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From touchscreen vending machines to interactive robots, Japan is the place where the future exists in the present. “Society 5.0” was presented as a core concept in the 5th Science and Technology Basic Plan, adopted by the Japanese Cabinet in January 2016. It was identified in 2017 as a core part of Japanese growth strategy for the future. 

Under the vision of Society 5.0, Japan aims to create a highly efficient economic model by successfully embedding a number of technological innovations (such as AI, IoT, etc.) into everyday life to create a ‘cyberphysical system’, in which cyberspace and the physical space are tightly integrated. Experts claim that the Society 5.0 initiative will enable the Japanese government to take their country further into the information age to a better tech-savvy, wealthy, and sustainable era. 

Society 5.0 – the past and future

Source: Ben Sweet/Unsplash

Society 5.0 was conceived as part of Japan’s effort to overcome the economic stagnation that resulted from the fall of the stock market and real estate prices in 1991. The period from 1991 to 2001 is considered a “Lost Decade” for the Japanese economy when the country witnessed a serious decline in its GDP and real wages. Today, many economists still use the term ‘Japanization’ to denote long-term economic stagnation and deflation.    

The idea for Society 5.0 was put forward for the first time in 2016 along with the Japanese government’s Fifth Basic Plan for Science, Innovation, and Technology (STI). The Sixth STI plan, adopted in April 2021 by the government, would further promote and push the developmental activities that are aligned with the vision of Society 5.0.

Japan's Society 5.0: An Upcoming Age of Renaissance
Source: Andy Kelly/Unsplash

Japan looks forward to boosting its economy by bringing significant development in sectors such as healthcare, finance, logistics, and infrastructure, but its aging population (28.7% of Japanese are above 65 years) is a big hurdle in achieving these ambitious goals. Society 5.0 hopes to address this issue in an intelligent way, by proposing the integration of digital world technologies in the real world in such a manner that Japan’s economic development will be driven by advances in cutting-edge technology rather than population growth.  

This is why the government of Japan has decided to make heavy investments in sectors such as machine learning, the internet of things (IoT), and robotics. Over the next five years, Japan plans to spend around 30 trillion Japanese Yen (225 billion USD) in various research and development programs, with the expectation that the industry will also be investing 90 trillion yen. A further 10 trillion Yen will be used to boost the top-performing Japanese universities in competing globally.

The country is also focused to make the best use of AI and big data technology in its futuristic society, so by the year 2034, it plans to invest around 4 billion dollars in the same segment.

How Japan will enter into Society 5.0?

Japan's Society 5.0: An Upcoming Age of Renaissance
Source: Francisco Sanchez/pexels

Japan aims to use technology to transform its existing society into a safer, more secure, and more resilient society, and through the use of Society 5.0. To achieve this, the sixth STI incorporated three main policies: 

1. Integration of cyberspace and physical space for bringing social and structural reforms.

Under this policy, the government will adopt a data strategy, promote digitalization through AI and related technologies, and encourage carbon neutrality. The Japanese administration has also created a Green Innovation Fund to ensure planned sustainable development in the country. 

The creation of a healthy startup ecosystem, smart cities, and various other strategic innovation programs are also mentioned in this policy, as important steps towards the development of an advanced society.

2. Increasing research and creating knowledge to design a powerful new society.

In the sixth STI, Japan has approved a massive 10 trillion JPY (91 billion USD) fund for the country’s best universities so that they can be transformed to better compete with global research institutes.

Japan's Society 5.0: An Upcoming Age of Renaissance
Source: Cabinet Office, Government of Japan

The Japanese government will also support young researchers and scientists in the coming years so that new ideas and innovative technologies can be monetized and become a part of Society 5.0 and bring further development. 

3. An improved learning environment and human resources.

This will promote digital education and research in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) fields, allow universities to level up their education ecosystem, and aid the development of human resources in the country for strengthening the new society.

To meet Society 5.0 goals, the sixth STI also includes provisions for ensuring rapid growth in the field of supercomputers, quantum mechanics, 5G, space technology, and semiconductors. 

What changes Society 5.0 would bring? 

Japan's Society 5.0: An Upcoming Age of Renaissance
Source: Kindel Media/pexels

Society 5.0 shows great potential for balanced economic development in the country, and there are many ways in which it hopes to transform the Japanese lifestyle forever: 

Biometric data of users, for example, elderly people collected on an everyday basis in the proposed model could be used to inform users of their risk of developing an illness or complication from an existing illness. VR surgical simulators will allow doctors to provide advanced diagnosis, plus deep learning that is useful in diagnostic imaging will also enable early detection of disease. 

Apart from this, the aging population of Japan requires good care and medical attention, and robots designed to work as nurses are being developed to manage some of the care of Japan’s aging generation. Online availability of patient records and other medical data would increase the effectiveness of treatment. 

Autonomous driving technology will lower accident rates, save time and lead to a smoother and more efficient traffic experience in Society 5.0. From trains to taxis, buses, and cars, the plan is for everything to eventually be run by smart autonomous systems.

Moreover, a regulatory sandbox system will allow automobile companies to test their self-driving vehicles conveniently and on a large scale.

In Society 5.0, AI and Robotics would assist humans in performing various tasks, ranging from normal household work to large-scale industrial operations such as building roads or dams. 

AI-based wearable devices will be able to monitor users and could even adjust their bodily functions for optimum performance. 

Japan's Society 5.0: An Upcoming Age of Renaissance
Source: Cabinet Office, Government of Japan

IoT would be used extensively in sports, entertainment, and other industries for data sharing and designing better versions of the existing technological applications. 

Plans also call for an increase in the use of blockchain technology and for more widespread use of application programming interfaces (API) in fintech. These changes would increase the efficiency of the banking system in Japan.

Using the vast knowledge from the industrial age, Society 5.0 attempts to narrow the gap between the digital space and the real world. This human-centered society model not only favors intelligent use of energy but also promises high hopes for the future.

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