Symbiotic Machines - Super Smart Society

Super Smart Society or Society 5.0 is the vision of Japan Government as they look forward to 2030. Credit: Keidanren

The Future Direction Committee of the IEEE in its last meeting approved as new initiative for 2017 the area of Symbiotic Machine. The tentative name is Symbiotic Autonomous System, although it might be changed in the coming months in something more easy to understand.

This initiative is not that far, in its vision and aims, from the Super Smart Society (or Society 5.0) approved by the Japanese Government in its 2016 Fifth Science and Technology Basic Plan.

The FDC initiative is rooted in the recognition that:

Economic forces, enabled by the evolution and convergence of several technologies, are clearly pushing towards a novel generation of systems that will progressively become more autonomous and pervasive with higher interaction capabilities with both living and non living entities to the point of creating a symbiotic relationship with them.

This will change our societies and our perception of the world, creating new societal and ethical challenges that need to be faced from the very beginning of this revolution in the making.

IEEE, throughout the cooperation of its OUs, with their strong technology roots and with the aim of pursuing the development of technologies to the benefit of humanity, is ideally placed to play a major role in this revolution.

The Japanese initiative very similarly states that:

the fusion of cyberspace and real space based on the rapid evolution of ICT, the so-called "cyber physical system", will drastically change industrial and social structure. Gathering data with this system, converting it into big data, analyzing by AI, and running it with a robot creates new value.

 The FDC Initiative has as objectives


  • to identify and foster the maturation and applications of technologies that constitute the building blocks for a next generation of systems;
  • to stimulate the growth of new technology approaches and their integration;
  • to explore the ethical, legal and societal aspects that may arise by the deployment of these technologies;  
  • to promote education and awareness in this area across the world by partnering with universities, both at high school, university and professional level. 

and in order to achieve them it is planning to foster Technology, Ethics, Policies and Societal enablers.  

This is very similar to the identified need to break through 5 walls, as described in the Japanese Government plan towards Society 5.0:  

  • the wall of Ministries and Agencies (compare to the working together of many IEEE Societies in the unified FDC initiative)
  • the wall of legislation (compare to the work on Policies)
  • the wall of Technology (here the mapping is straightforward)
  • the wall of Talent (compare with the education mission of IEEE)
  • the wall of Social Acceptance (compare with Ethics and Social)

In both cases there is a strong drive to have academia and industry working together to make and leverage on the enablers.

Author - Roberto Saracco

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