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December 28, 2018

Harnessing artificial intelligence for society

picture of Michihiko Minoh

Michihiko Minoh, Executive Director, RIKEN


Today, there are high hopes that artificial intelligence (AI) will soon be deployed in society to help enrich our lives. The RIKEN Center for Advanced Intelligence Project (AIP) was established in 2016 to promote research related to AI.

It is interesting to note that even in the AI community, there is no clear consensus on what AI actually is. Instead, people make excited pronouncements that AI will soon replace humans or that the singularity—a tipping point in technological advancement—is just around the corner. It is true that due to advances in computing power and machine learning technology, it has become possible for computers to solve complex pattern-recognition problems —which human brains can solve easily, but that stump computers. What makes it difficult to define AI is that there are, in a sense, two streams of thought on what to do with the large amount of data that is generated by modern society. On one hand, many computer scientists are striving to use AI to make computers that can do things like humans, such as understanding language or faces. In contrast, others are using mathematics to try to develop new fundamental ways to have computers learn or solve problems in the most optimal ways, by using deep learning based on neural networks, for example. AIP is focusing its work on the development of such new methods.

In addition to this fundamental research, scientists at AIP are focusing on research that will be of benefit to society. Information systems, which have become the key infrastructure of modern society, generate large amounts of data related to human activities, and scientists can make use of this to create better lives.

AIP's research strategy and plans, which were adopted based on the context I have outlined, are introduced in this issue by Center Director Masashi Sugiyama (see Perspectives). Today, many researchers around the world are actively engaged in competition in this area. I am very much looking forward, as I believe many of our readers are as well, to soon seeing innovative research emerging from AIP.

(RIKEN Research 2018 Winter issue)