There is no point denying that imagination is the first step to possibility. And Japan is already leading the society’s next big evolution and revolution – Society 5.0 aka the “Imagination Society”.
Before we delve deeper into the concept, lets first recall what a society means and its various incarnations. A society is a group of individuals involved in persistent social interactions, or a large social group sharing the same spatial or social territory, typically subject to the same political authority and dominant cultural expectations. Society has undergone several historical developments to be divided into, in chronological order, four categories of societies : the hunting society, the farming society, the industrial society and the information society.
Today, we live in Society 4.0 or the information society that we call it. The technological development we see in Society 4.0 is driving the society like anything. While it has brought about improvements such as higher standards of living and greater convenience, it has its negative effects too, such as impact on employment; unequal distribution of wealth and information; and growing disparity. With this happening, the world is now facing a great tide of change. The trend of digital transformation cannot be put to a halt and is drastically altering many aspects of society, including industrial structure, employment, public administration, and people’s private lives.
We can now safely say that Society 4.0 has reached its limit. And the transition to Society 5.0 is just around the corner.
Society 5.0 or “Imagination Society” is Japan’s vision for the future. It is a society that can solve global problems by utilizing terrific innovations passed on by the Society 4.0 such as the IoT (the internet for everything), Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, and Robots to improve the quality of human life. It is a super-smart society where technology fuse into every industry and across all social segments. Human-centered society balances economic development and helps solve social issues by a system that integrates real space and cyber space. Technology as a catalyst and transformer benefits the citizens in an egalitarian way and create a super intelligent society.
The emphasis, instead of being on industry, is placed on society – satisfying individual needs, solving problems and creating value. People are expected to exercise rich imaginations to identify a variety of needs, challenges and opportunities scattered across society and their respective solutions, as well as creativity to realize such solutions by using digital technologies and data. The hope is that this information revolution will be able to solve currently impossible global issues, making everyday life more comfortable and sustainable.
It is a decentralized society. It aims to remove constraints that earlier versions up until Society 4.0 could not do. It is a diverse society where anyone can exercise diverse abilities, lifestyles and values. It has no place for any disparity caused by the concentration of wealth and information or whatsoever and people can get equal opportunities anytime, anywhere to satisfy their needs. Remote medical services, automatic translation that removes language barriers, autonomous driving technology assisting elderly drivers, AI and robots supporting the elderly or people with disabilities, and real-time access to necessary information are expected to eliminate problems arising from social disparities. People will be able to live, learn and work, because of their new values and ways of thinking. In this way, it will be possible to realize fraternal communities that can promote economic development and find solutions to social problems together.
It is a resilient human-centred society where people can live and pursue solutions to challenges in security. Vulnerabilities are tackled well. People are liberated from anxiety about terrorism, disasters and cyberattacks, and live with security with strengthened safety nets for unemployment and poverty. It aims to empower all actors in the community, placing special emphasis on active participation for a safe, comfortable and prosperous life.
It aims to help effective health services, simplify mobility, enhance infrastructure quality, and optimize financial technology. In addition, artificial intelligence (AI) makes it possible to provide important information when necessary, and technologies such as robots and autonomous vehicles that overcome problems such as low birth rate, aging population, depopulation in rural areas, and gap between the rich and poor.
Education in the world is entering a very important period -not only in an effort to provide quality and optimal education services, but also an important period that will determine the continuation of education itself. Education in Society 5.0 becomes more flexible in terms of grades and classifications with more emphasis being laid on grooming human skills than on memorizing facts.
This society can contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the United Nations. Digital transformations shall combine with the creativity of diverse people to bring about “problem solving” and “value creation” that will lead us to sustainable development. As such, Society 5.0 shall be the ecosystem that will provide sustainability to all stages- economic, environmental, social and political levels, focusing on the individual and on creating values.
Sustainable growth and autonomous development of local communities, ensuring the safety and security of the country and people, realizing a rich and high-quality life, responding to global issues and contributing to the development of the world and sustained creation of intellectual assets should all be incorporated in the new society. It is a society where human kind lives in harmony with nature. People will be freed from resources and environmental constraints, and able to live sustainable lives in any region. Needless to say, the economical growth goes well too.
To quote Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s understanding of Society 5.0 at the International Conference of the Future of Asia in 2017; “The essence of Society 5.0 is that it will become possible to quickly elicit the most suitable solution that meets the needs of each individual.” In short, we will make Society 5.0 a society in which anyone can create value any time, anywhere, with security and in harmony with nature.
However, it is not an easy thing to form a new society. We need a society where people will be able to enjoy life to the fullest. We should understand that technological progress and economic growth were created for that. The gap has diminished with the increasing quality of life of people in general, so that it is not only enjoyed by a few people. For the realization of Society 5.0, the governments and other stakeholders should work on corporate and labor policy reform, human resource development, enhancement of research and development, establishment of data policy, governmental reform, etc. Then only shall we be able to co-create a sustainable future – Society 5.0 as it is visualized to be.