Collaborating Authors


Archive review – anyone for a posthuman wife? She comes with an off switch

The Guardian

British illustrator and visual-effects director Gavin Rothery makes his feature debut with this artificial intelligence thriller: a tale of love, death and robotics that has some nicely creepy moments. Set in 2038, it centres on lonely computer scientist George Almore (Divergent's Theo James), who is holed up in a remote research facility in Japan secretly working on an android version of his wife Jules (Stacy Martin); she has died in a car crash. His prototype, J3 (also played by Martin), is his closest yet to the real thing: a highly advanced humanoid with spookily pale skin who looks like she might be the ghost of his dead wife. Poor old J1 and J2, his earlier, clunkier prototypes: they look on bitterly as the newer, sleeker model gets all George's attention. The movie opens with sweeping helicopter shots over a snowy forest.

Japan considers vehicle-mounted laser to ward off drone attacks

The Japan Times

The Defense Ministry will begin research on ways to ward off drone attacks by using vehicle-mounted laser, according to informed sources. By mounting laser equipment on vehicles, the ministry aims to raise the mobility of the system. The ministry included ¥2.8 billion in research spending in its budget for fiscal 2021. It aims to establish related technology as early as fiscal 2024 and put it into practical use at an early date. In fiscal 2018, the ministry started research on using high-energy laser to destroy drones.

Masks no obstacle for new facial recognition system from Japan's NEC

The Japan Times

Japan's NEC Corp. has launched a facial recognition system that identifies people even when they are wearing masks, adapting to a new normal in which face coverings have become a key form of protection against the spread of the coronavirus. The technology firm had already been working on a system to meet the needs of allergy sufferers who wear masks when the COVID-19 pandemic prompted it to accelerate development. "Needs grew even more due to the coronavirus situation as the state of emergency (last year) was continuing for a long time, and so we've now introduced this technology to the market," Shinya Takashima, assistant manager of NEC's digital platform division, said. The system determines when a person is wearing a mask and hones in on the parts that are not covered up, such as the eyes and surrounding areas, to verify the subject's identity. Users register a photo of their face in advance.

What Buddhism can do for AI ethics

MIT Technology Review

The explosive growth of artificial intelligence has fostered hope that it will help us solve many of the world's most intractable problems. However, there's also much concern about the power of AI, and growing agreement that its use should be guided to avoid infringing upon our rights. Many groups have discussed and proposed ethical guidelines for how AI should be developed or deployed: IEEE, a global professional organization for engineers, has issued a 280-page document on the subject (to which I contributed), and the European Union has published its own framework. The AI Ethics Guidelines Global Inventory has compiled more than 160 such guidelines from around the world. Unfortunately, most of these guidelines are developed by groups or organizations concentrated in North America and Europe: a survey published by social scientist Anna Jobin and her colleagues found 21 in the US, 19 in the EU, 13 in the UK, four in Japan, and one each from the United Arab Emirates, India, Singapore, and South Korea.

Japan Post and Rakuten to forge digital tie-up aimed at boosting efficiency

The Japan Times

Japan Post Co. and major online shopping mall operator Rakuten Inc. have reached a basic agreement on a tie-up aimed at streamlining logistics with the use of digital technologies. The two companies will try to tackle delivery staff shortages and other logistics-related challenges by sharing Japan Post's massive trove of data on postal items and Rakuten's forecast information regarding online shopping demand, they said on Thursday. The mail delivery arm of Japan Post Holdings Co. and Rakuten will also consider cooperation in other fields such as cashless payment and mobile phone services. They aim to sign a final agreement in around March next year. "We see tie-up possibilities in a variety of fields, even outside the financial and mobile sectors," Japan Post Holdings President Hiroya Masuda told a news conference, showing the group's strong interest in enhancing business ties with Rakuten.

Fukushima nuclear debris removal to be delayed due to pandemic

The Japan Times

The operator of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, which suffered core meltdowns in 2011, has decided to delay the removal of nuclear debris by about one year from 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic, sources said Wednesday. The process of removing the melted fuel, the most difficult part of cleaning up the facility, was to begin at the No. 2 reactor in 2021, but the virus spread has stalled tests in the U.K. of a robot arm that is to be used for the removal, the sources said. Of the Nos. 1 to 3 reactors that experienced meltdowns following a massive earthquake and tsunami, the removal procedure was to start at the No. 2 unit because the operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., had the best grasp of its internal condition, they said. Tepco had planned to insert a robot arm into the unit's containment vessel, from which it would initially extract around 1 gram of the debris at a time, then gradually expand the amount as it works toward removing several kilograms a day. The company was originally scheduled to verify in August the viability of the robot arm in the U.K. and transfer the equipment to Japan in February 2021 so that workers could start training with it.

Yahoo Japan to delete hateful posts with AI to tackle cyberbullying

The Japan Times

Yahoo Japan Corp. said Wednesday it will delete hateful and defamatory comments from all of its online posting sites with the help of artificial intelligence, beefing up efforts to tackle cyberbullying after the suspected suicide of a reality television show star. The operator of Yahoo online services is strengthening its monitoring of hateful posts following the death earlier this year of Hana Kimura, a cast member of the popular reality show "Terrace House," who had been the target of bullying on social media. Yahoo Japan will release a list of expressions that could be taken as malicious and clarify the criteria for deleting. Posts that are judged harmful by AI will be automatically removed. If a user known to have made inappropriate posts gets a different ID, Yahoo Japan will suspend them.

AI, drones and 4K cameras: New tech boosts security systems in Japan

The Japan Times

An increasing variety of technologies such as artificial intelligence, drones and high-quality 4K video cameras is being introduced in the field of security amid a serious shortage of personnel in the field. A virtual "AI guard" developed by major Japanese security firm Secom Co. was tested at Ogikubo Hospital in Tokyo in late October. An animated character displayed on an electric panel at the hospital entrance takes visitors' temperatures and then welcomes those without fevers into the facility. The character has been programmed to respond verbally to basic inquiries and can tell visitors where the bathrooms are located and what time their buses will arrive. It is also able to make eye contact with visitors and lean down when approached by children or people in wheelchairs.

Dissecting Japan's hit products of 2020

The Japan Times

Early one morning at the beginning of December, I rushed to the nearest newsstand to purchase a copy of the Nikkei Marketing Journal. It was somehow reassuring once again to see, emblazoned atop page one, the publication's traditional sumo-style banzuke (ranking sheet) -- a layout virtually unchanged since 1971 -- listing Japan's top-selling hit products of 2020. Before dissecting the 2020 rankings, it's worth examining how this annual list began. The 1970s marked the time when discerning consumers in Japan began showing a preference for greater variety. Prior to that time, manufacturers had been content to sell their rice cookers, washing machines, TV sets and other mass-produced household items by appealing mainly through brand affinity.

Playing Go with Darwin - Issue 94: Evolving


"I have lately been especially attending to Geograph. Distrib, & most splendid sport it is,--a grand game of chess with the world for a Board." In 1938, Yasunari Kawabata, a young journalist in Tokyo, covered the battle between master Honinbo Shusai and apprentice Minoru Kitani for ultimate authority in the board game Go. It was one of the lengthiest matches in the history of competitive gaming--six months. In his 1968 Nobel Prize-winning novel inspired by these events, The Master of Go, Kawabata wrote of the decisive moment when, "Black has greater thickness and Black territory was secure, and the time was at hand for Otake's [Kitani's pseudonym in the book] own characteristic turn to offensive, for gnawing into enemy formations at which he was so adept."