Wisdom Computing

The panelists at the session on Wisdom Computing (from left to right): Tateo Arimoto, Kazuo Iwano, Norihiro Agita, Nicole Dewandre, James Wildson
The panelists at the session on Wisdom Computing (from left to right): Tateo Arimoto, Kazuo Iwano, Norihiro Hagita, Nicole Dewandre, James Wilsdon

… is the title of a project of the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST) which was presented at the recent science conference ESOF in Manchester, UK. Acknowledging that „information technology has a demonstrated potential to affect the direction and shape of society“, the wisdom computing initiative „has been looking towards formulating a philosophy to deal with this new environment and a policy for informing societal decisions“, as the project description explains. At the session in Manchester a written statement by Tomohiko Fujiyama, who could not attend in person, was distributed. I’d like to bring to your attention his final remarks, where Fujiyama first refers to the Japanese translation of „wisdom“ as chie: „We see that chie refers to recognition by integrating the whole not to analyse each part. We may also define chie as ‚interpretation‘ by integrating the whole. Accordingly there may be more than one correct way to characterize chie.“

Fujiyama then continues: „In other words, chie, the Japanese translation of ‚wisdom‘, contains a sense of ‚truth arrived at through various attempts at interpretation‘. It could be described as a word for the pursuit of explanations in which all elements are acceptable rather than the pursuit of absolute truth. If we look at it this way, we get the sense that ‚wisdom‘ refers to the setting of a subject and the listing of alternative solutions. Are we saying we want to create this wisdom between humans and machines? I feel I would like to hear more about whether we are attempting to give the job of creating all possible alternatives to machines and to have human beings and society make decisions. In 7th-century Japan, Prince Shotoku prepared what is known as the ’seventeen-article constitution‘. The first article says ‚harmony is to be valued‘. We can imagine that the thinking behind this was that there is greater value in eliminating conflict and maintaining harmony than in pursuing truth. Thinking that prioritizes harmony and agreement, thinking that stresses human pleasure, and thinking that makes happiness the supreme value do not tend to be thought of as science. In the West, science has evolved based on the concept of ‚classification and definition‘. On the other hand, Eastern wisdom puts emphasis on ‚ascertaining the whole in an instant‘. One hundred years ago, Daisetsu Suzuki presented Zen teachings that could not be expressed in writing to the world in literary form. I get the feeling that a new science is required, one that does not shut out such thinking but rather includes it. In this sense, I hope that Wisdom Computing will become something that, as a whole, contributes to comprehensive human happiness and in which machines, society, and people mutually influence each other.“