Keio University professor: Share problems, visions for the future at 2025 expo

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Keio University Prof. Hiroaki Miyata

The novel coronavirus pandemic has had a significant effect on the concept behind Expo 2025 Osaka, Kansai. Progress in digitization is hastening the sharing and utilization of data. How will society change to achieve a better future? The Yomiuri Shimbun interviewed Keio University Prof. Hiroaki Miyata, one of the expo’s producers and a data science specialist, about what we will be able to experience at the expo and how we should take advantage of the event. The following are excerpts from the interview conducted by Yomiuri Shimbun Senior Writer Michiko Hirai.

The spread of the virus has revealed that society is very uncertain. Some had argued that the future could be predicted, but that was not the case. The moment the virus mutated, what had very recently been thought to be the best scenario abruptly became uncertain.

Although data is not perfect, we can utilize it to share future possibilities and move forward, shedding light on the world slightly ahead of us. For example, releasing and sharing data on the novel coronavirus on a global scale made it possible to develop a vaccine in nine months, even though it would normally have taken three to four years.

If we promote the use of digital technology, which has been insufficient in Japan, it will also be possible to provide various people with the services that each of them needs at the right time.

The spread of infections, along with digitization, has accelerated changes in global trends. Until now, we’ve pursued economic wealth. But wealth is something more than simply economic wealth. There are various kinds of wealth, including those related to the importance of life, the environment, the elimination of disparities and education. The pandemic and data visualization have shone a spotlight on the various social challenges shared around the world.

In the face of the pandemic, the world is now searching for a new type of society. The expo will be held against this background in 2025.

Courtesy of the Japan Association for the 2025 World Exposition
The large ring-shaped roof covering and connecting pavilions is one of the features at the venue of the Expo 2025 Osaka, Kansai.

It will be a place where participants can bring their own vision of the future and create a new future by connecting with each other.

This is the very theme of the expo: “Designing Future Society for Our Lives.” Countries, international organizations and companies will show their own and other people’s vision of the future through their pavilions. We want to create a place where humanity moves forward, making these various futures resonate with each other.

The design of the expo venue is also based on this thinking. The large ring-shaped roof covers many themed pavilions and the pavilions of various countries and companies. If they’re separated, they can’t share a sustainable future. Connected by the roof, they all look at the same sky. This doesn’t mean that only one person’s self-expression comes to the fore or that a particular company’s profit comes first. While feeling a connection with a diverse range of people and the world, we can create the future together, looking at the same sky. That’s the kind of experience I want to think about and share with everyone.

What’s even more important is that the experiences at the expo will continue after the six-month event. They are experiences that will be spun into the future of not only Osaka and the Kansai region, but also various parts of Japan and the world. The expo will open up the future for the diverse people of the world.

In the future, people and society will change. In the days when economic prosperity was considered important, people worked for a prosperous society. In an environment where there are various axes of wealth, we should first think about what kind of wealth we can create together. Then the ideas will resonate with each other, creating a society. Each individual’s life will create the society of the future.

Let’s take food as an example. If everyone had an extremely meat-heavy diet, we would soon run out of resources on this planet because of feed and water. Each and every person’s diet has an impact on the world. If you think this way, you’ll be encouraged that each one of us can change the world. It makes you believe in your own potential.

At the expo, diverse and rich experiences will be created to connect people to people, and people to the world.

Each experience will be a positive one. By going to the expo, you’ll feel a new connection, and be able to take another step toward the future together with others. I want to create this kind of experience with everyone.