The core of the digital transition is the representation of all kinds of real-world entities and processes and an increasing number of cognitive processes by digital information and algorithms on computers. These allow for seemingly unlimited storage, operation, retrieval, and transmission capacities that make digital tools economically available for all domains of society and empower human action, particularly combined with real-world interfaces such as displays, robots, sensors, 3D printers, etc. Digital technologies are general-purpose technologies providing unprecedented potential benefits for sustainability. However, they will bring about a multitude of potential unintended side effects, and this demands a transdisciplinary discussion on unwanted societal changes as well as a shift in science from analog to digital modeling and structure. Although social discourse has begun, the topical scope and regional coverage have been limited. Here, we report on an expert roundtable on digital transition held in February 2017 in Tokyo, Japan. Drawing on a variety of disciplinary backgrounds, our discussions highlight the importance of cultural contexts and the need to bridge local and global conversations. Although Japanese experts did mention side effects, their focus was on how to ensure that AI and robots could coexist with humans. Such a perspective is not well appreciated everywhere outside Japan. Stakeholder dialogues have already begun in Japan, but greater efforts are needed to engage a broader collection of experts in addition to stakeholders to broaden the social debate.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited