Next Article in Journal
Trade-Offs in Multi-Purpose Land Use under Land Degradation
Next Article in Special Issue
Towards Homo Digitalis: Important Research Issues for Psychology and the Neurosciences at the Dawn of the Internet of Things and the Digital Society
Previous Article in Journal
Physical Geography and Environmental Sustainability
Previous Article in Special Issue
Digital Threat and Vulnerability Management: The SVIDT Method
Article Menu
Issue 12 (December) cover image

Export Article

Open AccessArticle
Sustainability 2017, 9(12), 2193;

Unintended Side Effects of Digital Transition: Perspectives of Japanese Experts

Policy Alternatives Research Institute, The University of Tokyo, Bunkyo-ku 113-0033, Japan
Department of Computer Sciences, School of Computing, Tokyo Institute of Technology, Yokohama 226-8502, Japan
Komaba Organization for Educational Excellence, College of Arts and Sciences, The University of Tokyo, Meguro-ku 153-8902, Japan
Institute for Datability Science, Osaka University, Suita-shi 565-0871, Japan
Graduate School of Public Policy (GraSPP), The University of Tokyo, Bunkyo-ku 113-0033, Japan
Graduate Schools for Law and Politics, The University of Tokyo, Bunkyo-ku 113-0033, Japan
Department Knowledge and Information Management, Danube University of Krems, Krems 3500, Austria
Department of Environmental Systems Sciences, ETH Zurich, 8092 Zurich, Switzerland
Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 8 October 2017 / Revised: 13 November 2017 / Accepted: 14 November 2017 / Published: 28 November 2017
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainability and Digital Environment)
Full-Text   |   PDF [1364 KB, uploaded 28 November 2017]   |  


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. View Full-Text
Keywords: artificial intelligence; robotics; big data; risk governance; unintended side effects; public engagement artificial intelligence; robotics; big data; risk governance; unintended side effects; public engagement

Figure 1

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 (CC BY 4.0).

Share & Cite This Article

MDPI and ACS Style

Sugiyama, M.; Deguchi, H.; Ema, A.; Kishimoto, A.; Mori, J.; Shiroyama, H.; Scholz, R.W. Unintended Side Effects of Digital Transition: Perspectives of Japanese Experts. Sustainability 2017, 9, 2193.

Show more citation formats Show less citations formats

Note that from the first issue of 2016, MDPI journals use article numbers instead of page numbers. See further details here.

Related Articles

Article Metrics

Article Access Statistics



[Return to top]
Sustainability EISSN 2071-1050 Published by MDPI AG, Basel, Switzerland RSS E-Mail Table of Contents Alert
Back to Top