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HOME  >  Research Grant Program  >  2018  >  Comments by Selection Committee Chair

Research Grant Program 2018

Comments by Selection Committee Chair

Hideaki Shiroyama
Graduate Schools for Law and Politics
The University of Tokyo

The Toyota Foundation Research Grant Program has sponsored projects based on the broad theme of “Exploring New Values for Society,” but a Special Topic program “Co-Creating New Society with Advanced Technologies” has been established starting in 2018. In the face of emerging advanced technologies like AI, the main objective is to provide support for research on such questions as how these technologies should be handled in society and what kind of vision there should be for human society in the future. For example, one form this could take is to conduct assessments of the diverse social impacts, including what kind of advantages, risks, and concerns there are with new technologies. Alternatively, there could also be research on how to solve social issues using advanced technologies as well as the considerations required, the kind of mechanisms that must be created, and the changes needed in the form of society in order to solve the social issues. The theme of how advanced technology and society will coexist is one in which simultaneous research is being conducted globally. Entering such communities and promoting and disseminating joint research is important. It is also important to provide support for the young researchers carrying out these activities. This year, the Research Grant Program conducted its first call for proposals based on an awareness of the issues outlined above, received 56 applications with a broad range of content, and finally selected 7 projects.

The projects selected can be roughly divided into four categories.

The first category of projects aim to build a platform for researchers and practitioners to consider the specific ethical, legal, and social issues when advanced technologies are introduced into society. The projects that fall into this category are D18-ST-0051 Mayu Terada (Associate Professor, International Christian University), “Study of Legislative Issues on the Development and Problems of Social System that Utilize Advanced Technology: Utilization of Artificial Intelligence and Acceptance of Society · Law · Technology and Ethics,” and D18-ST-0008 Arisa Ema (Project Assistant Professor, The University of Tokyo), “Building Platform on Ethics and Governance of Artificial Intelligence.”

The second category of projects will investigate issues based on an analysis of advanced technologies nursing care and welfare settings. These projects are D18-ST-0005 Naonori Kodate (Assistant Professor, University College Dublin), “Harmonisation Towards the Establishment of Person-Centred, Robotics-Aided Care System (HARP: RoCS),” and D18-ST-0028 Kota Takaoka (Researcher, Artificial Intelligence Research Center, National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology), “Management Tasks for Promotion of Digital Transformation in the Social Welfare Municipally Organization.”

The third category of projects will attempt to clarify directions for the relationship between advanced technologies and society/human beings through the exploration of basic concepts. D18-ST-0043 Terukazu Kumazawa (Associate Professor, RIHN Center, Research Institute for Humanity and Nature), “’Fudo’-nization of Advanced Technology: How to Imagine Plausible Future of Human-Computer Interdependency” will tackle such issues through the perspective of “Fudo”, and D18-ST-0040 Reina Saijo (Teaching Fellow, Kyoto University), “The Relationship Between Human and Social Agent from Care Ethics and the Social Implications” will tackle such issues through the perspective of an ideal for the object of human emotion and affection.

The fourth project category addresses the social issues arising from advanced technologies in a practical way as an NPO. D18-ST-0058 Hitofumi Yanai (Exective Director, FactCheck Initiative Japan (FIJ)), “Building a Fact-Check Networking System to Prevent the Dissemination of Mis/disinformation Online” attempts to propose a system for checking whether information on the internet and SNSs is factual and apply it to actual cases.

Projects related to advanced technologies and society are being conducted by diverse organizations. Under such circumstances, it is hoped that the projects selected by the Research Grant Program will not only tackle the practical policy issues which must be addressed in the short term but will also conduct research that deals with fundamental issues, paving the way to a vision for the social systems of the future and new social values. In order to achieve this, rather than simply implementing individual projects, we are thinking of creating opportunities that would facilitate discussion between projects. In addition, there is a sense that the research subjects are weighted considerably toward information technology, such as AI, from among advanced technologies this year. In the future, we look forward to research proposals in fields such as the life sciences and applied fields of information technology in a broader range of fields than welfare and nursing care in order to build a more balanced research project portfolio.

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