Tokyo Forum 2023 discusses how to cultivate humanity amid social divisions and digital transformation

December 13, 2023

Some 40 speakers took part in Tokyo Forum 2023 on November 30 and December 1, 2023, discussing the complex and daunting topic of how humanity can respond to the global challenges posed by rapidly advancing technology and the increasingly uncertain international order.
The symposium, centered around the theme of “Cultivating Humanity amid Social Divisions and Digital Transformation,” took place at the University of Tokyo’s Yasuda Auditorium and attracted online participants from around the world.
In his opening remarks, UTokyo President Teruo Fujii underscored the significance of holding the symposium, which was taking place against the backdrop of an acceleration in geopolitical division and discord. In addition, the world has experienced rapid progress in digital transformation, driven by technologies such as artificial intelligence. This advancement has blurred the boundaries between humans and technology, prompting a reevaluation of our understanding of humanity.
“In this increasingly complex environment, both in terms of geopolitics and technology, higher education must be dynamically engaged and integrated in the global discourse,” Fujii said. “Universities must continue to play a central role in gathering wisdom and insights from all sectors of society, from governments to the private sector. This mission can only be achieved through collaboration, where experts from diverse fields come together.”
Tokyo Forum 2023, the fifth annual symposium held under the overarching theme of “Shaping the Future,” was cosponsored by UTokyo and South Korea’s Chey Institute for Advanced Studies.
Chairman Chey Tae-Won of South Korea’s SK Group noted in his opening remarks that the era of a single global market is effectively over due to geopolitical tensions and digital transformation. Chey said the United States, the European Union and China are now setting their own standards and rules as they try to shape the new international order.
Chey emphasized the need for South Korea and Japan to play a more proactive role on the global stage, not only for the sake of economic growth, but also for their own survival. "Korea and Japan must form a strong economic coalition," he said, citing promising opportunities in areas such as semiconductors, electric vehicle batteries and renewable energy.
Their remarks were followed by keynote addresses by three speakers: Emeritus Professor Surichai Wun’Gaeo of the Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University; Distinguished Professor Alison Gopnik of the Department of Psychology, University of California, Berkeley; and Emeritus Professor Kiichi Fujiwara, of UTokyo. Wun’Gaeo mentioned Buddhism as an Asian way to deal with a turbulent era and ensure human security; Gopnik talked about learning by artificial intelligence, drawing comparisons with children’s learning; and Fujiwara offered his analysis on issues such as the conflict between Russia and Ukraine and that between Israel and Hamas, as well as the Sino-U.S. rivalry.
The three speakers took part in the ensuing plenary session, which was moderated by Jin Sato, professor and deputy-director of the Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia, UTokyo. The panelists provided insights on the theme of cultivating humanity in this turbulent era, based on their expertise.
This year’s symposium included three separate sessions. The “Business Leaders’ Session” delved into new horizons for the global economy through collaboration between Japan and South Korea, and the “University Presidents’ Session” focused on debating the role of universities in the digital transformation. In the “Youth Session,” students from Japan and South Korea discussed issues related to technological innovation, the environment and low birthrates. In addition, two panel discussions were held on “Why Are Robots Questioning Humanity?” and “Bridging the Social Divide: How to Safeguard the Global Commons and Rebuild Humanity.”
At the conclusion of two days of discussions, Fujii and students engaged in talks moderated by Professor Kazuto Suzuki of UTokyo’s Graduate School of Public Policy. The discussions focused on issues such as “What is humanity?”

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