My Expectations for the Engineering Academy of Japan
June 1, 2021
There is not yet an end in sight for infections from COVID-19. Although digitization had been lagging behind in Japan, it has finally begun to pick up as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the gap between digitization in Japan and digitization in Western countries and China remains substantial. The value of companies in the digital field, such as GAFA and Microsoft, has grown higher in stock markets, with just these five companies having greater aggregate market value than that of all the companies listed on the First Section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange combined. The direction indicated by the market is clear. It is necessary for Japan to engage in efforts for digital transformation regardless of the field, and accelerate the creation of new value.
We can see that the pandemic that we are now facing is a phenomenon in which a coronavirus made up of a combination of nucleic acid, proteins, and fat, measuring no more than 100 nanometers in size, is ravaging human beings in physical spaces. Technological innovations are important in the real domain, such as in the development of vaccines, but technological innovations are also making significant contributions in the virtual domain, which makes use of digital technologies such as data analysis and large-scale simulations. Close cooperation between politics and science is absolutely essential as well. Moreover, it is believed that the risk is quite high that pandemics will occur over and over again through the long history of mankind going forward. It will undoubtedly be necessary for the all-out utilization of a wide range of knowledge, including not only natural sciences but also human and social sciences, and require even further acceleration of cooperation that crosses the boundaries of organizations, fields, and national borders.
In October of last year, Prime Minister Suga’s Cabinet declared that Japan would realize carbon neutrality by 2050. And in April of this year, the government set a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 46 percent compared with FY2013 levels and to achieve this goal by FY2030, meaning that it is necessary to reduce the amount of emissions of CO2 equivalent by 450 million tons compared with FY2019 levels. However, this presents a very difficult hurdle to overcome, as even if the FY2019 levels of CO2 emissions from the energy conversion sector were reduced to zero, it would still be insufficient to achieve this goal. Global warming is a worldwide issue that threatens the existence of mankind. The creation of innovations through real technologies and the steadfast societal implementation of such innovations are indispensable to realizing carbon neutrality, and the role played by academia and industry in Japan will undoubtedly grow even greater. What’s more, we cannot pin our expectations solely on groundbreaking innovations. We have to take another look at the conventional thinking that is based on the premise of large-scale consumption of fossil fuels. The time has come for each and every citizen of this country to reverse the vector of his or her values. We must accelerate a movement that could be called a “reverse industrial revolution.”
As engineering is deeply involved in all three of the abovementioned aspects of "digital," "pandemic," and "carbon neutral," it will be necessary to carry forward efforts in collaboration with experts in various fields that extend beyond the humanities and sciences. Expectations of the Engineering Academy of Japan, which is made up of human resources with leadership capabilities and a broad range of knowledge, are becoming increasingly higher. Now is truly the time for us to engineer the future for human security and well-being through our "comprehensive knowledge," which is the collective knowledge of all the EAJ members.