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Deutsches Institut für Japanstudien

Chances and Risks of Digital Technologies: The vision of an inclusive society and new social spaces free from physical and cognitive limitations

 September 2021 - ongoing

The Japanese Council for Science, Technology and Innovation (CSTI) launched the "Moonshot Research and Development Program" in 2020. As Moonshot Goal #1, the CSTI formulated the vision of a society "in which human beings can be free from limitations of body, brain, space, and time by 2050" (CaO 2020). The intention is to create solutions for the declining birth rate and ageing of Japanese society and, in particular, the resulting labour shortage. Elderly or physically impaired people and people with responsibilities such as caregiving and child-rearing should participate in the labour market, regardless of physical, cognitive, spatial or temporal limitations (MEXT 2020: 120). To this end, so-called cybernetic avatars and a cloud-based infrastructure are to be developed, and social acceptance for this visionary society created.
The aim of this project is to analyse how the visionary new cyber-physical spaces of society 5.0 are discursively constructed. In addition, on the empirical level, I examine already existing hybrid forms of virtual and physical spaces. Through participant observation and interviews, I investigate if cybernetic avatars offer new opportunities for social participation and work or if there is a risk that people who were previously entitled to social benefits are now obliged to contribute to the common good through work. Other research questions focus on the ethical, legal and social implications (ELSI) of innovative research and cybernetic avatars discussed in the discourse. For example, if ethical principles lead to rules and regulations to avoid risks or if they are perceived as restrictions and impediments to progress.