Japan’s Ambitious Plans to Lead in AI and Universal Basic Income

In a symposium held at the University of Tokyo, Japan’s Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura revealed the country’s aspirations to become a global hub for artificial intelligence (AI) and expressed support for universal basic income. Nishimura emphasized the importance of nurturing both startups and established companies in the AI sector while acknowledging the potential job displacement caused by technological advancements. He envisioned a future where AI-powered robots, drones, and self-driving vehicles would assume more tasks, allowing people to have more free time.

To realize its AI ambitions, Japan aims to develop AI-training processors, an area currently dominated by graphics chipmaker Nvidia Corp. Nishimura expressed his hopes of surpassing Nvidia’s achievements by nurturing a company in Japan that would outshine the leading chipmaker. The country’s Prime Minister, Fumio Kishida, has been actively supporting the domestic semiconductor industry, recognizing the strategic importance of chips and aiming to regain Japan’s leadership position in the field. The government plans to provide substantial subsidies to triple domestic chip production by 2030, and a government-backed fund is working to strengthen the chip materials supply chain.

Japan, known for its longstanding engagement with AI’s societal impact, is drafting guidelines this year to govern the use of generative AI. However, Kishida emphasized that regulations should not impede AI’s progress, highlighting the importance of striking a balance. The Prime Minister emphasized that it is not an all-or-nothing choice and that AI’s potential can be harnessed while ensuring responsible implementation.

Masayoshi Son, the billionaire founder of SoftBank Group Corp., was also present at the symposium and shared his enthusiastic support for Japan’s AI endeavors. Son, who oversees the Vision Fund, the world’s largest technology investment fund, expressed his commitment to exploring new AI-related investments. Despite facing significant losses in previous AI investments, Son believes that Japan should channel its efforts into AI development and engage in discussions about humanity’s role when confronted with more intelligent beings.

As Japan charts its course to become an AI powerhouse, the nation’s commitment to fostering innovation and its proactive approach to addressing the societal implications of AI technology positions it as a key player in the global AI landscape.

©2023 Bloomberg L.P.


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