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Mirai Tankyu 2050 (Exploration of the Future 2050 - The Futures of Knowledge as Envisioned by 30 University of Tokyo Researchers)


356 pages, A5 format, softcover




March 24, 2021



Published by

Nikkei Business Publications, Inc.

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Mirai Tankyu 2050

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In the 21st century marked by drastic changes in international society in which the pace of scientific and technological innovation only continues to accelerate, more than ever, people are interested in what the future holds in store. Just looking back at the remarkable advances in information and communication technology and biotechnology in recent years and the turmoil that international society finds itself in as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic that began in 2020, it is evident that the approach of trying to predict the future based on a single line drawn from our past experiences and development is no longer useful. There is increasing need to think deeply about complicated and multilayered futures.
It is certain that the role of knowledge will increase in the future. The knowledge-intensive nature of present-day society, wherein knowledge is what gives birth to new value, continues to grow stronger. To predict what society will look like in the future, we need to think about what kinds of knowledge are likely to be generated from now on. Through its discussion of “the futures of knowledge,” the book aims to stimulate thinking about the future of society in what is often referred to as the knowledge century.
The book does not take the conventional approach of trying to paint a picture of specific futures but, rather, attempts to describe the futures of knowledge in different disciplines by examining 30 cases of knowledge accumulation that cover a wide range of academic disciplines. In addition, the book covers not only the natural sciences and technological innovation, which are frequently discussed, but, also, the humanities and social sciences. Knowledge development is sometimes discussed with the assumption that it is the result of scientific and technological innovation. In reality, the development of knowledge changes dynamically as a result of interactions between various factors including political developments, economic development, and changes in social values. Advances in basic science can also impact knowledge development. When thinking about the futures of knowledge, it is necessary to expand the scope of disciplines that are considered relevant and to include advances in the humanities and social sciences as well as the natural sciences. An image of a multifaceted future comes into view when we assemble these bits of “futures of knowledge” like toy blocks.
The book consists of three sections. The first section introduces futures studies and other academic disciplines that are related to the future. The latter half of the section explains the book’s approach. The second section, which constitutes the book’s main section, features interviews with 30 researchers at the University of Tokyo representing a wide range of disciplines who were asked to envision the future in their respective fields based on past accumulation of knowledge. The book’s approach is unique: pose the same questions to 30 experts in diverse fields ranging from economics to neuroscience, virology, data engineering, robotics, mathematics, particle physics, and more broadly to Japanese history, Western art history, and Buddhist studies. What emerges from this exercise is the fact that there are surprising commonalities even among disciplines that appear to be completely unrelated. The third section summarizes the interviews presented in section two and concludes with a dialogue with GONOKAMI Makoto, president of the University of Tokyo, and FUJIWARA Kiichi, director of the Institute for Future Initiatives (both are titles at the time of publication).


(Written by SUGIYAMA Masahiro, Associate Professor, Institute for Future Initiatives / 2021)

Related Info

New! “Future Exploration 2050” IFI Seminar – Exploring the Future of Knowledge – 3rd Seminar: Exploring the “Fundamental Laws of the World” from Buddhist Studies and Physics  (Institute for Future Initiatives  Feb. 22, 2022)
“Future Exploration 2050” IFI Seminar – Exploring the Future of Knowledge – 2nd Seminar: The future of earth where people live  (Institute for Future Initiatives  Nov. 19, 2021)
“Future Exploration 2050” IFI Seminar – Exploring the Future of Knowledge- 1st Seminar: Questioning “Humanity” from Art History and Environmental Ethics  (Institute for Future Initiatives  Sept. 14, 2021)

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