BreakThrough Study Idea

Transition to a society that correctly evaluates new values created by the transformation of mindset from analysis to synthesisMasatoshi Ishikawa

<Series 1 / complete>


  • facebook
  • twitter

Due to the rapidly declining birthrate and aging population in Japan, demand in the fields of medical care and welfare is increasing with each passing day. However, at the same time, the working-age population is decreasing, and all industries are facing a shortage of human resources. Insufficiency of the workforce is more prominent in the medical care and welfare fields.
This issue has led to a movement to meet the increasing demand in the medical care and welfare fields by leveraging cutting-edge technology to improve the quality of medical care.
In this interview, the author spoke to Professor Masatoshi Ishikawa, Dean, Graduate School of Information Science and Technology, The University of Tokyo, who is known for his research in creating unprecedented new value.
What role does cutting-edge technology play in the medical and welfare fields? How should SMEs be involved in the research and development of cutting-edge technologies? The topics will be introduced in a four-part series

“In the 21st century, technology is changing dramatically”, says Professor Ishikawa. He warns that “Many companies in Japan are hesitating to shift to the 21st-century technology”.
Let’s look at the changes in technology between the 20th and 21st-centuries. The first topic is “21st Century Technology”. Find the path that Japanese companies should follow in the future.

From Analysis to Synthesis

As we advanced from the 20th century to the 21st century, there has been a significant transition in the technologies and the research that produced them. First, let's take a look back at the technologies developed in the 20th century.
In the 20th century, research conducted to develop technologies almost always started with a problem. There were many “Social issues and needs”, and the goal was to resolve them. A theory is formed by exploring the truth and gathering evidence. It is a science of “Knowing” something and based on the analysis.
However, although analysis is essential for the development of technology in the 21st century, it is not sufficient. Without a problem or solution, a science that “Creates” new value is necessary by creating hypotheses and demonstrating them. This process is called synthesis. The technology of the 21st century can be developed only when analysis and synthesis come together.

For example, let’s consider Google and Facebook as representatives of 21st-century technology. Before the launch of Google and Facebook, nobody recognized that society had important issues. There were no actual needs. However, as Google and Facebook were an embodiment of what is “Good to have”, which became a new value, and spread across the society in a short time. After using Google and Facebook, the society also finally realized that “Such problems existed”.

Technology creation in the 21st century requires a combination of the science that “Knows” and science that “Creates”.

Recently, including Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple (GAFA), there has been a significant creation of new value. However, if the formation process of technology in the 21st century is different from the past, does this mean that university and corporate research institutes have no other alternative but to take cognizance of the difference and continue to change?

Role of Society in Creation of the 21st Century Technology

To create technology in the 21st-century, university and corporate research institutes need to change their mindset from analysis to synthesis, but this alone is not sufficient. To create new value, proper evaluation of technology that produces a new value by society is important. Apart from researchers, society also plays a significant role in the advancement of technology, in particular, for the promotion of the science of “Creation”.

If we consider technology in the medical field, it was evaluated mainly by physicians. In principle, patients who receive medical care and their families should essentially evaluate the technology. If this process is followed, apart from the therapeutic effect, the technology that places importance on the quality of life (QOL) of patients will be developed.
Having said this, Japan still gives emphasizes to analysis and marketing, and tends to focus on need-based research. However, with only need-based research, it is only possible to improve the existing technology, and one cannot break away from the system of catching-up. Even if needs are not evident, unique and individualistic research that is not an imitation, should be carried out one after another.
When pushing our way through needs that are unclear towards what is “Good to have”, it would be excellent even if two attempts are successful out of ten challenges. In other words, the remaining eight attempts have failed. While this is true, we should change to a society that greatly applauds “Justifiable failures” resulting from boldly taking up challenges.

I think that the starting point of the research so far has often been “Needs”. But if needs cannot create new value, what should researchers consider? It will be like chasing a cloud of what is “Good to have”, where there are concerns about not being able to choose the topics.

“Social Acceptability” Instead of “Needs”

The research for which market already exists and needs are visible, is nothing beyond research for improvement. For conducting creative research, it is good to explore “Social acceptability” rather than needs.
Social acceptability is an indicator of whether society accepts something. When needs are not real, new emerging technologies that are received by society as “Good” should be pursed.

I feel that not only research laboratories at universities and large enterprises but even small and medium enterprises should take up the challenge of creating new value. For this, I would like to recommend three thought experiments as a hint for exploring social acceptability.

(1) Think about what is “Good to have”
Forget about the status quo and limitations, and think about what is required. For example, I was involved in the development of a product called “Vision Chip”. It is a one-chip parallel signal processing product for detecting fast moving objects, in addition to image sensing of 1,000 fps, which is 30 times more than the average of 30 fps. The current price of the chip is 100,000 yen; however, if Vision Chip costing 100 yen with the same functions is available, then a significant expansion in the scope of application can be expected. How will you use it?

(2) Consider an extreme case
If the goal is to achieve ten times the current limit, then you cannot break away from catching up. Let’s set a goal to achieve 100 times or 1000 times the current limit. If you set up such goals, you have to think of new ways and are more likely to create new value. For example, cars now have 2 to 3 cameras installed, now imagine a car installed with 100 cameras. How can the car be utilized so that each camera is fully used?

(3) Identify the impossible
When brainstorming at development meetings, if only ideas that have been rejected as “Not good or impossible” are collected, then better development goals can be set. These are the goals that everyone thinks “Impossible”; in other words, goals that no one has tried to achieve. It may be possible to achieve the goals that were not possible with the previous tools using the current tools. A person who is first to take up the challenge may be able to break through.

Interview Date: March 11, 2019



Transition to a society that correctly evaluates new values created by the transformation of mindset from analysis to synthesis

Speed up the entire system using high-speed vision. Application to the human interface is possible

High-speed tracking assists procedures such as working using microscopes or robotic surgeries

SMEs determine social acceptability using low-cost Proof Of Concept (POC) and attempt a breakthrough

Masatoshi Ishikawa
Dean, Graduate School of Information Science and Technology, The University of Tokyo

1977 Graduated from Department of Mathematical Engineering and Information Physics, School of Engineering, The University of Tokyo 1979 Completed diploma and master’s course from the Department of Mathematical Engineering and Information Physics, School of Engineering, The University of Tokyo, and became Dr. of Engineering in 1988 (University of Tokyo). He was a senior researcher at the Agency of Industrial Science and Technology, Ministry of International Trade and Industry (now National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology) in 1979, and he worked as an assistant professor at the Department of Mathematical Engineering and Information Physics, School of Engineering, The University of Tokyo since 1989. Next, he served as a director and associate dean of the University of Tokyo and has been in his current post since 2016.
His field of specialization is systems informatics (sensor engineering, robotics, image processing, perception and behavior systems, bio-information processing). He is engaged in the research on sensor fusion, massively parallel high-speed vision, high-speed robots, visual feedback, meta-perception, optics in computing, intelligent tactile sensors, and circuit models of bioinformation.
In addition to numerous awards at domestic and international conferences, he was awarded the Medal with Purple Ribbon, in November 2011.

◇Major Publications as Co-author
“Robot Control Handbook” (Kindai Kagaku Sha Co., Ltd,) Published in December 2017
“Introduction to Information Network Science” (Corona Publishing Co., Ltd) Published in October 2015, and various other books

share by SNS

related article