This magazine highlights some of the efforts being made by the University of Tokyo to bring about a better future for all. The Future Society Initiative (FSI), established in 2017, registers ongoing research projects that contribute to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The FSI hopes to encourage interdisciplinary collaboration between projects where there are natural synergies.
The 17 SDGs, laid out by the United Nations in 2015, offer a guideline to achieving a more equitable and fair society for all humanity by 2030. The SDGs cover a wide range of issues, from hunger and poverty to health and well-being, from clean energy to clean water, and from innovation to peace. There are a great many challenges to overcome before we can achieve the lofty targets they assign us, but at the University of Tokyo we regard the SDGs as a framework to bring together disparate activities intended to bring about a better future.
Most would agree that an equitable society, where all can enjoy the fruits of progress, is a good idea. In Japan, we call this brighter future Society 5.0, as the fifth stage of human development after the hunter-gatherer, agrarian, industrial and information societies. Society 5.0 is a knowledge-intensive society powered by the combination of artificial intelligence and big data with information and communications technology. Society 5.0 offers a future where the barriers of distance and ability, borders and language have no meaning, and all can take part in society on their own terms.
But technology alone cannot solve all our problems. The humanities and social sciences are essential guides to the problems we choose to tackle, and architects of the future we choose to create together. Diverse viewpoints on the challenges we face are essential. Japan is already experiencing many of the issues that will soon affect other societies around the world. We must listen to the ideas and experiences of people from all backgrounds, and from all countries, to find the solutions we need.
We hope you will find inspiration in these pages as you read about the University of Tokyo and the FSI’s efforts to realize the brighter future offered by Society 5.0.
In this magazine, we present the breadth of research at the University of Tokyo by highlighting some of the projects registered under the Future Society Initiative. Public health is a common theme underlying a large share of FSI projects. We take an in-depth look at researchers who are actively tackling challenges on this front around the globe. We also showcase six projects spanning the sciences and humanities, from changing diets in African cities to rare-earth sources from the ocean floor to bringing humanities into the digital age.