequality in Japan today
Even though there has recently been an increased focus on improving the situation for women in work Japan still has a long way to go. In a report from the World Economic Forumwe see that Japan ranked at a shocking 111thplace out of 144 countries when it comes to gender equality, making them the worst country in the Asia-Pacific region. These numbers may seem surprising due to Japans reputation of being a developed country sharing the modern ideas and attitudes that we see in the rest of the west, whereas gender equality is highly prioritized. However, the numbers speak of another truth and it seems fair to say that it is about time Japan look into this issue and changes its attitude towards women. The inequality is particularly prominent when discussing salary, as numbers show that women in Japan earn 30% less on average than men and make up as little as 4.9% in management and executive positions. Taken these numbers into account there is no wonder why Japanese women find a career less appealing than the men. In an attempt at reducing the gap, prime minister Abe has now demanded for corporations to hire at least one female executive per company, however there has been uncertainty regarding the seriousness of consequences if a company were to not meet these demands, if there will be any consequences at all. He has also presented a plan aimed at reducing working hours for women by legislating a limit on overtime and include some supportive measures that are intended to make it easier for them to step into the working life.
The difference women can make
To include more women in the workforce would result in development not only in regard to gender equality but also to the Japanese Economy. As a recent estimate from UBS shows, Japan could experience as much as an 11% expansion of the country’s working age population if they managed to eliminate the current 17-point gap and achieve equal labour between men and women. This again would result in an approximately 15% growth to Japans GDP. Another important aspect to take into consideration is that more women in work means more wealth to the Japanese households. This again would lead to higher consumption, something the Japanese economy desperately needs to get its economy up and running again. When looking into the situation in Sweden, Denmark and the US we also see a connection between high female employment and high birth rates. The assumption that women need time off from work to function as a mother is challenged by a new theory that women in work with a steady income and education are more functioning in the society and happy. This backed up with proper social care from the government could result in more children being born. The idea often presented in japan that young women are selfish for not having children can also be turned around saying young women have not been handed adequate circumstances of which they would want to bring their children into. When comparing the low birth rate in countries with low female employment rates like Italy, South Korea and Japan with the situation in Sweden, Denmark and the US we see that an increase in female employment and better social care from the government would most likely result in a higher birth rate in Japan, solving the long-lasting issue of an ever-growing aging society.
Taken the arguments presented into account it is fair to claim that a serious change needs to be made in Japan regarding female empowerment and creating gender equality. Doing so would help not only the Japanese women but the entire society, as a society can not reach its full potential as long as it keeps neglecting half of its population. Advances has been made from the women’s side, speaking up about discrimination and educating themselves. As a matter of fact, reports show us that young women in Japan today are more likely to have a university degree than young men. As of today, as much as 59% of women in japan has a higher education, compared to the lesser 52% of men. Even so, we still see a 15% gender pay gap among young people, and a clear division when it comes to what occupations these ladies get into. Even though Abe has promised a long overdue change, Japanese women still experience the inequality on a daily basis, most recently demonstrated through the highly ranked Tokyo University’s tampering with female applicants’ entrance examto ensure under 30% of successful applicants would be women. As Reika Omura commented when asked about the subject: “Basically, the problem for women in Japan is that all the men, and too many of the women, think that women are flowers [decorative] when really we are trees [with which things can be built].”. The need for change in Japan is real, the Japanese women is educated, capable and qualified, now it’s up to the men to meet the requirements and qualify themselves to be enlightened human beings functioning in the modern world, accepting and embracing the different strengths and resources that lies in the different genders.
Av: Gustav Opsahl
Bilde av: Garry Knight
Fremtiden er nå
Sommeren 2018 ble en av de varmeste noensinne. Dette medførte idylliske dager i skjærgården, lett bekledning 24 timer i døgnet og en knallsesong for is- og vifteprodusentene. Det førte også til et ekstremt dårlig år for det norske jordbruket og stor brannfare, noe som i flere ti-talls tilfeller har kulminert i skogbranner over hele Sør-Norge. Det er heller ikke bare Norge som har fått konsekvenser av ekstremvarmen. I Sverige har det i skrivende stund (29. juli 2018) herjet gigantiske skogbranner i over to uker og i Hellas førte to gigantiske branner til at over 90 mennesker omkom.
Klimaforskeren Prof. Michael Mann uttalte til The Guardian 27. juli «dette er klimaforandringenes ansikt» og at vi nå får se konsekvensene av global oppvarming «utspille seg i nåtid». Det har lenge vært konsensus blant klimaforskere at den globale oppvarmingen vil føre til mer ekstremvær, og denne sommeren fikk vi en prøvesmak på hvordan dette vil påvirke vårt samfunn.
At klimaforandringene er både svært alvorlige og i aller høyeste grad, tilstedeværende burde ikke komme som noen overraskelse på noen. Kan derimot konsekvensene vi har fått oppleve denne sommeren gjøre at stater, internasjonale organisasjoner, lokale bedrifter og folk flest virkelig forstår at dette skjer nå og ikke i en fjern fremtid?
Tiltak og tilpassing i riktig tempo?
De siste årene har det kommet flere klimapolitiske tiltak, avtaler og strategier både lokalt og internasjonalt som sikter på å forebygge den pressede klimasituasjonen. Paris-avtalen fra 2015 er så langt den største og mest ambisiøse kollektive innsatsen på den internasjonale arenaen. Den er per i dag ratifisert av 179 stater som dermed forplikter seg til å jobbe for bærekraftige løsninger og lavere utslipp. EU-kommisjonen har lagt frem et forslag for å redusere bruken av plastikk innenfor EU-området og dermed også den enorme mengden som havner på bakken og i havet. I Norge har vi eksempelvis Posten Norge, Norges største transportleverandør, som skilter med en klar miljøvisjon for deres drift fremover. De lover blant annet å «kun bruke fornybare energikilder i biler og bygg innen 2025».
Disse eksemplene viser at det blir gjort en innsats på både den internasjonale og regionale arenaen, samt på bedriftsnivå. Men er denne innsatsen nok? Vi vet at det ikke finnes noe overnasjonalt politi som kan bøtelegge eller straffe land som ikke føyer seg etter Paris-avtalen. EU kommisjonens forslag trer ikke i kraft før tidligst 2019. Innen den tid har flere hundretusen tonn plast funnet veien til havet og ellers i naturen. Postens løfte om biler på fornybar energi innen 2025 er det nærmeste vi kommer en konkret handlingsplan, men også dette er i skrivende stund 7 år til. Er dette noe vi kan ta oss tid til? Kan vi vente på at stater, regioner og bedrifter skal få tilpasse seg i det de anser som et behagelig tempo?
Valget vi gir oss selv, men ikke har
Å gjøre lovnader til handling er ingen enkel oppgave i det vestlige demokratiet eller i internasjonale bedrifter. Prosessen fra ord til handlinger krever i beste og enkleste fall «bare»nok kapital og tilgang på ressurser, men i «verste» fall også oppslutning i folket. Og det er mye folk, veldig mye folk, som må overbevises. Tiltakene som kreves vil forandre mange aspekter av hvordan vi til nå har levd våre komfortable vestlige liv. Vi må forbruke mindre generelt. Vår overkonsumpsjon av klær, mat og naturressurser er ikke bærekraftig slik vi holder på i dag. Noen tiltak er allerede iverksatt, en del med vesentlig motstand, andre uten. Noen tiltak er nesten umulig å få gjennomført fordi det «truer» vår måte å leve på. Vi er villige til å strekke oss et stykke, men ikke lenger enn at alt nesten er som før. For visom privatpersoner vil også tilpasse oss i det vi anser som et behagelig tempo.
Problemet er at alt ikke er som før og vi tilpasser oss for sakte. Regnskogen forsvinner ,gjennomsnittstemperaturen på jorden øker og korallrev over hele verden dør. Dette er problemer vi er fullt klar over og som vi kollektivt prøver å løse. Men innsatsen holder ikke, resultatene av endringene vi gjør er ikke store nok og kommer for sakte.
Vi er kommet til et punkt der det kreves et nytt tankesett når vi snakker om klimatiltak. Vi kan ikke lenger prioritere de tiltakene som er mest økonomisk lønnsomme eller populære blant velgerne. Om vi ikke setter bærekraftighet som øverste prioritet og former vår politikk etter dette, vil forandringen komme fortsette å komme for sent. Det kommer til å svi økonomisk og kreve langt mer av oss som konsumenter enn det vi ønsker, men vi har ikke noe annet valg.
Å ta betalt for plastposer minsker utvilsomt forbruket, men det er like fult et forbruk og den gjennomsnittlig nordmann avser to kroner uten å ofre det en tanke. I Mumbai har myndighetene nylig innført et totalforbud mot plastikkposer og flasker. Både butikker og borgere kan få bøter på opptil 25,000 rupi (nesten 3000kr) og tre måneders fengsel for å overtre forbudet. Dette tiltaket er kanskje litt ekstremt og kan føre til at frykten for økonomisk ruin blir større enn bevisstheten rundt klimautfordringene, hvilket er å velge desperasjon over opplysning. Lovforslaget kan også være vanskelig å overholde og kan gi grobunn for korrupsjon, spesielt i byer som Mumbai og andre samfunn med store fattigdomsproblemer.
Vi vil, men må ikke
Samtidig er dette et steg i riktig retning. Ved å gjøre det mindre attraktivt, både økonomisk og sosialt, å leve og drive forretninger på en lite bærekraftig måte,vil det bærekraftige alternativet være den beste løsningen. Det kan argumenteres for at dette vil være en innskrenkning av handlingsfriheten som står i direkte konflikt med det liberale demokratiet våre vestlige samfunn er bygd på, men dette må vi kanskje bare finne oss i. Statlige påbud og forbud i forhold til forurensning og forsøpling kan sammenliknes med røykeloven. En lov som kom til å endre livet, rutinene og normene til hundretusenvis av nordmenn, men som vi i dag ser den enorme effekten av. Den samme effekten eller forandringen kunne vi mest sannsynlig sett langt etter om det ikke hadde kommet en lov som spesifikt forbød denne type adferd.
På samme måte har vi i klima- og miljøspørsmålet kommet til et punkt der vi rett og slett må tvinges til å handle rett siden vi ikke klarer det frivillig. Vi trenger et velmenende, men kontant dytt i den riktige retningen. Det handler ikke om at vi ikke vil, det handler om at vi ikke må.
Artikler: Her publiseres Studentredaksjonens egne artikler.